And if so, what is the smartest way of doing it? Pros so far: the company is willing to accept it, my costs are minimal, I need the feedback, I can use the case study and the client reference to market to other companies, and I can get executive attention that should move to other companies after bankruptcy. Cons: substantial money left on the table, although I would risk disputing it with other creditors. Risk being seen as cheap (it is supposed to be a high priced product).
Agreed with Sergio: you probably want to stay away from this one.
We get branded by those we hang around. And if you're hanging around financially troubled firms, you'll get branded that way. And what happens to them rubs off on you. They go bankrupt, you were somehow involved...you must be at least partially responsible, 0.0001%, right? but still involved in their failure.
Perception is reality.
Executive attention of a case study based on a failed company isn't good.
Personally, I wouldn't get involved.
They're going bankrupt, which you know, and this usually brings with it attendant drama, personal issues as people lose economic stability, and company dissolution. While they may take your beta project, it's still offering something of value to a company that has no real need for it or use.
My feeling is that devaluation is not worth beta testing and the potential perception that your project was (although new) already associated with a company going under very quickly upon use of your service.
As a Buddhist business owner and developer, it helps to look at things if not from a spiritual perspective, then from a moral and ethical one sometimes. Would I want to be involved with a company going under even if they're willing to test something for me? Not at all. You're not doing anything dishonest, but you're devaluing your work, potential results, and risking possible labeling, abandoning potential profits and risk misperception of value. Why risk these things if not necessary?
Personally, if you were asking me (and you are, albeit indirectly), I'd advise against it, keep your "core" and belief in your business untainted and just find others to offer the service to in beta in exchange for references and testimonials and potential referrals. We've done this for smaller web-services companies and there are certainly many others out there who'd be open to testing out new services for lowered overhead costs. It's all in how you approach them and package the deal; but never devalue what you do or offer to others, especially when it's business.Once you set that precedent it's harder to undo it or the feelings the act creates.
Just my opinon.