* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

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Moderators:

Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

How did you discover your money making idea?

I've tried several times creating software that will generate money.  I haven't been successful at it yet.  The software has always been based on, "I find this very useful.  Other people will also find it very useful".  I've been totally wrong.

At this point, I'm off that bangwagon.  I don't want to spend any time, money, effort on another sinkhole.  I'm doing something fundamentally wrong, which I believe is not finding the right product to create.  But, how do you go about finding the right product?  So many spaces are completely saturated.

I know some people will say, "find what the others aren't doing and fill that need".  My question is, how do you really know there is a need there.  I don't want to get back onto the same bandwagon in other words.
Observer
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
Maybe a better question would be, "After I discover an idea, how can I research whether I could generate money by executing it, before I invest a lot of time, money, and effort into developing it?"
Christopher Wells Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
Talk with people.

You'll just have to get off your chair, go into the world, and talk with people.

I just sat across from a past Client last week at his office, we started talking biz, and then he mentioned something he would love to do with his office that would involve a pretty interesting website.

We talked some more and the idea basically bloomed right in front of us.  I don't know if we'll pursue it, but it definitely solves a problem, fills a need and would clearly be a profitable business with a well defined niche.
q
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
Which products did you make?

I ask, because it's not usually a product question, it's a product/price or product/marketing question.  People make a LOT of money selling everything from luxury cars to dirt and water .... I seem to recall someone making a lot of money on grass that grew through animal statues a few years back.  People will spend money on a lot of things - as long as the perceived value is there, and of course, you must be able to find these people who are going to spend money.

The best way to find a product (so I've found), is to find something you are familiar with and identify a few "pain" points.  Then, ask other people you know that do this same "thing", and see if they also have pain.  If they do, you might be onto something - what would they pay for such an item, what does it need to do, and where can you find more people like them?

If they don't, it either means you asked the wrong people (if it's a big market, you often find people who don't have that pain), or the pain is something you're seeing because of some "quirk" about you (I myself hate accounting, so anything related to books is a pain point ... but probably not for others).

Build on this process, asking others, and at some point, you'll have enough data to say "yes, this is something I should do" or "No, not worth it".

One hard aspect of this is determining market size, as that should be a factor.  IE, lets say you build table planning software :-)

There are (probably) millions of people who get married every year.  Only some X percentage actually need to plan a medium / large wedding, and of those, some Y actually need / want your software.  Of those, only Z will be found online / shows / magazines / etc...  Z needs to produce enough income to be "worth" the sunk costs of developing / building.
Anthony Presley Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
I work Tech. Support and I always got comments like: "I lost my notebook with all my notes..." or "The other girl left." "... that's why I'm calling." I also remember the biggest slap in the face "THIS IS MY PAIN!!" comment ever: I pulled a call out of the queue and answered the question in one or two sentences. My customer (female if it is any more amusing) said quote: "That fucking pisses me off! I sat on hold for fucking 10 minutes!" (Notice the exasperation and the order of the words.)

* * *

This was my inspiration. I had a few sales the last five years. Now, I am working on bringing new products to market and trying to clear what I call my second biggest hurdle. Finding consistency with traffic and conversions. This is exciting stuff and will keep me busy for a lifetime!
Brandon
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
I have always thought that you don't need to have a very unique idea to start up.

My first product is a project management and collaboration tool, which as you all know, is a pretty crowded market. But I know for sure that this market exists. Even if I am able to cater to a portion of the market, I will make a decent living. Better than at least working for someone else.

Another reason I started with an established idea is that I did not want to wait for the lightening idea to strike. It may strike me one day, and then it might not. So instead of waiting for the right opportunity, I am right now getting invaluable knowledge of how to run things, meeting great people & learning from great people(like on this board). Which I am sure would help me in future if I come up with something great.

Better to try swimming when you are drowning than asking people which way would be the best. :)
Jitesh Patil Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
You've asked the right question. I don't know if your problem was whether you were wrong, or marketing or execution. But if you want to be sure next time before you sink time into the actual product, start with marketing analysis, set up your actual marketing infrastructure i.e. site/blog and mailing list, start generating valuable information on the topic and see if you generate leads.
Ben Bryant Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
I discovered my money-spinning product by accident.

You could go to download.com and look at the most downloaded software to see what people actually want. Pick a topic area that interests you and which you feel you could target.

