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Still Struggling with Ideas...

My dream is to start my own ISV.  My problem is that I'm suffering from some analysis paralysis.  I've been flirting with the idea for over two years now.  How pathetic, right?  I can't believe it's been that long, but it has.  I probably could of started and failed twice over already and been farther along... but here I am.

I'm currently contracting and have saved up enough that I could take some time off (@6 mo's or so) if need be.  My wife is finishing grad school and is about to enter the workforce.  This allows me to take a pay cut since I'm no longer the only working member of the house hold.  I'd probably lean towards keeping the contracting going and saving more... if/when things crystallize I could then commit to trying to go 100% indy.

My problem is like that of other folks here... I'm coming up short on ideas.  It's incredibly frustrating.  Since they are a dime a dozen, I figured I'd throw some out there and solicit feedback.  Maybe you all can offer some ideas that lead to some new directions.  I don't think any of these are new or original... I'd welcome suggestions or alternatives because I don't think these are very exceptional. 

1. Real Estate Buyer Tour Manager - Import property listing from MLS to allow agents to enter in clients, create search types, and help orchestrate reviewing and showing properties.  The app could provide driving directions, mileage tracking, and track client dislikes and previously viewed properties from future searches/tours. 

This is one of my favorites, however; I'm really nervous about trying to crack into the MLS data.  The standards are poor, each implementation is different, and filled with legal pitfalls.  This makes me really apprehensive on this one and questioning if it's worth it.  Also, the real estate space is shrinking.

2. A hosted web based CRM - I have some experience in this space.  I like the 37signals Sunrise product, however; I think there are companies out there that would prefer a deployment model where they can keep in house and customize it a bit.  SugarCRM does that already, so maybe this niche is filled.  Sugar has a lot of features that seem to sacrifice simplicity IMHO.  It starts to look like Salesforce, etc. which is overkill for small companies often.

3. CRM for real estate - Again, products like TopProducer seem pretty weak and I've heard lots of complaints.  I like this because it's not just CRM which is a large and somewhat vague term... instead it's tightly focused for a specific vertical.  I'd probably want to do a hosted online service here though vs. an installable product.  You start to flirt with MLS integration here which opens up some of the issues above.  Also "CRM" seems to lead to "feature wars" which it's very difficult to win as a single person shop.  I'd love to find a specific niche/problem and try to nail it. 

4. CRM for service industries - My parents run a small service based business.  I haven't seen too many offerings around here , however; there are some that seem viable like Bluefolder.com for instance.  I know that Phil from Chimsoft said that it's so hard to be one for all in this niche, which I can see.  Having worked for a small logistics software company in the past, I can definitely say that what works for customer one does not generally for work another.

5. Mobile Trip Tour - Using location information on your phone, pull points of interest and factual information and send to your device.  This could be pretty cool given new devices like the iPhone which have SDK's.  I'm not sure who would really pay for this sort of thing though... but it would be fun/interesting to work on.

And now for things I found interesting, yet don't know how to quite formulate viable ideas from (hence the brain storming):

1. UnwiredBuyer.com - They used Asterisk to call ebay users up when their auction is about to close.  You can bid in the final minutes before using only your phone.  I thought this was a great idea.

2. Automated wake up calls - A person developed a service for college students that uses Asterisk to call them at a time of their choosing.  I also liked this one as it was unique and very focused.

3. A call center/support tool built with skype.  What if you could have a virtual support desk?  Your support staff could be all over, yet you could tie them together using VOIP and some organizational/client/contact management capabilities.  Perhaps it could maintain call/chat history for each client/contact?  I'm probably reaching here...

My first programming job was for a company that ran call centers for those 800 numbers you dial into when you order random junk from infomercials... they had a horrible application to manage the call scripts and track it all.  It seems like you could setup a call center much easier these days using Skype and some web based software...

As you can see, most of my ideas are around CRM which is large and somewhat all encompassing (and therefore overwhelming.)  These are the ideas I have so far... I figure putting them out there might get some feedback and help.  I've enjoyed reading this forum for a long time and value the comments.

Thanks!
AnonymousCoward Send private email
Monday, April 21, 2008
 
 
Any idea you have where you don't know who would pay for it is, essentially, a non-starter. I would also steer clear of any of the real-estate related ideas (at least at the moment). The CRM idea has the benefit that there are a number of established competitors, which suggests that there are paying customers for such a product, but has the detriment that there are established competitors with more money and experience than you.

As has been said many times before on this forum: the idea isn't the most important thing. In fact, it probably isn't even in the top three (the top three being 1: getting something written, 2: getting the word out to prospective customers, and 3: not running your business into the ground along the way). Just pick something that is manageable and has an identifiable customer. In general, any niche that actually exists will be big enough to make you some money.

Also, even though you may have some money saved up, don't quit your day job to work on ANYTHING until it is pulling in a reasonable amount of cash (maybe you don't need to be pulling in as much as you make in your day job, but you'd better be able to survive off whatever you pull in).
Jeffrey Dutky Send private email
Monday, April 21, 2008
 
 
Your parents run a service business. Are there software products catering to this business? What problems do they, or others in that space have?
farmboy Send private email
Monday, April 21, 2008
 
 
Microsoft has a CRM product - perhaps you already knew that?

http://crm.dynamics.com/microsoft_crm_partners/index.html

There are partnering benefits that might allow you to build your IP into it for an affordable price.
ISV Developers Send private email
Monday, April 21, 2008
 
 
Build the software that you love and help you to solve your problem.
Xt
Monday, April 21, 2008
 
 
OP: I'd suggest a one-week working holiday. schedule 5 days off, then target to completely build a product in one week of concentrated effort. With weekends you have 9 days.
Two objectives:
(1) Finish something completely
(2) Learn that the development is only one part of creating the product.

If your idea is too big or problem unclear, you won't finish - so scope is very important. The key is *you must* finish.

I've done this a few times and none of the results are home runs, a few total failures and some make a bit of money. I've probably never recouped the consulting revenue forgone but I have gotten several fair/good ideas out of the way between me and the *great* ideas.

You may also learn "Hey, I really prefer consulting to the ISV life." which is totally fine and a very inexpensive lesson.
Mr. Blah
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
 
 
One important thing i've learned is that your idea doesn't have to be entirely unique. You just need to pick one and do it better than those already in the space. The market will decide if you have a better product. The other important thing is to pick something you know, especially if you are going it on your own. The more intimate you are with a market, the better your product will benefit from that knowledge. It will also help if you can identify an unfulfilled need in the market, as this will help you niche your product.
John Send private email
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
 
 
If you haven,t yet read founders at Work yet, read it to get a feel for the mindset of entrepreneurs in this field - many of them simply wrote something because they needed it, or a different product rose it's glorious head unexpectedly - an ide4a that came from the original but very different original product (the paypal guy comes to mind).

Also i liked what Stephen Pressfield says in War of Art about "turning pro" in your attitude and doing something everyday no matter what.  He urges the reader to keep on working on your technique even if you are not creating a product.

(on an Eee - excuse the tyoing)
st Send private email
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
 
 
If you cannot come up with good ideas, that shows that you don't have enough exposure. Go out there and get your hands dirty, you'll come up with plenty of things to fix and improve that people will pay money for.
cynic
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
 
 
"Build the software that you love and help you to solve your problem."

Oh no, not another programmer's editor.

Seriously, you probably have the best chance in a niche market. Talk to your parents more, and people in their industry. Probably not as glamorous as some of the other things, but that's part of the reason it has a better chance of success.
Anon for this Send private email
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
 
 

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