I'd like to have a software product for my consulting company. I have no idea what, but I figure there's got to be a lot of "dead" software products and failed businesses out there that people have given up on, or decided they didn't have the time to work on.
Where can I find these people so I can acquire their software product from them?
I'm not sure if there's a metaphorical "recycling bin" of failed start-up ideas.
I might try looking at the list of startups that came out of each YCombinator class, or some other startup incubator. Find a list from a year or two ago and try contacting the companies you've never heard of. They probably failed.
After that, your best bet might be going really far back in the answers.onstartups.com archives and looking for questions about big issues that software startups were having. Try contacting the poster of the question and see if their startup ever resolved the issue, or if it just failed.
Those would be the first place I'd start since it's a fast and free way to find people from all over. If that doesn't work, I'd try networking or getting to know areas where entrepreneurs have been hanging out for awhile. Ask about companies that might have failed recently and see if you get any leads.
It's an interesting idea. Good luck!
You didn't specify whether you're interested in web-based software or desktop software.
For websites, there are plenty of marketplaces: https://flippa.com/, ebay (http://www.ebay.com/sch/Businesses-Websites-for-Sale-/11759/i.html?_armrs=1&_mdo=Business-Industrial&_mspp=&_pcats=12576&_sop=1), http://www.buysellwebsite.com/, http://www.webmastersmarketplace.com/, http://www.ebizbrokers.com/, http://www.businessbroker.net/ has section for internet and software.
When it comes to non-web software (desktop windows/mac, iphone, android etc.) I'm not aware of any centralized market like that. And without further clarification on your part it's hard to even suggest smaller communities to look at. I'm sure not every software is attractive to you e.g. if you're a skilled C# Windows developer, then acquiring Mac OS X software or Windows software written in Caml wouldn't even be on your radar.
The key thing for me is why did the business with that software product die? You would need to be very critical as to whether it was the commercial or technical side that failed. The early part of startup does a survival of the fittest process by market selection.
But certainly you raise that old question of what ratio of value is held in the product implementation and in the idea itself.
Try looking at abandon ware sites and contacting the last known publisher.
MergerNetwork.com is another business-for-sale type site that has been around for a while. Not all software and not usually internet software types. I think its listed under Business Services - Software on the site.
I think most software business sales are actually asset sales, meaning the sale of the software - just to avoid liabilities.
As I see it you have 2 challenges. First, as a consulting business you may be locally limited and may want local software and customers. (You may pick up some customers with the purchase). Second, you need to be able to evaluate the software you will buy - including forseeing what problems you will have and what needs to be done.
Just be sure you have a solid plan for how you will combine your current business with the new software - unless you want to transform to the software business entirely. Good luck.