Tag Archives: License

How Do You Create Predictable Costs and Profit? Seven Suggestions

Situation: A company finds that it’s costs and profitability vary greatly by season and during economic fluctuations. Some of this is due to hourly rate fluctuation and payroll costs. They also have excess capacity during slow periods. However, new projects arise quickly, and the company must be prepared. How do you create predictable costs and profit?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Here’s the grim reality. In volatile markets, forecasts are meaningless. Instead of fretting over forecast accuracy, focus on increasing billable rates and managing expenses.
    • To generate additional revenue per project, add a flat percentage charge for project management on top of time and materials. This is often treated by clients like a sales tax or a gasoline cost adjustment and may not penalize contract negotiations.
  • Is it possible to build a sustainable revenue source to resolve profit lumpiness? There are options:
    • Application maintenance projects. After building a box add a provision for maintenance/upgrades as new capabilities and technologies are developed. This can cost-effectively extend the life of the box and long-term profitability of the product that the box supports, while gaining an annuity revenue stream.
    • Add a maintenance add-on service to leverage the company’s core competence on an ongoing basis. Provide technology upgrades through a maintenance subscription similar to software companies adding optional access to all new releases over the course of a year for a fixed subscription cost. The cost to the company for upgrade downloads is essentially nothing, but it gains an annual annuity revenue stream.
  • Investigate a help desk service to sell via subscription to small companies. Most clients use less than they anticipate; however, they prefer the security of a flat price subscription service.
  • What additional info can be gathered through sales to better drive sales forecasts metrics? Look at the past several years: is there any seasonality in a multi-year analysis. It may not occur every year, but if you there’s a pattern it may enable the company to proactively reduce costs where there’s a predictable dip in project demand.
  • Are sales people responsible for both maintaining client relationships and creating new business?  Most companies split these functions because maintenance is like farming while new business development is hunting – few sales people excel at both.
  • If, in development, the company develops IP, can this be used? When there’s down-time can capacity be leveraged to develop the company’s IP portfolio? Look at IP licensing opportunities. This provides an additional potential source of annuity revenue.
  • While it is important to figure out an annuity revenue stream, the principal lesson from the discussion is that most CEOs say that margins are better on fixed price projects than on time and materials. The key is to control to client requests for add-ins or adjustments and to include provision for these in contracts.

How Do You Market a Companion Application? Four Alternatives

Situation: A company is developing a companion application that simplifies the use a major company’s software. The CEO is considering how to show this application to the major company as well as at their user group conference. How do you market a companion application?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • This is an interesting situation. If the major company likes the companion application, the principal question is whether they will want to attach an additional license fee if the companion application is marketed through them. This presents three options:
    • Research other companies that have developed front end or access products for this company – what was their experience with the major company and did that company demand an additional license fee payment. If so, how did they handle this?
    • Be up-front with clients, and if an additional fee is required pass these through to the clients. It may be cheaper for clients to pay license fees through this route than to purchase and pay license fees for the major company product.
    • You may want to take a wait and see attitude while conducting your own research on the situation. See when and if the major company asks for a license fees, and if so, find out whether they are willing to negotiate.
  • Large companies are often focused on their own offering. Forget the idea that they will market another company’s companion application or front end. Instead focus on your own contacts within the industry and your client base and start talking to them about your application. Generate some experience and traction on your own.

What Are The Key Factors to Negotiating an IP Acquisition? Six Considerations

Situation:  The Company is interested in acquiring either the intellectual property (IP) of another company or the company itself. The target is a minor division of a larger parent company. The CEO contacted the parent and confirmed their interest in a deal. What are the key factors to negotiating an IP acquisition?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • You need to assure your rights to both current IP and future enhancements. This applies whether you or the parent is the final holder of the IP.
    • Look for clear language as to what constitutes base IP, derivative IP and extensions of the IP. You want to preserve your interest in future derivatives and extensions that you create.
  • There is a material difference between your position and the parent’s.
    • If the parent retains the IP, they also gain certain rights to IP extensions based on the current IP. If you own the IP, their potential rights to future IP are lost.
    • If the parent feels that the IP has strategic value – whether or not they are currently taking advantage of it – this will be one of the more difficult aspects to the negotiation.
  • What options are there besides acquiring the company?
    • The parent can grant a fully paid license to the technology, with access to the people and assets, waiving residual rights to future IP extensions, and no restrictions on transfer.
    • Another option could be a one-time royalty fee that is a perpetual license.
  • Within your due diligence, try to get a sense of the parent’s motivations and concerns for entertaining your interest in the acquisition. This will help you to frame a deal that works for both parties.
  • If the parent has been an active licensor or seller of IP, look for lawyers who know the company. Try to secure one of these as counsel for your negotiation.
  • From a liability standpoint, it is better to buy or license the IP and technology than the company. Liability travels with the company. Part of your negotiation will be who inherits any carry-over liability.

Key Words: Intellectual Property, IP, Acquisition, Rights, Enhancement, Derivative, Negotiation, License, Royalty, Legal Counsel, Liability