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Hi, I'm Chris Kottom


#1

Long time developer, first time bootstrapper, so I’m not really from anywhere just yet. No place that has a name in any case. Right now, I’m evaluating product ideas designed to help companies bidding on government contracts in the US market.

I’m a recent funded startup refugee and a freelancer / contractor before that. My background is in development (now Ruby, JS and Go; before that, Java) and infrastructure, but I’ve been involved in the business side enough over the years to be danger to myself and others.

I’ve had it on my mind to build something for a long time, but I think a lot of things have come together during the past year or so that have pointed me squarely in that direction. Mostly though, it’s been conversations with my wife about our goals and the great content produced by people in the industry that have shown the way. (Shout-outs to some of the most influential folks: Amy Hoy, Patrick McKenzie, Nathan Barry, Brennan Dunn, Eric Sink, Joel Spolsky, and so many others. Thanks so much for everything you do.)

Anyway, really glad to have found this forum, and looking forward to learning a lot and occasionally saying something useful either here, on Twitter, or on the blog that I’m currently trying to bring back from the dead.

Cheers!

P.S. - I’ve been living in Prague for 13 years, so MicroConf Europe next month was a no-brainer. If any of you will be there or have any questions where someone local could be of assistance, drop me a PM or just walk up and say, “Hi, wanna get a beer?”


#2

Hey Chris, I’ll be in Prague for MicroConf as well! Definitely take you up on that beer!


#3

Hi Chris,

I will be in Prague for MicroConf. Hopefully get chance to speak to you then.

I’m evaluating product ideas designed to help companies bidding on government contracts in the US market.

I have some experience in dealing with the US government. I once got a 30 page contract to sign just sell them a few copies of PerfectTablePlan. Now I am now on some government database and I am constantly spammed by companies who want to ‘help me’ get government contracts. I’m sure there are opportunites in such a huge market, but are you sure that is a market you want to get into? The beaurocracy would drive me crazy.


#4

Find me. Being local means knowing the best places to go. :wink:


#5

Hi Andy

I know the sort of spammy sales emails you’re talking about, and I definitely don’t want any part of that. I am thinking very hard about how to reach potential customers, what I can offer them that they’re not currently getting from other tools, and whether or not they’re going to be a good cultural fit for the kind of business I want to run.

Anyway, I’d love to pick your brain about it over a drink or two at MicroConf as I’m hoping to have something more fleshed out by then.


#6

I just finished reading this insange article about how the US gov is spending 1.5 Trillion dollars on the F-35 program and how Lockheed has spread all the money around and all the crazy stuff involved. So I kinda like this idea :smile:. To me the biggest problem is how to break into this companies that need help, but once in I image you can charge a lot for a service that helps procure/maintain government contracts.

Here’s that article if you’re interested http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2013/09/joint-strike-fighter-lockheed-martin


#7

Interesting. I read another article recently that was talking about the inherent design flaws in the F-35 and the process that led up to them. https://medium.com/war-is-boring/5c95d45f86a5 if you’re interested.

Marketing the product will be the biggest challenge, so I’m spending the time now to find the right problem to solve and the right market segment to focus on. Hopefully it will pay off, or at least if I decide not to do it, there will be good reasons for it.


#8

Selling to giant companies when you are small can be tough.

  • lack of credibility
  • long lead times (maybe years)
  • contractual BS

#9

Hey Chris, welcome to the forum!

I’ll be at the MicroConf too, maybe we’ll see there.

Cheers!


#10

Yeah. We’re working on a special contract for HelpSpot with a big company everyone knows and it’s a big pain. We’ve only done this a few times and always tough.


#11

Tobias and I will also be at MicroConf in Prague. It looks like a lot of forum members will be there, we should do a meet up or something. :smile:


#12

We regularly get requests from large customers for custom contracts and we don’t do this in most cases, even for larger sales (100s of users). In almost all cases the customer still buys. There’s a simple way to help customers purchase even if they absolutely require a custom contract: referring them to a reseller such as SHI, which many large companies already have a vendor relationship with, allows them to buy licenses without signing custom contracts. Resellers such as SHI are also quite painless to work with in our experience.


#13

A few months ago I attended RubyNation, in Washington DC. It seemed like 90% of the people I met were working on government funded contracts. It’s a whole other world.

Anyways, welcome to the forum & best of luck on your product. If you learn anything interesting, please let us know. It’s always fascinating for me to hear about people who sell expensive stuff to big companies. :slight_smile:


#14

Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and all the good feedback!

I’ve been in the position of working with larger companies as a freelancer, and so I get that the dynamics of those relationships between unequal parties are challenging. Because all the big players who sell to the public sector already have advanced processes and whole departments devoted to winning more and bigger contracts, I’m not sure that I’d have a lot to offer these kinds of companies. That’s why I’m looking for opportunities somewhere within the long tail of the market - e.g. companies that might be small to mid-size businesses who don’t get much interest from existing service providers. I’m not yet sure whether there’s enough of a market to support a SaaS business there, so expect some questions in the coming days about how to assess a market. :slight_smile: