Product Development · Product Marketing

Considering offering spreadsheet to application conversion service/product - good idea? Naming?

Eric Lentz Business Improvement Through Software Application Development

November 22nd, 2016

Most tools that offer spreadsheet conversion are self service. I'm considering offering a service whereby people can submit spreadsheets and the spreadsheets will be converted for them, at a very reasonable cost, into a web application which will eventually provide charting/dashboards, reporting and some other features. The web application would be hosted and there would be a monthly subscription for that.

I'm a software developer with my own business, so I'm not asking about technical practicality and I have the infrastructure to deliver on it. My question is:

Do you think there would be appeal for such a product from small companies? I know that I can create an MVP and test the market. I'm asking for your opinion as a start for testing the market.

Does anyone have any thoughts on a name for such a product?

Rob G

November 23rd, 2016

reaching the SMB market, specifically small manufacturers as you mentioned, will be tough then convincing them that they have a problem then convincing them to take the time to address the problem and understand your solution and then pay for your solution will not be easy.  I would be inclined to research the large company market: more resources, bigger problems, bigger budgets, bigger deals.  Look at departmental solutions: lots of big companies with big IT backlogs with departments that are not getting the support they need from their IT dept. 

K. Robbins Head Moose at Moose WorldWide Digital

November 23rd, 2016

It is an interesting idea, as Excel is used to do many things.  We have a fairly complex spreadsheet that we use to track job costing I would be happy to show it to you.

I respectfully disagree with Rob, as small companies penetrating large corporations - and getting on the approved vendor list - is difficult compared to  an SMB where you can get the CEO on the phone.


Rob G

November 23rd, 2016

also, educating customers who don't know they have a need is very time consuming and expensive and generally not very lucrative.  If they don't understand the pain/need very quickly then move on.  
I can tell you unequivocally that large companies like MS can and do contract for stuff like you are proposing - if a company like MS with all the tech resources they have, including a bit of expertise in spreadsheets, has a need for consulting services and custom dev then you know other large companies with lesser technical expertise have needs as well. Yes, getting on the official "approved vendor" list can be difficult, but where an internal manager/director/VP has a need there's a way. If you have a unique solution to their pain they will find a way to get you in the door.  

Rob G

November 30th, 2016

Eric, you are wise to focus your efforts narrowly and taking an 'opportunistic' approach is smart too at this stage.  the market for 'spreadsheet users in small to medium manufacturing companies' (for example) is still a very big market.  don't try to boil the ocean.  When it comes to marketing and selling your product/service it is important to focus.  You are an army of one - correct me if i'm wrong and not a well funded battalion.  1) focus on what you know at an expert level.  When it comes to the ground-level tactics of selling and marketing you need to connect with individuals and those individuals need to know that you not only understand their pains, but you are an expert with a potential cure.  2) Go for the low hanging fruit first then pattern match later.  Don't try to force-fit your sales/marketing plan.  Get your first customer, get them referenceable then go find others with like attributes.  After you've closed several sales you will likely see some common patterns/attributes and some common sales and marketing tactics that worked well and many that didn't. I think you will see more success earlier by being the worlds foremost expert on _____ (building on Yoram's post) dashboards for managing carbon offset credits, for example, than trying to be all things to all spreadsheet users. 

Sebastian Pereyro

November 22nd, 2016

I think it is a great idea! from the technical aspect of it, I am not sure the market for it, I think would be great if you could showcase few examples. Maybe do it as a proof of concept for someone and then be able to showcase it. Also it sounds like good niche to be in and once you have developed the app for them continue to give support. 

Spreadapp is the only name I can come up quickly :D

Rob G

November 30th, 2016

here's a link to the product/team i referenced above:  https://www.appsheet.com/

Lydia Sugarman Entrepreneur. CEO + Non-Technical Founder. Seeker. Thinker. Drinker of bourbon.

November 25th, 2016

As I read your proposal I was reminded of all the Sales Operations analysts and managers who struggle to make sense of data in SalesForce for management. It's become another employee expense for companies already spending a lot of money on the software, the additional employee who manages implementation, training, etc. Generating reports requires that they export all data into big, very messy Excel spreadsheets and then, turning that into comprehensible reports. Companies with fewer than 50 people that are very heavy on salespeople would benefit greatly from your proposed solution.

Brett Whysel

November 29th, 2016

Check out spreadsheetweb.com. Their product sounds similar. 

Consider Fintech entrepreneurs as a market. I am using Excel to prototype our financial wellness apps and came across spreadsheetweb as I was researching low cost ways to creat an MVP. Turns out their product doesn't handle multiple pages well. They did offer to program it for me, at a hefty fee. Seems to me there's an opportunity here.

David Austin Relentless problem solver and innovator.

November 23rd, 2016

You're right, I misunderstood.  It's for those who are using a spreadsheet as an app ... basically converts it to an app, yes?  I recall seeing something similar about 6 years ago to what you're proposing.  Wish I could remember it.  I don't know what happened to it.  Seems like a good idea.

John O'Sullivan Founder at spreadserve.com

November 30th, 2016

I partition Excel business use into three broad categories: Excel as dashboard, Excel as DB and Excel as calc engine. My own product - SpreadServe - is firmly aimed at the last; Excel as calculation engine. Excel functionality is so broad and diverse that it would be impossible to do a good job of all three in an MVP. There are a lot of small ISVs in the Excel space, and I think of them as falling into the following categories...

1. "Better" Excel: Resolver1 (now defunct), LibreOffice calc, ankh. Often they claim to be better at some subset of Excel functionality, but fall down on a lack of compatibility. There's a huge estate of existing biz critical sheets out there, and it's important to support as much as possible.

2. Vertical replacements: eg Anaplan or Tidemark. Often SaaS offerings, these aim to replace a specific application of Excel like budgeting.

3. Management & control: for instance spreadgit, Finsbury Solutions, Infotron. These aim to put version control, diagnostics, testing etc around Excel to mitigate the issues arising from uncontrolled sharing and changing of critical sheets.

4. Components for spreadsheet processing: SpreadSheetGear, kdcalc. Aimed at devs building Excel compatible server functionality.

5. Microsoft's own Excel extensions eg ExcelHPC, the recent Excel REST API, Excel Web Services.

IMHO it's important to consider all the competitors in these categories and how you're positioned compared to them. Especially the already mentioned spreadsheetweb, and Karma Platform too.