* The Business of Software

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Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

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BreezeTree Software

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

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Are Ideas Really Scrace?

Why is it so hard to come up with software ideas? or maybe I don't have a solid domain knowledge?

I have been trying to find something to develop and I have been having a hard time coming up with something.

If anyone has ideas of software to be developed, please share with me.

Thank you.
Mike Johnson Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
Build a Minecraft clone with a  really good plugin API.

Create a service where extended family can upload sensitive documents, which is automatically unlock and distributed when multiple people in said family assert that someone has died (will management, etc).

There are tons of ideas.  The trick is _you_ have to be passionate about the idea, because it will take a LONG time and a LOT of perseverance to be successful. 

With that being said, no one can give you an idea that you will be passionate about.
Doug Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
@Doug - I perfectly understand, It's just that recently I'm just short of ideas.

Thank you.
Mike Johnson Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
WTF are there still so many services (doctors and dentists in particular) that don't have a web-based way of booking appointments? Please, can someone get passionate about this and sell them something that works? It could even interface with Outlook and Google Calendar, but for a start, I'll settle with some basic stand-alone PHP thing. And a ton of marketing ;)
GregT Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
In my experience, even if you have an idea you are very interested in, it might help to have someone else who is also interested and, ideally, knows a lot about the subject matter.  I had an idea once, and was even very interested in it. Problems were: 1.) I didn't know enough about the subject to be confident I was solving real problems. 2.) didn't have any good subject matter advisors to help flesh out ideas, 3.) was terrible at marketing my solution, 4.) between day job and burning midnight oil on my own stuff I got thoroughly burned out on it (and just about everything else).  All that to say, if I had a partner, or even just someone who knew enough to give me some pointers/direction, I would have kept going.  I just got to the point that it felt pretty lonely and futile.

That, plus the fact that about the time I had something I could market, at least three other companies sprang up with actual manpower, funding, and a decent user-base.

Just saying, it's not ALL about the ideas.  It's sometimes about having company.
maelstrom1335 Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
@maelstrom1335 - Thanks. You made very valid points.
Mike Johnson Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
I've seen this said repeatedly and it makes sense to me:

If you want a good chance and creating a small business and a good income for yourself, don't think of a new idea. Instead look at some niches which are already served by software, but served badly.

At that point the market is validated and you can move in with a better product.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
"WTF are there still so many services (doctors and dentists in particular) that don't have a web-based way of booking appointments?"
C'mon, most of us think the battle-axe our family doctor employs as an office administrator is tough enough to squeeze an emergency appointment out of, we don't want to be at the mercy of MySQL and Apache (and an unemployed web programmer).

"a ton of marketing"
Ah yes, the mythical marketing master.  I have an easier time making the argument that pet rocks (and their digital offspring, Tamagotchi) were successful because they were good products, than because of good marketing.

I've said it before (and it wasn't very original, either) that a superior product that satisfies real wants is the most important thing, the rest is just filler that can kill a good product if poorly executed, but can't overcome the product's deficiencies in any way, shape or form.
Howard Ness Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
@Mike Johnson

> I have been trying to find something to develop and I
> have been having a hard time coming up with something.

I'm intrigued!  Let me ask you:  What's your *process* for coming up with ideas?

In other words, tell me what you *do* in order to come up with good ideas for new software products.
Racky Send private email
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 
 
Mike Johnson,

You are operating in a vaccume. If you are sitting in front of your computer using google and blogs to map your future, you might be setting yourself up for failure. The reason you feel so uncertain is because you are not working backwards from real customers needs to your plans. You want to extend your skills out to pull customers to you. That is much harder. Turn off your computer, go out and meet some prospects-preferably in a related field. Shake some hands and listen to their problems and issues. Solve some of their problems with throw aways and take notes. Measure what they are really willing to pay you for NOW-related to a product or service YOU can build a business on ofcourse. Get some real clients and that way you and will get an ideas of what is important and what is trivial to THEM. Most of these people are very busy and you will find out what they are willing to pay for by finding out what they are willing to spend time with you on. Get out of the house and meet some prospects. You need to connect. You feel stagnant becuase you recycling your own ideas.
cn Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
I meant vaccum not vaccume
cn Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
I have no shortage of ideas.  And those ideas can easily be made into products.  But there's years of work AFTER development of the product before they'd be even remotely profitable.  If they ever would be.
Mark Nemtsas Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
Disclaimer: I have far too many ideas already in fields I am familiar with to go around looking for more at this point. But if I did want to look for more ideas of products, this is how I would go about it:

Step 1. Pick a field you are interested in. Preferably one you know a little bit about, and one which is NOT overrun with software. Instead of going after the graphic design market where most existing solutions are software solutions, go for a brick and mortar type of thing where people waste time doing things manually.

Step 2. Find people who work in that field and let them dump on you all their problems and annoyances. Dig into their workflows, and as soon as you find something that sounds strange or complicated, start digging to find an underlying problem that's important enough for them to pay good money.

Step 3. Once you have identified a problem, go around and find out if the problem is common enough. (You don't want to develop software only to find out that you only have a couple hundred potential customers)

Step 4. Ask how they currently solve the problem. Find existing solutions and find out why they aren't using those. (Bad UI? Buggy? Unknown? Off the mark?) If they are exist and are used, you have to work out if you can beat them. If people tell you they would buy something, and that something exists and they aren't buying it, there has to be a deal breaker somewhere.

Step 5. Figure out how you could solve the problem FOR the people who would pay to fix it. Make some mock ups and test your solution with a few potential customers to see what they think.

