How should I pre-sell software that right now is in development and looks ugly?


We're almost finished developing our first test build of an iPad app for small businesses wholesale companies. It is black and white, no style, design or anything. It basically does the core functions and that's it.

I need to raise money for continued development. After reading and talking to people, apparently, it is difficult to get external financing from investors without customers. Then I thought, maybe I can pre-sell this to users at a discount to raise money.

How should I try to sell this? Based on what we've developed? Or what should we do?

After writing this question, maybe we should create fancy wireframes maybe in HTML with a designer to show the end vision of the software.

Selling Fundraising

asked Feb 14 '13 at 14:29
242 points
  • Looks like you're all in agreement (in essence). Maybe this wasn't the best question, but it's always good to have confirmation from others and maybe this will help others. I chose the earliest answer. Thanks! – Sguptaet 9 years ago
  • What would Jobs do? – Neil Mc Guigan 9 years ago

5 Answers


Give them an ugly demo. Just kidding.

The majority of situations I've seen where we were selling a product that wasn't finished yet was by giving the potential customer screenshots and a summary of how the application is going to work.

I think you are headed in the right direction with having a designer wire-frame and put together a final draft looking version of your application. After all, the only way you can be selling this product and not be giving it to them right now is by admitting that it's not exactly finished yet. Customers are not stupid, they will understand what that means as long as you show them something!

answered Feb 14 '13 at 15:06
189 points


I'd actually disagree with everybody who has answered so far.

If you have a functional app for this market sell it now at full price.

If you can't do that then you probably have a problem that you need to fix.

Because "small businesses wholesale companies" are not known for making purchasing decisions based on great visual design. In fact they are a complete pain of a market to sell to. They're generally a low margin business very focussed on the bottom line.

So what your application needs to do is save them money or make money or provide significant value in some other way. Unless it does that you're not going to make sales no matter how great the visual design is. So what you need to focus on is:

  • Is the app solving a problem that is of value to the customers
  • Can the customers see the value that the application provides

If the visual design effects any of those - then it needs to be dealt with now. Otherwise it can wait. Other design elements - like interaction design are probably far more important.

I'd hope that you've already talked to a bunch of them, and already have some customers queued up dying for the solution that you're providing - because it's a complete sod of a market to sell to unless you can clearly show value.

answered Feb 15 '13 at 19:14
Adrian Howard
2,357 points
  • Its not ready to sell yet, because its missing at least one key function, but has enough for testing. I appreciate the insight on the market. Maybe this pre-sales campaign will be the test for me. I need cash to help finish the rest of the core functionality. At that point, I think I'll do as you say. – Sguptaet 9 years ago


Sell the dream, not the reality.

answered Feb 14 '13 at 17:22
Steve Jones
3,239 points


Give the potential customers not the actual screenshots, but clear mockups (maybe with a modern info-graphics style) emphasizing the usage workflow and business info.

answered Feb 14 '13 at 19:32
Nestor Sanchez A
690 points


You mentioned that it's an iPad app, so only way to sell it is to register it on AppStore. As they have very strict rules, it will be hard to be approved, especially when your app is in beta stage.

answered Feb 21 '13 at 18:12
21 points
  • Good point Dimitri – Sguptaet 9 years ago

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