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There is a software product that I was developing in my free time, before starting the current job. It has some user base, but no huge success so far. Some good marketing probably could fix that. And as I know, my current employer - a large corporation with a number of different products - bundles a similar product that they license from a third-party company. I think that my product is better than this limited version that they bundle, but I'm possibly not fully objective.

This makes me wonder if I possibly could convince them to acquire my product for a reasonable price, and replace the third-party app with an in-house solution?

This product has nothing to do with my current job responsibilities.

Do you think that this would make any sense to them? And if yes, how would you approach this situation? What questions you'd ask if you were in their place?

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    You mention "in-house" but technically it's not, because it wasn't developed for your current company and their specific needs nor is it tailored for them... if they decide to go for your product, are you open to feature requests and modifications they may require?
    – DarkCygnus
    Mar 11, 2023 at 0:27
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    Do you think that this would make any sense to them? - Does what make sense? Purchasing your product? How would we know if it would make sense to them? - How would you "sell" this to a prospective customer? Do that.
    – joeqwerty
    Mar 11, 2023 at 1:09
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    @joeqwerty so, I have to answer my question myself?
    – user_ok
    Mar 11, 2023 at 4:56
  • @user_ok: With input from folks here, yes. All we can do is point out issues to think about. The decision MUST be yours; we can't be answer that
    – keshlam
    Mar 11, 2023 at 19:41
  • Another question: How will you feel if they decide to sell it or alter it in ways you don't agree with? Some folks can't let go and accept that it is no longer theirs....
    – keshlam
    Mar 11, 2023 at 19:43

2 Answers 2

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Do you think that this would make any sense to them?

From their perspective this is completely normal business decision. If it fits into the current product strategy and policies and the numbers look good than it makes sense. If not, it doesn't. I suggest you doing some homework on both fronts.

What questions you'd ask if you were in their place?

  • What is it and does it do?
  • How does this address my current needs or solve one of my current problems?
  • Why is this better than our current or alternative solutions?
  • What's the effort and time required to implement the solution?
  • What's the cost and conditions of acquisition?
  • What's the business case: what's the ROI? What's the time to recover the investment (including opportunity cost) and what's the projected life time profit?
  • What's the post sales support? How do we do changes, bug fixes, solve field issues, etc? What does that cost?

And if yes, how would you approach this situation?

Treat it like any other sales job: If any possible, prepare a pitch deck and a business case. Go through all the questions in the list above and suggest answers.

Being a employee of the company makes no material difference to the decision process but it gives a few advantages:

  • You can probably find out who "owns" the product category and approach them directly.
  • You have legitimate access to internal company information and data and its perfectly fine to use that for your sales pitch.
  • You can leverage your internal network to shop around your idea and ask for feedback and/or support if it's well received.
  • You don't need all the answer in the list above. It's ok to have a few "don't know yet" in there. If you manage to generate enough initial interest, most stakeholders would be willing to work with you to fill in the blanks.

It's not without risk either:

  • Sales negotiation are inherently confrontational. Typically the parties are mature and professional enough to deal with this but if it goes sideways, relationships can be damaged.
  • If they go ahead and it doesn't work out (for whatever reason), it'll be a smudge on your shirt.
  • If they buy it and there is a problem, the first phone that rings will be yours, even if your sales contract says "sold as is with no warrantee or support whatsoever". Make sure you are prepared to handle this.
  • If not all risks can be mitigated properly it may be safer to just walk away and focus on your day job.

Some more advice

  • Figure out up front what you want out of this. Cash, fame, see your product being used, the best for the company, etc. Being clear of your own motives and what is a "must have" and "don't care" for you will make the conversations a lot cleaner and productive.
  • When you are ready to engage, give your boss a heads up. You don't need to necessarily ask for their permission, but it makes their life a lot easier if they are fully in the loop and they can provide help and feedback. Make sure they can state any concerns that they may have and try to address them before you proceed. Clearly show that this will not constitute a conflict of interest with your current role now or going forward.
  • Make sure your "post sales" responsibilities are clearly define and agreed on in the sales contract. What level of maintenance, warrantee, liability, indemnification, etc. Make sure that you can actually provide what you sign up for.
  • Consider forming an Limited Liability Company (or equivalent in your jurisdiction). Any sales contract will require you to certify that the product is not violating any patents or IP. Given the huge number of patents out there, that is really impossible to know for sure. If it turns out that your product unknowingly and inadvertently violates a patent and the company gets sued, they WILL come after you. While this is highly unlikely, an LLC is cheap insurance that protects your personal assets.
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    Some disadvantages: new documentation, training (for tech support, end users, and colleagues, incompatibilities between earlier sw versions and the new set.
    – mkennedy
    Mar 11, 2023 at 19:32
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    Another point I would add to consider: what will happen if your company buys the software and you leave the company, would that change anything for you or them?
    – kirbby
    Mar 13, 2023 at 11:30
  • Also consider whether upgrades/training/support will be done during company time, or on your own time.
    – James
    Mar 23, 2023 at 14:07
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Do you think that this would make any sense to them?

Only by asking them we would know. This makes sense to me, but I'm not "them".

And if yes, how would you approach this situation? What questions you'd ask if you were in their place?

I suggest you talk to your boss about your idea. Mention that you developed this software in the past, and that you think it would be a better alternative than the current one. You can then see what they say and go on from there. Perhaps a demonstration or test period can be arranged so they can try the software and decide.

Like I mentioned in comments this is technically not an "in-house" app, as you developed in the past and not tailored for this company. Chances are that they may like the idea of switching to your software, but it's also very likely that if they do they may require or ask for modifications or new features.

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  • it's not really company-specific, it's made for the end users. Sure, why not add or change something if they pay.
    – user_ok
    Mar 11, 2023 at 0:40
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    @user_ok the thing is that now that you are working in that company, if those changes are requested chances are that they may become your "new tasks", thus is not like you will get extra pay, your salary will be that pay
    – DarkCygnus
    Mar 11, 2023 at 18:04
  • If they pay some reasonable amount for acquisition, and then I get new tasks as a part of my work - I see no problem in that.
    – user_ok
    Mar 13, 2023 at 1:05
  • @user_ok good, as long as it's something you are ok with :)... on a pessimistic note, see that you mentioned several "if"s in your comments... chances are that any of them may not be true and that would conflict with what you want I believe... let's hope everything goes positively :)
    – DarkCygnus
    Mar 13, 2023 at 2:06
  • no idea what you mean ¯_(ツ)_/¯
    – user_ok
    Mar 13, 2023 at 2:08

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