DevResults is a bootstrapped software company, meaning we’re funded only by our revenue. In almost every way, this has been a dream come true. The independence has granted us the freedom to define how we work and what we work on. Most importantly, we’ve been able to focus on helping our clients, instead of meeting investor expectations.
But bootstrapping has its disadvantages. Since our start in 2004, we’ve really only worked with big, global organizations with the funds to invest in technology. Thankfully, working on problems at this scale has allowed us to build a tool that can accommodate highly complex data management and M&E requirements.
The rub is that we’ve inadvertently made such a comprehensive tool that it requires a lot of custom support (setup, configuration, training, etc.) to get it up and running. The consequence is that only large organizations can afford DevResults at this point.
But we know that small organizations have the same problems managing programs and wrangling data:
- distributed teams in challenging work environments
- staff turnover
- incompatible data formats
- vaguely defined indicators
- evolving reporting requirements
- heavy reliance on generic tools like Excel or Access
We recognize through years of experience that software can’t solve all these problems, but at the same time, we’ve seen how a reliable, easy-to-use data management tool can make a world of difference for practitioners on the ground. Small, local organizations—the primary actors driving development in their own communities—deserve access to the same tools as their funders and big NGO counterparts.
That’s why we want to build a version of DevResults that is more intelligent, flexible, and easier to use right out of the gate. The more the software does, the less hand-holding we will have to do, which will make the software itself more affordable and accessible.
We Don’t Want To Wait
The obvious question is: why don't we do this on our own? The answer is that we'd love to, but our team is too busy solving problems for our existing customers, and taking on more customers to accelerate growth often increases the number of problems we need to solve. Of course we’re constantly trying to make DevResults more interactive, more self-serve, and more responsive to our users’ needs and we’re making progress, but transforming the app for small orgs in a purely organic manner will likely take years.
We don’t want to wait. We want to get to work on this effort right away, so we’re exploring funding options. Unfortunately, this effort straddles the private and public sectors, and doesn't fit neatly into any of the traditional funding categories.
- Banks. Banks like certainty. With interest rates this low, banks are extremely conservative and require substantial collateral to offer a loan. We're a lean company whose tangible assets are comprised mostly of computers and hooded sweatshirts. Needless to say, banks are not interested in giving us a loan so we can support smaller NGOs.
- Investors. Investors like profits. Big profits. But there's not enough return for a venture capitalist or angel to pursue international development software just for the money.
- Social investment funds/foundations. We’re seeing more activity in this space, but most investments typically go to more ‘direct’ programs and products. We do not work directly with end beneficiaries. This makes us ineligible for most program related investments (PRIs) we’ve seen so far.
- Foreign assistance agencies. Large agencies recognize the importance of results management and we are seeing many invest in their own systems, but there is no indication that they’re going to solve this problem for their implementing partners.
Let’s Make It Happen
With a modest investment, we will be able to build a vastly simpler and self-serve version of DevResults, which would allow us to offer the software at lower price points across the board – starting with a free version for the smallest organizations.
We have a roadmap and work plan for making this happen. What we need now is a partner--or partners--to help bring our plan to life.
If you are interested in helping us solve this problem, we’d love to hear from you. We’re based in DC and happy to get together in person, or jump on GoToMeeting or Skype anytime.