* 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.

We're closed, folks!

Links:

» Business of Software FAQ
» The Business of Software Conference (held every fall, usually in Boston)
» Forum guidelines (Please read before posting!)

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

Did you start as a programmer already?

I'm curious about your path into the "BOS"--

If you are the developer of your software (which it seems 100% of people here are, though it'd be interesting to find that it was otherwise) were you a programmer already and then started your business, or did anyone *become* a programmer (learning as you went) for the purpose of turning a business idea into reality?

Or...*aren't*  you all the developers?  Anyone just the business vision type who directs coding underlings to do his/her bidding and wouldn't know a for loop if it bit him/her?
Racky Send private email
Thursday, August 15, 2013
 
 
I was a degree qualified mechanical engineer.  Everything programming related I've learned myself.
Mark Nemtsas Send private email
Thursday, August 15, 2013
 
 
First I was only a developer (programming software of/for others).
Later, I became a creator (making my own invented software) and entrepreneur (selling that invetion to customers).
Néstor Sánchez A. Send private email
Thursday, August 15, 2013
 
 
I worked in industry developing software for a long time before getting so frustrated I just said to hell with this. Lots of things, I've mentioned some. One particularly heartbreaking thing was to do a great job making something cool and management just dumps it, no one ever sees it outside the company, and you don't have any rights to even reuse parts of it. I really felt my time was being wasted. Sure I was getting paid, but so what. I get *really* pissed off when I see musicians smash hand made guitars at concerts. Some guy spent a bunch of time making that. Buying it doesn't give you the right to destroy it.

Originally though I did get into it to make my own things. I maintain to this day that I learned almost nothing at university.
Scott Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
Thanks for answers so far. 

I can give some context as to why I'm wondering....  (verbose = ON)

I had zero programming ability (other than ancient childhood programming playing) but for no apparent reason got this (vague) idea stuck in my head for a particular piece of software, and decided to go the DIY route and try to learn to program to see it through to existence.  That was one U.S. president ago, and it has been glacially slow, intermittent, and often seems fairly absurd to continue.

Based on other circumstances, the next 6+ months would be quite suitable to make some kind of major change to that pattern, like to release or to perhaps pull the plug.  In trying to get a high ground view of what is in front of me, I thought it might be helpful to understand my process as compared to others, who created and released sustainably profitable software within a few years (or in some cases far shorter periods). 

My question that motivated this post is:  is my lack of formal preparation (and/or intellectual commitment) in programming a bigger and perhaps show-stoppingly big hindrance to eventual success?...or can I take some reasonable steps to get the project on track for something beneficial to me and others in less than the unreasonably long time that it has so for languished in?

I know no one can answer that question directly, but understanding the range of programming expertise that small software company developer-owners *started* with at the outset of their app's development would help me understand my (current) position in the "space" of small software development, and perhaps even how I ought to see the next year of my life in this regard.
Racky Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
I couldn't program my wet out of a wet paper bag.

I've hired developers to work on products, services and projects and help others to word their sales pitch better.

On my copywriting homepage I point out the importance of hiring professionals, rather than wasting time and sales trying to figure things out yourself.

I'm gonna take a wild guess that the reason you want to program this project yourself is because you're nervous some developer would run off with your idea and create it without you?

Firstly, there is a HUGE gap between good idea and successful selling of a good implementation - building it is just one of the stages. Secondly, most developers for hire are quite happy developing and have no desire to throw their time and energy into a 'maybe' project, when they can continue to be paid for work done. They already know how most "brilliant ideas" fail.

There's also the fact that developers are actually human, so like most other humans are pretty trustworthy. They're especially trustworthy when you get them to sign agreements and only work with those in countries where things like "law" mean something.

Or maybe you just want to program for a hobby and sense of accomplishment? That's fine - but this is about the Business of software, capital B.

My advice is hire someone to finish the thing and try selling it. You only get one life and time is ticking...



AC
Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
You can't sell something you're not shipping. If you see your own skills as holding you back, then find someone who can help you finish it and get it out there. 

Ship, or get off the pot! :-)
Darren Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
> I'm gonna take a wild guess that the reason you want to program
> this project yourself is because you're nervous some developer
> would run off with your idea and create it without you?

