I have a startup that is almost ready and I'm finding it hard to get companies on board, what can I do?


5

I know this question has been asked many times before in a plethora of different ways, but I couldn't find anything to help me out, so my apologies if this comes off as a duplicate of another question on here (I'm sure it will to some).

Okay, I have a little startup I've been working on for about a year and a half. It's been going well, pretty much got the algorithm sorted out which is the driving force behind the application. Now onto the specifics of my idea.

I am building an anti-piracy application that will allow software companies, game developers and content producers to enter some information about their products and then the application will scour a few key websites; warez websites, torrent trackers and other software pirating breeding places online.

The application will then allow software companies to automate the content removal process by sending a takedown request if a probability score (the chances that a found item is the clients copyrighted work) is above a certain percentage. It will generate pretty reports, etc.

I've contacted a few software companies, mainly large publishers who have their work pirated frequently and met with no response. I contacted Microsoft and all they replied with was, "Congratulations on the development of your product, Microsoft does not partner with projects still in development"

What makes things worse is that I'm not asking these software companies to buy anything, I'm asking them to test it for free. I need testing feedback before I launch it full-scale and then if the companies find it useful, then talk about partnering and price specifics.

What can I say or do to get some companies on board to try out my product? I'm based in Australia so freely walking into the offices of most companies and having a meeting face-to-face is sort of out of the question as most major software companies affected by piracy reside in the US.

What makes me more antsy is the fact that I know this application has the potential to help companies, it's going to be pretty awesome and not overpriced. Everyone I've spoken with including my boss who I guess you could call a part-time venture capitalist thinks it's a great idea.

Obviously without these companies to test, I can't launch, I don't know what to improve in my application and ultimately can't launch the product. It's probably about 4 months away from being feature complete, but 1 month away from being testable.

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asked May 25 '11 at 09:49
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Digital Sea
1,613 points
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  • Everyone you spoke to EXCEPT your potential customers think it's a great idea... – Tim J 9 years ago
  • As I pointed out below Tim, speaking to my potential customers has proven to be difficult. I'm in Australia, most of my target market is US and simply pencilling in a meeting and walking into their offices is out of the question, otherwise I would have just done that first. – Digital Sea 9 years ago

4 Answers


12

A few ideas from a former trademark paralegal who also dealt with piracy of company software and issuing takedowns and managed various anti-piracy mechanisms.

There is a lot of competition in this space from service providers. Have you researched your competition? Know the service providers and product vendors. You must have a compelling marketing story that demonstrates how your tools will enable the organization to solve the problem with more efficiency and less cost. Often this is a fully or partially outsourced activity so you have to have a compelling reason to have someone in-house use your tool.

See who the competition claims are customers and then look to approach those companies for beta testing of your application (keep in mind though these people are overly busy, so you may need to make a better offer (some free gift) to get them to test and provide feedback)?

You should be trying to make inroads to Legal Departments within these organizations as they are the ones doing this work. Not sure who you have been contacting, but its hard to get to the right person at a large company like Microsoft through blind emails going to various divisions.

Look to find legal sites, lawyer and paralegal networking groups on social sites to see about getting beta testing and feedback. Look for independent or small legal firms that may be willing to try your tool on a limited basis. Linkedin might be a good place to start identifying these people... See if you can present at paralegal association meetings to get your story worked out and you may find some paralegals through these groups willing to be testers as well...

Good Luck!

answered May 25 '11 at 10:55
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Lisa Brady
136 points
  • Lisa, this is a pretty amazing answer. I never actually thought of contacting legal departments of the companies I am trying to contact. I know there are similar companies I've found via my research, but non as far as I am aware except one providing a 98% automated service at a low price. The closest competitor I found charges an arm and a leg and issues the take downs manually which could take days if there is a huge backlog of requests. – Digital Sea 9 years ago
  • Great first answer @Lisa Brady I hope that we get to see you more! +1 on the need to research competitors – Joseph Barisonzi 9 years ago
  • if you have any friends like yourself, we would love to see them here. :-) +1 for a comprehensive, actionable answer. – Kenneth Vogt 9 years ago
  • I spoke to a couple of people I'd consider mentors and they both agree that because a lot of the major companies enlist legal firms to litigate and remove content, that going to the actual legal firms is a genius idea. Thanks Lisa. – Digital Sea 9 years ago

1

You may be setting your sights a bit high by targeting the likes of Microsoft out of the gate. There are a lot of small game companies that will be much more accessible. While they may not be pirated as much or for the same kind of sales figures, that revenue loss is more painful to them. Don't go after EA and Rockstar right now, dial it back a few notches.

