Tuesday, February 06, 2007

On the business of software

A long, but very accurate quote from Joel Spolsky. I completely agree with both the points made by him. I wish I had more to say than that, but there really isn’t much else to add… :-)

"The number one thing is a micro-ISV shouldn't be one person, it should be two people at the very least and one of them should have the business and marketing and sales skills experience. The other one should have the tech skills and the programming and the inventing the product type of skills. That kind of partnership is far more likely to be successful than the individual working alone just because people don't usually have both of those skill sets and so they really need to all be covered.

Or if you have only the sales and marketing you're not going to be to be successful because you won't have a good product and if you don't have product development skills you won't be successful because no one will hear about you and the business side won't really work. Having two people, I feel, is crucial just to validate your idea, almost to keep each other motivated, bounce ideas off each other and so on - that sort of thing.

The first part is the minimum size for a micro-ISV that can go anywhere beyond a fun project.

The second part, and Bob alluded to this earlier, which is my prototypical example of the photo gallery which is probably nine million micro-ISVs have made an application where it's like "Hey, everybody's got these digital cameras my application lets you upload all your pictures and put them on the web and make web galleries." There have been about a million of these and a very tiny number of them have been successful and the vast majority of them have been instant flops. For some reason this is an incredibly appealing idea for software developers to do, maybe because they feel like they know how to do everything, all the steps they're going to need to do to write the code to make this work, but for some reason they never really make it work.

But what I've always told these people time and time again, and they never listen to me, is instead of making the generic "upload your pictures application" take a very, very small niche audience - wedding photographers - and make the ultimate application for wedding photographers. Find out exactly what wedding photographers need. There's a lot of money around wedding photographers, they get paid an awful lot of money, and figure out exactly what their workflow is. If you need to find wedding photographers because they're in the yellow pages and there are directories of these things. Call them all and find out what they want and try to sell them your solution.

And so what I always tell micro-ISVs is, and that's just an illustrative picture, try to narrow your potential audience almost as much as possible to get started. In order to bootstrap you're going to have to find a very small initial audience you can serve extremely well of people who all speak to each other. One you can find all in one place, where there's money being spent because you're going to need to get a part of it for this thing to work. And once you find that very narrow niche, that's the way you get bootstrapped and you can think about crossing the chasm as Jeffrey Morris says into other kinds of industries and other kinds of larger markets. But you really need to pick something vertical to start with."

Read the rest at The MicroISV Show #10 - Joel Spolsky

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