I started so long ago I don't even remember my initial thinking with perfect clarity, but I am fairly sure that wasn't the reason.  The reason was money:  it had been suggested to me by an IT friend to contract programmers (abroad) to create what I envisioned but I was not willing to spend money on what seemed unreal and potentially unfeasible ultimately; the cost-benefit analysis was just too unclear at that point. 

There have been some benefits from that decision, in that I did learn programming to some significant level, even such that I was able to make some side money this year as a contractor for another company, and I also think the software is probably better than it would have been given that I have had so long to think about it and let it sort of organically evolve.  And so far, the sunk cost has been nothing.  (At least in money; time is another story).
Racky Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
Scott: "I get *really* pissed off when I see musicians smash hand made guitars at concerts. Some guy spent a bunch of time making that. Buying it doesn't give you the right to destroy it."

Actually, it does.  Ownership gives right of disposition.

Still, I do not like gratuitous destruction.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
Racky, if it's a dream and you really want to sell your software, go for it.  If you just want to make money, I'd stop and think about it.  There might be more profitable uses for your time.

In my experience (as a programmer), writing the software is at most 50% of the work.  Building a website, SEO, setting up a sales channel, figuring out e-commerce, marketing, marketing and more marketing takes time.  It's not intellectually hard, but you have to figure it out.  This is the part where most software products/companies/startups die.

To answer the question: I started as a programmer.  Had a full time job and worked on my software (and website, etc) for 8-10 hours a week (evenings and Saturdays) for about 10 years before it was enough to sustain me full time.
Doug Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
"Ownership gives right of disposition."

And I say you are wrong.

Under the western philosophical framework in which others are slaves and all property is for the taking if you can kill its owner, you are right. Legally, you won't be punished.

I am talking morals and ethics, which have nothing whatsoever to do with law.

It is a depraved, disrespectful, and amoral act to destroy a hand made guitar that someone spent time building, unless the maker has given explicit consent for this, knowing it was going to be used for that purpose.
Scott Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
Likewise, my hope is that a "hell" exists, so that all the people I worked for who destroyed my work will burn in it forever.

Other than that hope, I don't really believe in such things. I don't really think there is a hell, which is a shame, because I would feel a lot better knowing those people will suffer eternally.
Scott Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
Hi Doug.

> Racky, if it's a dream and you really want to sell your software,
> go for it.  If you just want to make money, I'd stop and think
> about it.  There might be more profitable uses for your time.

For me, it's some of both.  I have a genuine interest in the "topic" of the software, but I wouldn't mind earning money with it, particularly after the time invested.

> In my experience (as a programmer), writing the software is at
> most 50% of the work.  Building a website, SEO, setting up a
> sales channel, figuring out e-commerce, marketing, marketing
> and more marketing takes time.  It's not intellectually hard, but
> you have to figure it out.  This is the part where most software
> products/companies/startups die.

I don't know what a "sales channel" means, and I don't think I'd like SEO at all, but I like some aspects of marketing (but what do I know). 

> To answer the question: I started as a programmer.  Had a full
> time job and worked on my software (and website, etc) for 8-10
> hours a week (evenings and Saturdays) for about 10 years
> before it was enough to sustain me full time.

How long, would you say, was it from a dead start to when you released the application?

Is your work B2B, B2C, or something else?  Is it desktop software? 

All very helpful, thanks.
Racky Send private email
Friday, August 16, 2013
 
 
> How long, would you say, was it from a dead start to when you
> released the application?
Hard to say (and remember!).  I'd guess 2 years before the v1.0 was released.  But, looking back, it sucked (though I was greatly insulted when a potential customer told me that!).

> Is your work B2B, B2C, or something else? 
B2B

> Is it desktop software? 
Yes

Persistence and patience are the key.  I've read a few articles about people saying it took them 10 years to be an overnight sensation (Angry Birds?  Constant Contact?)  The folks that cobble together a web app and become instant millionaires are so very, very rare.  They are lottery winners.  Don't compare yourself to them.
Doug Send private email
Saturday, August 17, 2013
 
 
I'm not a programmer,  I'm a structural engineer, so I had to partner with a programmer to build my web app, I take care of all the marketing and customer support.

