I've developed an assessment, care planning and outcome monitoring tool for children in public care. Its seen as the "gold standard" for the sector by a few key players, but isn't widely known yet. I currently have a working prototype, one significant customer up and running and two smaller customers in the process of signing up, without ever having done any marketing. I'm in the UK, so this is partly a public sector market (of statutory health and social care organisations) and partly smaller private providers (companies that run children's homes, or support foster families). Competition is very limited, and the rules for running children's homes have just changed in my favour, requiring evidence of progress which I would argue necessitates outcome measurement, so I'd like to seize the market niche.
However, at the moment it is just me (I'm a Clinical Psychologist), with a bit of admin support and a programmer I pay by the hour, and I am unsure of what to prioritise in taking it forward.
1) bootstrap it myself, by continuing to put in my own time for nothing and paying the programmer per hour, and creeping forward one customer at a time, using the income from each to improve our offering, retaining all the equity
2) take on a salaried sales person to promote the product to try to earn enough from sales to polish the product, whilst retaining all the equity
3) try to earn small grants to gather evidence of efficacy and normative data, as this will make me more confident in marketing the product (although this will take time)
4) or do I seek funding to scale it up immediately to seize the market niche, and use the funding to take on all the skills I don't have as quickly as possible?
If the answer is 4, then I'm also torn whether to seek social impact style investments, because the product is much needed and will improve the lives of vulnerable children, or whether to look for more traditional investment? My company is not registered as a non-profit, so there are no legal restrictions (though I do also own a separate social enterprise company to provide low cost therapy to those who can't access it on the NHS). I am not sure that traditional investors would see the speed and scale of return as sufficient, unless they felt there was value in contributing to something worthwhile, as the plan is not to float the company or sell out in the foreseeable future. (I think we'd need ?300k of investment to be able to give this our best shot; total market capitalisation in the UK would lead to ?5M/year of subscriptions, so to exceed that we'd need to look abroad, but my current aim is to reach one tenth of that within 3 years).