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MVP + market fit, but insufficient time and capital - where do I go from here?

I've read with interest the posts on whether one should commit to work with no salary or benefits for 2 years. I have a problem that is almost the opposite of the one presented. My co-founder and I have built an enterprise SaaS product (a contract lifecycle management platform) and have validated market fit to our satisfaction. But the app requires polishing and the selling process requires a dedicated sales team. I have been financing the effort out of my own pocket, but the next phase requires bringing in outside investors.

Neither I nor my technical co-founder have the operational experience (or, in his case, the temperament) to turn this product into an operating company. We also don't have the financial ability to live without an income for the next 6 months. I think I need to look for someone with operational experience, who doesn't need current income (recent retiree? someone who just sold a startup?), believes in the product and is willing to work for 6 months for a significant equity stake. Does that sound reasonable? Any thoughts on where I could find someone like that?

18 Replies

Luis Arellano
1
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Luis Arellano Entrepreneur
Program Director, Cloud Analytics at IBM
Perhaps something like equitydirectory.com could help? Find salespeople on there who'd be willing to work for equity to get your first few sales going, and once you build up that momentum (and enough recurring revenue to live on), make the jump? -- *Luis Arellano* | M: [removed to protect privacy] | LinkedIn Profile
Dennis Charlebois
1
0
Dennis Charlebois Entrepreneur
VP Product Operations at Hexis Cyber Solutions, Inc.
Do you have a GTM (Go To Market) plan? Is this a direct sell or via channel partners? Is is a platform that requires additional products and services to extract value or is it a solution?
Williams Johnson Mota
0
1
Williams Johnson Mota Entrepreneur • Advisor
Leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation for systems change
I think that solution is reasonable and possible. I am sure that you should be able to find someone willing to engage through sweat equity for 6 months - most likely someone has just lefty corporate life and recently exited from an investment. Best of luck Williams
Tom Cunniff
1
1
Tom Cunniff Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder at Cunniff Consulting, B2B Brand Consultancy
Look on LinkedIn for people who are or have been COO of a similar kind of company and may be ready for a CEO position. Then, leverage your existing connections to get a warm intro. Ask each person you get to talk with the same question you asked here. The universe of people who fit your criteria is fairly small. My guess is that if you talk with 3-4 people someone will point you to the person you need. P.S. Also, consider cold-calling a VC or two who invests in these sorts of companies to ask advice. They may have talent on their bench looking for exactly this sort of opportunity.
Martin Omansky
1
0
Martin Omansky Entrepreneur
Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional
There are lots of people who could do the job. The best business model for your circumstance, (undercapitalized and without revenues) however, is to either license the product to a marketing organization (preferably with a brand name) or secure a master distributorship agreement with one. Building a sales force and managing the same is a specialty and you guys appear to be in the knowledge business, not the sales and marketing business. I also am aware of many products in this space, so I hope you are realistic about your competitive position and/or your IP. There are many SaaS projects, chiefly because the development costs, while considerable, are far less than hardware-oriented projects. Think of this as the first of a number of innovative products. Make some money on this one, but don't try to squeeze every last nickel out of the venture. Take the money you make from venture #1 and finance ventures #2-n. Sent from my iPhone
Ahmad Atwi
0
0
Ahmad Atwi Entrepreneur
Managing Director/ Founder at Focus Mena L.L.C
What is the product? Maybe I can help Sent from my iPhone
Guy Whitcroft
1
0
Guy Whitcroft Advisor
International CEO | COO | VP || NED | Interim || Strategy | Business Planning / Reorganisation / Growth | Technology
The Institute of Directors in the UK and in South Africa, too, would be a good source in those countries, Michael. I see you're in the US, so try the National Association of Corporate Directors -www.nacdonline.org - as that is an organisation of the same ilk.
Greg Davydov
0
0
Greg Davydov Entrepreneur
Founder at Artium Gallery
Interestingly, i have the exact the same problem. I have a finished product, which required some polishing, and I am looking for business partner who might help to bring this product to the market. However it is kind of specialized market - Museums, Galleries and Digital libraries. (www.artium-gallery.com).

I already know target market, market requirements, software road-map, etc. So I am looking for string sales and marketing guys.
Joe Emison
4
0
Joe Emison Advisor
Chief Information Officer at Xceligent
If you had product-market fit, you would be able to finance from your customers. The fact that you say that you need additional development means that you do not have product-market fit. Realistically, you only know that you have product-market fit when you have active users; if your validation point is some interviews, but no usage, then you don't have it yet.

It's important to understand where you are, because being at actual product-market fit means that getting funding for a couple people for 12 months is pretty trivial, provided you can defend a TAM of $10M or more (based upon your actual usage).

If you're actually pre-usage, then you're asking for seed funding for an idea, either financially or through sweat equity. The chance that you get someone technical to commit to no income for 6 months is incredibly low. Most software developers (and UX designers and PMs) need a monthly paycheck, and the ones that don't probably aren't going to work for you; the demand is so huge.

If I were in your situation, I would go pre-sell my product to one or more potential customers as custom software development that is heavily discounted to them. Almost every success story I know that started where you are was done this way. Hoping and begging for free labor from some of the most heavily-recruited and highly-paid professionals in the world today is not a great strategy.
Martin Omansky
0
0
Martin Omansky Entrepreneur
Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional
Excellent testimony, Joe. One more thing - even if you are able to horns eagle some talented guy to provide services/invest dollars - the price in equity would be confiscatory. Sent from my iPhone
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