Christopher K. Stahl spent 20 years crisscrossing the country as a consultant for companies either too busy or inexperienced to write bids for government contracts. Now, tired of traveling, he is hoping his software program will be a virtual counselor to the same clients he used to advise one by one.

Stahl founded MAP ROI Systems Inc. in Sterling with $1 million of his own money. Officially open for business since October 2003, the company sells access to an online database of government contracts currently up for grabs. Subscribers can also write and organize their bids using a computer program specially designed for that purpose.

"I lived the pain" of researching and pursuing government contracts, said Stahl.

He says his software is like Turbotax, the popular tax software, because it allows companies less familiar with the contracting process to still complete it smoothly and competently.

The company does not research available contracts itself. Instead, its Web site is connected to databases like www.fedbizopps.gov, a government-maintained list of federal contracts worth more than $25,000, or the Health and Human Services Department's registry of grants.

The company has signed up almost 100 companies as clients. Annual subscriptions cost about $5,000 per person, but the price falls as companies order more subscriptions.

One of the service's major advantages, Stahl said, is its ability to help executives decide if their chances of winning a contract are high enough to warrant a bid. Writing proposals is costly and labor-intensive; companies usually spend a minimum of three to four months on a bid.

MAP ROI also helps its customers research their likely competitors before making a decision to bid. If, for example, a company with little previous experience working for the Navy is thinking of bidding on a Navy contract, the knowledge that a competitor already holds several Navy contracts in the same office means that the company probably won't win. MAP ROI's system would designate such a bid as high-risk and suggest that the customer market itself as a subcontractor to the likely winner instead, Stahl said.

Christopher K. Stahl founded MAP ROI Systems Inc. after he "lived the pain" of researching and pursuing government contracts.