The notion of trying to find a product that people need but which doesn't exist is a massive red herring.
Grown fat with decadence Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
I don't go at it from the angle you approach it.  I'll outline my approach (or at least a simplification of it).

The real question isn't usefulness (I am assuming you aren't writing a game from your post).

The real questions is how people will justify purchasing your product.

The simplest/ideal product saves people more money than the software will cost.  There is an easy ROI calculation that your potential customer can do, and it requires very little thought on their part.

If it doesn't save everyone money, then maybe it is a time saver for people who already have a lot of money.  These are the second tier purchasers of your product who just like the idea of efficiency and are willing to pay a bit more for it.

Once you understand how someone could justify the purchase, then you have to get an idea of market size.  There are many discussions in the archives of BOS on this.  The bigger the market size, the better.

You have to do a competitive analysis.  Are there already solutions to the problem the product solves?  How good are they and how much do they cost?  Could you compete on something more than just price alone?  Is there something in your technology and/or business background that would give you an advantage over existing competitors?

Last is execution.  Can you pull it off?  Not just the coding, but the marketing, sales, etc.  iTunes was not the first music store, nor was the iPod the first music player.  Apple got the execution of the idea right.  Someone else probably couldn't have pulled off the same strategy, or at least probably not as well.

If the potential product has a good ROI for the purchaser, is part of a big market, and is something that you can both build and be a leader in, then it's worth a go.

Do this analysis for several related ideas, and pick a few potential winners from this stage.  Do the absolute minimum that it would take before you would be comfortable selling it, and the release it.  At some point you will have three classes of products--stars, question marks, and losers.  You build the stars into cash cows, use the funds from the cash cows to build up the question marks, and evaluate the future of the failures.

So perhaps all of your products to date weren't home runs.  But is there a related product that you could create that would have more potential?  Before you throw everything away, see if there isn't something that could be reused, be it code, experience, or contacts.
David C. Blake (Ardfry Imaging, LLC) Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
Before moving on to another idea I would look in more details why your other ideas didn't work. Did people know about your products? Did you have traffic? What percentage converted to sales? How long did you try? And so on.

It might not be the product but the delivery. And if this is the case, then no matter how many products you develop, you'll still have the same issue.

For example it took me almost 2 years to really understand how to sell LandlordMax through our company. Building the product was only half the effort!!! A lot of people forget that, they just develop an app, put it online, and wonder why there's no sales. Not that this is what you did, but without more information we can't rule out that the sales and marketing weren't the issue...
Stephane Grenier Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
See the links in the FAQ
<---
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
In truth, I discovered my "money making idea" by hanging out here and working out what I could do to help guys like you pursue YOUR money making ideas.

However, I doubt I'll ever get rich doing documentation for mainly 1-2 person bootstraps and start-ups!

In your case, you might seek out well-resourced bleeding edges, and - stretching the metaphor - set about becoming a specialist knife-vendor.

As my old dad says, "When there's a gold rush, open a shovel shop."
Documentation Doctor Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
"However, I doubt I'll ever get rich doing documentation for mainly 1-2 person bootstraps and start-ups"

No, but you might get rich doing documentation for large corporations and product development companies of all kinds.
farmboy Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
>>
As my old dad says, "When there's a gold rush, open a shovel shop."
>>

I am stealing that line.

As to the thread topic: talk to potential customers.  They know what hurts.  You know which hurts are fixable with software.
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
Another approach is to find a niche, that is required, example being government regulation. If you find something a little complex, and ahead of curve you can make a killing.

Here is my example:
XBRL (Business Reporting Markup Language) this is an open standard, and cross this with SEC filings, you have a regulated niche, that costs companies millions of $$, it takes some time to learn the curve, but the markey is there waiting for you, that one project i worked on.

A bigger barrier to this market is you need to have a DUNS for your company to get a license to sell to government, it is a small pain, but worth it since it opens you up to federal sells.  I would imagine the future will be more regulation in the mortage market, or drug trials, which are always a way to make money.
Lucas Krause Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
It seems to me that there's more money in solving a problem for a business / company, than for an individual.
I think that's a very important distinction to make.
Mikael Bergkvist Send private email
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 
I saw a very successful product that was made poorly, and made a new one better.
John
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
 
 

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