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Small Business: Software firm's fee a piece of the pie
Vision 7 Software helps firms get established, and takes a share of
the business as its fee.
Michael Hill (from left), Steve Miner and Jason Green,
all part owners of Vision 7, demonstrate how the winForce program can help
attorneys and investigators with their cases.
Aug. 20, 2001
Vision 7 Software
believes the future of software design is not taking money upfront but
rather taking a stake in the company it's developing the software
Vision 7 Chief Executive Officer Steve Miner says the firm's
approach to developing software positions it as a venture technology
company, not a work-for-hire firm.
venture firms, it provides something upfront, but in this case it is
programming know-how instead of cash.
Already the firm
has reached agreements with winForce Technologies and Online Self Storage
Inc. and its website, www.onlineself
formerly Blue Knight Technology in Scottsdale, hired Vision 7 to perform
much of the software development for the company's winForce program (then
known as El Cid!) used by attorneys to create an electronic index of all
reports, notes, photographs, tapes and evidence gathered during the
preparation of a case.
It was first used
in the May 2001 conviction of Thomas Blanton Jr. for the 1963 bombing of
the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
then president of Blue Knight, had developed a prototype of the system
while working as an assistant United States attorney in the Phoenix
"As a person who uses this, without winForce, I probably spent
half my time getting ready to work and putting away paper. Now it's all
productive time," Stevens said.
The problem was,
the software wasn't ready for commercial release.
Jimmy Wood, a
co-founder of Blue Knight and now president and CEO of winForce, said it
was then the company began seeking a software design firm to make the
product ready for release to the market.
"We looked at
other developers and felt that this was a style we would like to be
involved with," Wood said. "It was a significant amount of
Vision 7 also aligned itself with Online Self Storage Inc., an
Oro Valley company that provides the ability to offer online tours,
reservations and payment options for temporary self-storage facilities
Vision 7 started as seven guys who had been developing software
"We wanted more fundamental relationships with the people we were
working with. Many times when you develop software, it reaches the market
and you find you really need to do five other things and you have to go
back," said Steve Miner, CEO and a company founder.
The group had
been working for Ikon Office Solutions until its Tucson office was closed
"We all said we could go get jobs over again, or we could do our
own thing," Miner said.
And so far,
Vision 7's clients are happy with its work.
"Vision 7 played
a big part in the initial idea," said Rick Magee, president of Online Self
Storage. "Vision 7 has done a majority of the development work and they
own a small, minority part of the company."
This ownership is
what makes the relationship successful for both parties.
"Their work is
not just for hire, but they have an interest in the company's future,"
Magee said. "Because they are small owners, the real benefit to us is the
cost savings. They have a small equity stake and that has reduced the
outflow of cash necessary to get the development done."
"It motivates us
and them to. They know when they call us, they'll get results," Miner said
of the arrangement.
Miner said the
company has five partners and 10 contract people who work on the various
"In terms of a business model, I think there's a precedent out
there where they can be successful," said William Neumann, director of
projects for management information systems at the University of Arizona's
Mark and Susan Hoffman E-commerce lab, said.
Internet software provider Oracle did something similar with startups who
couldn't afford their applications, where they got an equity position in
He said the risk is that as a small company develops new
products, the old ones may fade away. But, he said since Vision 7 has
intellectual property and a stake in the company, they might be able to
AT A GLANCE
Vision 7 Software
Service/Product: Software design
2101 N. Country Club Road, Suite 104
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