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Bishop's Stortford software developer Mike Hogan is offering his services free to small businesses in order to help him create a new product

Software developer Mike Hogan wants to make a difference to small businesses and entrepreneurs by offering his services for free in order to prove he has a gem of a new product.

The 47-year-old Bishop’s Stortford resident believes he has come up with a new piece of software that could help firms and traders in areas such as automated document creation, data entry, management and reporting, and simple process automation.

Mike developed the idea when working on a low-cost solution for his brother Tommy’s small caramel manufacturing business next to the family farm in County Offaly, Ireland. His sibling wanted a piece of software to produce delivery dockets that accompany caramel shipments and automate email correspondence with the shipper, all with an IT budget of only hundreds of pounds a year.

Mike Hogan. Picture: Vikki Lince
Mike Hogan. Picture: Vikki Lince

Having been successful, Mike now wants to find a small business owner, ideally in the Stortford area, who would let them help him to develop the idea further and see how big it could be.

“I wanted to find existing software that I could configure for him because I didn’t want him to end up with a dependency on me,” said Mike, who entered the profession in 1994 and began writing computer programs on paper when he was 10, two years before his mother bought him first computer.

“I trialled and played with a number of offerings and nothing was hitting the mark, so I did end up having to write something custom for him, but that was as easy for him to operate as Microsoft Excel.

Mike Hogan. Picture: Vikki Lince
Mike Hogan. Picture: Vikki Lince

“I think there might be a general software product somewhere in this, but I can only prove or disprove that by trying to solve a number of other people’s similar problems.

“So I am looking for my next ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ – somebody who has a need for a piece of software in their business, and who is willing to invest the time talking me through their need and working together as we shape the required software. This would be offered entirely free on my part.

“The ideal outcome is a satisfied customer with a new piece of software that perfectly fits their business need, and me having a better sense of what the general need is that I can address. That will help inform my narrative around what I’m doing.”

Mike moved to the UK in 2004 and has lived in Stortford with wife Cherise for almost two years. Cherise runs her own Zambia-based charity the Cherise Makubale Foundation, which helps orphans and vulnerable children.

Mike, who has been freelance since 2005 and done work for large banks as well as media, insurance and construction companies, began helping his brother after a large energy company he had recently been working with canned a project with a £4 million budget, of which 50% was burned through.

“This was through no fault of mine – it’s just what happens all too often in large companies – but it threw me into a bit of a tailspin because I began to wonder what the point was in doing software in big enterprises to whom it doesn’t matter that much,” said Mike.

“I have found working with my brother and meeting his need more fulfilling than anything I have done with Fortune 500 companies over the last couple of years.

“The human side of software development – looking into the whites of a user’s eyes and seeing that I am helping with my work – is lost in these enterprises.

“I feel more like my 12-year old-self, who enjoyed creating software, because it can be a very enjoyable activity.”

Mike believes he could need to work with around 10 small businesses and entrepreneurs before his idea is distilled to its essence.

Email mike@infoworks.app if you would like to be a part of Mike’s project.

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