Scaling Impact

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E28: Solve Your Own Problem With Software To Scale Impact

How can building a software solution for your own problem help you scale impact?

What I talk about in this episode:

  • Investing in solving your own problem with software
  • Turn it into a solution for others
  • Generating revenue through it
  • Reinvesting that revenue to scale impact
  • The story of Basecamp


  • Read the book Rework by Jason Fried

Episode Transcript

Hey Everyone, Sean here and today what I want to talk to you about is how investing in software to try to scale impact can go from an expense to a form of a fundraising machine for you at your nonprofit, helping you with scaling impact. 

Now, I want to tell it through in the form of a story in terms of where this has been done as an example, out in the industry. The company is called Basecamp. And it’s a project management software that was built by the founders of a essentially a software development shop that was called 37 signals. The founders of that organization, they were essentially selling services that were related to software development and when they encountered a problem where they needed a better project management software system because they didn’t find one that they liked what they ultimately did was they built their own. They had the skills so they further invested in it themselves and it turned out that ultimately what they built, which was Basecamp was so much better than the other options out there for their needs. 

Then other people were essentially letting them know of the same thing that they also wanted a better project management system. That is ultimately what Basecamp became. So they started wanting to buy it from them or license it from them. So what the 37 signals team ultimately did was they started selling it to the people that needed it and then over time Basecamp became so successful and generated so much revenue, that it became the company that they focused on themselves and they ultimately essentially, let go of the underlying service business they had before called 37 signals to focus exclusively on Basecamp. 

So they kind of did this leapfrog and transformation, but what they ultimately did here was they solved their own problem, which is a key strategy when trying to figure out how to leverage products or software and in terms of scaling impact, that’s the way you should be thinking of it as well – do you have opportunities to solve your own problems if you do software can help you with that as well. 

So if you focus in on the problem, whatever it is that you need help with, if you ultimately figure out that the options that are out there and available on the market, are inadequate, for whatever reason, then you always have the opportunity to invest in building one yourself and if it turns out that what you’ve built is better than the options out there for people like you. Maybe other nonprofit organizations, there is a decent probability that they, as in other nonprofit organizations may need that solution as well. So ultimately, what you have the ability to do is take what was originally an expense and investing in building this product then it can become not just an investment but almost essentially a fundraising machine for you because providing access to that product for these other organizations is an opportunity for you to generate revenue and what can you do with that revenue? You can use it to fund scaling impact at your organization and reinvest it back into the expansion of your programs. So this is a excellent strategy in terms of figuring out how to leverage software to scale impact.