Next, offer them free service after the beta ends in return for their involvement in the beta. Don't ask for referrals upfront. After all, they don't know if the service is any good yet.

Another approach would be to partner with a legal firm that can use your software and offer this as an outsourced (or at least partially outsourced) service. It would be even better if you can get their help on the sales side. You will have to give up a good chunk of the revenue this way, so weigh this option carefully.

answered May 25 '11 at 14:57
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Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points
  • Yeah, can't blame me for trying though. I went for the big guns right away to properly test the application out. Still testing the application on smaller companies affected by piracy might showcase just how well the app can do regardless of company stature and audience size. I'm considering the legal firm approach, know where I can access a list of legal firms that specialise in copyright infringement investigation? – Digital Sea 9 years ago
  • @Dwayne, I applaud your moxie. :-) Regarding the list of legal firms, I suggest you crack open a Fosters and head to the source of all knowledge: Google. – Kenneth Vogt 9 years ago
  • Haha, thanks Kenneth. I think I will do, although Fosters is not a beer I'm a fan of, so I might crack open an Dos Equis XX instead ;) – Digital Sea 9 years ago

0

Did you talk to software companies BEFORE starting to build the product?

Why don't you try to run it without the data from the companies and forward the data to them. Then offer to run it as a service for free?

Since you can't find companies to use your software, why not attack the problem from the other angle - scour the sites and then try to find the companies whose software is up there. then contact the companies who wrote the software.

But, again, should have gotten the contacts and proof of the need beforehand...

answered May 25 '11 at 14:00
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Tim J
8,346 points
  • Considering most of these software companies don't reply to unsolicited email and I'm in Australia finding out if these companies would use a product like this before building it would put me in the same situation. I could do some of my own tests, but that's only half the service. Sure it generates pretty reports, but the automation tools have to be seen to paint the potential software company an image of just how useful it is. Having an almost finished product should be grounds enough for these companies to want to try it, maybe I'm not clear enough in my emails I'm sending. – Digital Sea 9 years ago
  • Ran out of space. Another reason for not asking companies first is because an idea is worthless, it's the execution that matters. I could have gone, yeah it's going to do this and be great and they would have gone, awesome where is it? I've got 90% of the execution there, I think the real issue here is that I'm not selling the product properly via email. Being in Australia makes things hard, not many major software companies here. – Digital Sea 9 years ago
  • I agree with you @Dwayne, showing up with more than just bluster is shrewd. – Kenneth Vogt 9 years ago
  • The point was you would not have wasted your time building something no one wants to pay for... – Tim J 9 years ago
  • But the thing is if people will pay for the service has yet to be determined. I know what you're trying to say Tim, but some ideas you just have to run with even if you haven't asked your target market to use it. To date the project has cost me $10 for the domain, hosting is cheap and nothing else but my time so I have nothing to lose by not surveying prospects first. – Digital Sea 9 years ago
  • Nothing to lose now, but your opportunity cost of the past year and a half is just down the drain. It is also sunk cost. It is a little late in the game to be shopping for customers - at 18 months into it. Believe me - I know that pain all to well. – Tim J 9 years ago

0

Do you have a website that discusses your app/service? That is the absolute minimum and most basic place to start. Go look on twitter or other places where either the hackers or the small vendors go to brag about cracking or complain about being ripped off.

the old JoS forums used to have people talk about how their software was cracked every now and then.

Emailing the likes of Apple, Adobe and MS is a complete waste of time. You may think it shows that you are pushing for success, but it shows a complete lack of knowledge of the industry and the problem domain.

answered May 25 '11 at 15:37
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Tim J
8,346 points

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