SaaS Product Development · Saas

I'm building a software product for a client and I can see the potential of this becoming a viable SaaS product. How should I go about market validation?

Scott Barron Professional problem solver.

Last updated on September 1st, 2020

This is essentially a document templating product. I figure that if my client needs this type of functionality then other businesses likely do as well.

My client has procedure manuals etc which they sell to their customers - but they are concerned that the copies of the procedure manuals might get shared around. They want their customers to enter their business name, address etc into a form on the website and the application generates a protected pdf from the original procedure manual. I.e. it prevents the text being copied from the pdf and includes a watermark indicating that the pdf is copyright and for consumption by this specific customer only. Other "templated" information is also modified as the pdf is generated.

The original procedure manuals are in word document format.


I can see similar potential applications for this type of functionality - but I can't see many other examples if it in use, so I'm not sure about the specific markets I should be investigating.

My guess is that there is a market for this in procedure manuals, legal documents and digital info product.

Obviously transforming this into a fully fledged SaaS product will require some additional work - hence I want to validate and make sure that the need actually exists.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.


EDIT

Thanks for your comments - very insightful, but I have realized that I have left out some details which would probably shed more light on the situation and the problem being solved for this one client.

I'm obviously trying to see if I can solve additional problems beyond that - at a profit.


1. IP Ownership

I own the IP in this situation. The contract with my client specifically states that I retain the IP and grant the client a non-exclusive license to use the application for it's intended purpose.


2. This is less about copy protection, and more about streamlining custom document generation.

My client has suites of documents that they want to distribute to their customers - but there are sections that need to be customized, included or omitted depending on the unique situation of the customer.

I.e. as the documents are generated from their templates customer A might have section X included but customer B wont.

The pdf's are generated to include/exclude the relevant sections based on the customer input - and also to do specific find/replace activities. i.e. replacing {{businessname}} with the actual name of the business.


3. Copy protection limitations

My client is aware (as am I) that there is nothing to prevent customer A from simply printing out their version of the document and simply giving it to customer B, just like there is nothing to stop someone from photocopying an entire book.

What they are keen on however is making it just difficult enough that it provides them with some limited protection over their IP.

Their customers small-medium building/construction companies. If there is no warning/watermark on the document they might be inclined to share the documents with their industry peers. Watermark and pdf protection have been deemed enough of a deterrent in this case.

Likewise - based on their customers being non-technical the risk of someone taking the time and being inclined to run the manuals through an OCR process is pretty remote.


Eric Bockman Auction Uber cofounder, highly creative and always finding solutions.

August 31st, 2020

I'm not sure I fully understand what you are trying to accomplish. If you are looking at the possibility of digitally protected training documents, there is a plethora of examples. There is a company in my town that had a contract to put ipads in heavy equipment machines and do video tutorials to "instantly" certify that person on the device. I personally wouldn't want to be boots on the ground around someone instantly certified, but that is another story.

Your question is about marketing and validation of a protected digital document or media, correct? Then I would suggest trying a few different approaches. One I have used before is the Dry Wallet.

( you can find more information here: https://www.movestheneedle.com/all-blog/2016/6/14/enterprise-lean-startup-experiment-examples )

The toughest but most effective way is to just ask. Don't ask about your product to a customer, ask what problems they encounter with their documenation systems (maybe not even that specific), and then listen.

Hope it helps, if not, use that delete key .... :)

E

Fred Cohen We help grow companies

August 31st, 2020

Thing 1: A work made for hire belongs to the party that paid for it - unless you have some other contractual arrangement. So get the contracts right is you are thinking of selling/licensing to any other party.

Thing 2: If one customer wants it an is willing to pay for it, likely there are others. Very few things are so unique that there will only be a single use case.

Thing 3: These sorts of protective schemes are very common and unlikely to be effective against anyone serious about it. The "protected PDF" is likely not protection at all - for example against OCR. Most such protective schemes aren't worth the bits it takes to make them.

Thing 4: Digital rights management (DRM) is a whole category of its own. Before you rush into this you might look at that market and the competition. It's unlikely that you will be able to rise above the hundreds of other companies and products in the space that are already well embedded.

Arnnei Speiser CEO at Mega AS Consulting Ltd. Security Innovation

August 31st, 2020

Reading the details in your question I understand that the goal is to prevent sharing of copies of manuals. This problem existed ever since writing was developed... There is no (known) way to prevent the written knowledge from being copied one way or another and being spread around. For example, the PDF protection does not prevent taking a picture of the page and converting it into a Word document. So while the problem is real - how to prevent copying of designs, layouts, written materials etc, there is not yet a real solution. If you have a solution, the market exists.

Clay Nichols Helping other startups grow after launching 2 successful startups.

September 1st, 2020

Very wise to do market validation.


Who owns the IP (finished software product) for this: you or your client?


You could see what sorts of Google Searches folks are doing for this problem.




Scott Barron Professional problem solver.

September 1st, 2020

Thanks for your comments - very insightful, but I have realized that I have left out some details which would probably shed more light on the situation and the problem being solved for this one client.

I'm obviously trying to see if I can solve additional problems beyond that - at a profit.


1. IP Ownership

I own the IP in this situation. The contract with my client specifically states that I retain the IP and grant the client a non-exclusive license to use the application for it's intended purpose.


2. This is less about copy protection, and more about streamlining custom document generation.

My client has suites of documents that they want to distribute to their customers - but there are sections that need to be customized, included or omitted depending on the unique situation of the customer.

I.e. as the documents are generated from their templates customer A might have section X included but customer B wont.

The pdf's are generated to include/exclude the relevant sections based on the customer input - and also to do specific find/replace activities. i.e. replacing {{businessname}} with the actual name of the business.


3. Copy protection limitations

My client is aware (as am I) that there is nothing to prevent customer A from simply printing out their version of the document and simply giving it to customer B, just like there is nothing to stop someone from photocopying an entire book.

What they are keen on however is making it just difficult enough that it provides them with some limited protection over their IP.

Their customers small-medium building/construction companies. If there is no warning/watermark on the document they might be inclined to share the documents with their industry peers. Watermark and pdf protection have been deemed enough of a deterrent in this case.

Likewise - based on their customers being non-technical the risk of someone taking the time and being inclined to run the manuals through an OCR process is pretty remote.