The currency of startup ideas has depreciated substantially since I was involved in my first. I remember cases in the 90s when I was asked to sign NDAs for ideas that hadn’t even graduated from the cocktail napkin to the whiteboard yet. The dream of the million dollar idea was still very much alive back then. I’d like to think that people who know what they’re talking about have evolved in their understanding of startup ideas since then - that now we think of things in terms of audiences and problems and solutions rather than Big Ideas® - but it wasn’t so very long ago that I remember being asked to sign an NDA before being allowed to see four wireframes that probably took about a half-hour to produce.

When I was preparing to leave the roller coaster that is funded startup land around a year ago, I was looking for a market that struck all the right chords - businesses that are comfortable using technology and willing to pay for software that can help them advance toward their objectives. I’ve done a lot of work over the years on projects involving writing technical proposals and responses to RFPs, and while I was researching ways to leverage that experience, I began looking at companies who provide products and services to government agencies. The more I looked, the more I found to like.

  • The potential customers work in a highly competitive sector where any advantage can equate to real differences in revenue.
  • The market for such tools is well-established and supports many competing solutions.
  • The current market offerings include extremely expensive enterprise packages and mid-market, budget, and free tools with serious problems and a general lack of polish.
  • The source data to implement a market intelligence tool is freely available.

I’m designing BetterFBO to provide an answer to some of the problems I’ve noticed with the federal government’s FedBizOpps which is the primary location for posting notices about business opportunities over $25K involving U.S. federal agencies. I’m looking to begin a conversation with interested users about the kind of problems they face with business opportunity discovery and research and use it as a proof-of-concept to showcase some of the ideas I have about how applications in the space can be done better: improvements to search and UX, application of modern web technologies, etc. I may eventually offer some paid commercial services for advanced users based on the information collected and processed for the application, or I may continue to run it as initially built.

If this sounds like something that might interest you, I’d ask you to check out the website I’m building out for BetterFBO as well as the articles I’ll be writing on the blog describing some of the business problems the application will be looking to solve. Pieces that are more general business or technical interest will probably be creeping into this blog from time to time as well.