It was really hard to find a programmer to partner with, in fact that was my biggest challenge, as most programmers regard aspiring business 'types' as lepers.

This is my thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of being on non-programmer;

Disadvantages of being a non-programmer;
* Unless you can find a full time technical co-founder, you are at the mercy of someones else's schedule. Progress can be painfully slow.
Advantages of being a non-programmer;
* You probably have domain/customer knowledge that most programmers do not have (unless it is software for programmers).

If I was you, I would find the easiest and cheapest way build a simple version of your product, outsource the programming if you have to, then test it on real customers. If you get some success it will so much easier to find programmers to work with you. Also you will know whether or not your idea will work and if doesn't you won't waste anymore of your time on it and you can move on to a better idea.

Take a look at this Mixergy video http://www.bidsketch.com/about/ - some useful tips.
Kevin Taylor Send private email
Saturday, August 17, 2013
 
 
Scott:  Maybe.  But it is what ownership grants him (within a very broad range).

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Monday, August 19, 2013
 
 
> I'm not a programmer,  I'm a structural engineer,
> so I had to partner with a programmer to build my
> web app, I take care of all the marketing and customer
> support.

Thanks, Kevin Taylor. 

When you say "partner with", does that mean the programmer now owns part of the company, or does that mean you paid the programmer to do it?  (or both)? 

Did this person also do the web site as well as the logic of the beam calculations (based on your knowledge) and the output to PDF?

How long, roughly, did s/he take to complete the programming?

How is your business doing?
Racky Send private email
Monday, August 19, 2013
 
 
@Racky

It was a combination of cash and 25% equity. I had already paid a web design agency to build a previous (different) web app that was generating a small amount of money, so this helped with my credibility.

The programmer built the front and backend of the website based on my specifications. After 6 months, out of the profits we paid a web design agency to re-design the front end.

The initial build took about 1 month. Although it has been tweaked as we go.

Business is going well, not quit the day job yet, but the extra cash has been life changing.

I'm just working on new website and I am in the process of partnering 50/50 with a programmer on this one, is a lot easier to do this when you have a proven track record.
Kevin Taylor Send private email
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
 
 
I have got a Mech. Eng. degree. Also, I took computer Graphics and Visualization paper when doing Post Grad. but I did not have any formal training in Software development.

While I was Working as CNC Programmer and Operator, I found my path into software development when my boss could not buy a specific software for CNC Machine.

Took a day to figure out the basic logic. Then i gather my gut to develop from scratch for 2 year part-time until 1st version released. Within these two years of the learning curves  I thought myself about  the software technology and researched about the necessary infrastructure in software business such as learn how to develop a website, how to protect the software by keeping honest people honest, research about 3rd party payment, bought and read some Mivs books ( i.e. from Bob Walsh and Eric Sink ), read and learn a lot  in this forum and so on.

I still do not think that i am a software developer, i think i am an internetpreneur in 2D CNC domain and use the software technology as the tool :)......So because of my solid knowledge in 2D CNC, i think i can create the software business.

I Do not have much sales for the past 5 years but the experiences is so wonderful. I still remember my first sales from Lithuania after a Month the Website go online. It was so wonderful and never regret :).
Fherry Send private email
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
 
 
> Buying it doesn't give you the right to destroy it

Of course it does.  The creator got paid -- that's the end of their involvement.  They don't own the object anymore and have no legal right to its future.  The buyer can do what they want: they can smash a guitar; they can knock down a house and build a new one; they can change how a business is run; they can do whatever they like.
PSB136 Send private email
Saturday, August 24, 2013
 
 
> they can knock down a house and build a new one

I agree with the argument that when something is "important" ownership may give you the legal right to destroy it but not always the moral right.

For example, even as an atheist, if the Church of England wanted to pull down the beautiful 11th century church next to my house to build a more modern one  I'd argue they don't have the moral right to so.

I can see how the same logic would apply to a craftsman built guitar.

Funnily enough here in the uk we have "listed buildings", places that to varying degrees you can't modify even if you own them. This gives legal backing to the idea that when you own something historically important you're somewhat just a custodian.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Saturday, August 24, 2013
 
 

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
 
Powered by FogBugz