Step 6. Iterate 2-5 until you have something that people say "hey, I'd totally buy that". Now you have an idea.

I look at the advice above concerning Doctors' appointments  and you can immediately tell it's a problem... for the customers. People are sick and tired of wasting hours just waiting to talk with a doc for 10 minutes. So you make a nice scheduling software that displays the doctor's availabilities and allows you to book yourself into a free slot and no one buys it.

But this is a system that would be sold to doctors... Is it a problem for them? They have waiting rooms, they don't mind having people waiting there, during their working hours. In fact, they want people to wait for them, it saves *them* time. No appointment system can beat the efficiency of having a line of people just waiting for you and as a bonus, it makes you look "in demand".

You can talk a doctor's ears off about saving time for their patients and they nod, because they have to agree that saving the patients' time is a good thing, but they won't -will not, EVER - buy a software that promises them an empty waiting room because then, it wastes *their* time. More hours, less money... yeah, sounds like something they will buy... NOT.

On the other hand, they might be tired of asking the same questions to every patient, they might hate having to stay after hours because they still have several patients who have been waiting for 4 hours and that they can't ask them to come back tomorrow because they already did that yesterday. They can have problems tracking their patients' conditions over time.

A system whereby a patient can enter all the details of his complaints and answer all those boring questions that the doctor has to ask all his patients at the beginning of every consultation, an app that lets him evaluate how much time each patient will need and schedule accordingly, let's him follow up automatically (I.E.: send an automatic email a week after the consultation asking for a patient to report improvements, other symptoms, etc. and reschedule as needed)...

It saves him time, allows him to process more patients faster, provide better care and make more money... he will buy that one.

The funny part of it is that it does the same thing: get the data and schedule appointments, but the design will be totally different if you solve the problem of the patients (who won't pay you) or of the doctors (your real customers).

Of course, the whole thing above about doctors and scheduling is just an example of reasoning. I haven't talked to docs about their problems and I am most likely wrong about what they need and want.

But the process should be  sound: find a problem, dig deeper for a better scope of the problem and you will have an idea or ten.

Anyway, that's my take on it. I gotta go. My problem is a looming deadline and sadly, there is no way anyone can code something fast enough to solve this one.
Sylvain Galibert Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
You can find a good  idea by using Keyword Planner or some similar tool to find what problem people are looking to solve. See if you can solve their problem. Then check out the competition, if there are competitors it means that there is a market for your tool. Better yet if their offerings are weak or pricey, but this is not a must.

Now, if your product were ready, what would you do? Promote it with a website and an adwords campaign. Start from there, create a good product name, register the domain, start a campaign and see how many people you can attract to your site. Create some content, for example how to currently solve the problem using your competitor's tools. Don't mind about it, what you're trying to do if validate if there is a market, if you can attract audience and how much you'll spend on advertising.

From this point you can decide if it's worth building the product and at what price you must sell to make a profit.

You can look software product categories on download sites to get keywords to validate or SaaS/Web 2.0 guides for sites. That depends on what you're capable of developing. Can you develop a home automation solution communicating with sensors? A image processing software to remove red eyes? A file recovery tool?

TLDR: use a keyword tool to find what solution people are actively looking for and and develop such tool if you can.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
What's not scarce are bad ideas.

Bad ideas are easy to find. Just add a MBA, professional marketer, usability specialist, or lawyer to your company. All these guys are retards that screw up business.

I remember back in the states it was impossible to order or even check pizza prices on line without a hassle. This problem still hasn't been solved.

I checked just now.... papajohns.com

It wants a STREET ADDRESS to proceed. Here's the thing. THEY DON'T DELIVER. They don't need a street address, and when customers call on the telephone they don't require that for call in orders.

Call in orders you call in, then you pick it up 15 minutes later. You pick it up. They don't bring it to you. They don't need a street address.

A zip code ONLY would be fine since that routes you to the stores in your area. That's a better design. HomeDepot.com has this design - set your store by typing in zip, it gives a list of stores close to that zip, you click that one, it sets a cookie, and then from then on it shows you stock and availability in your local store! Oh look, they have 1231 half inch washers! That's a great idea and design, to give customers access to the inventory control system like that.

I'm not just picking on PJ's pizza there, this is a typical restaurant web site design to have more than is necessary just to see a local menu with local prices.

This is just one example of bad design. I also can give examples of bad design in every single thing I see and work with every day that was designed in the last 40 years.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
(Dominos.com' interface is considerably worse - email address, password, password again, name, address, phone number, city, state, zip - all required. If you just want to get a STORE location, you don't have to give street address, but have to give city, state and zip. Why the first two? Unnecessary. Far too much time to deal with.)
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
 
 
> I meant vaccum not vaccume

Actually, you meant "vacuum".  ;)
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, December 12, 2013
 
 
M.B. Dude Send private email
Thursday, December 12, 2013
 
 
The quora.com link gave me a message box starting with "You must sign in to read past the first answer."  This is not a good way to do it.  I am not signing up for something before I know whether it is suitable for me.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Thursday, December 12, 2013
 
 
"Actually, you meant "vacuum".  ;) "
Corrected again. :)
cn Send private email
Thursday, December 12, 2013
 
 
Yes, I had to fight Quora.com for a bit to get rid of that annoying popup box asking to register.  All the effort made me swear off Quora.com forever.  That's not how you treat visitors.  The site obviously needs me more than I need it, so goodbye.
PSB136 Send private email
Friday, December 13, 2013
 
 
For Quora and similar, I usually open firebug or similar and remove the blocking div. Takes a couple seconds.

If I find myself coming on the site regularly, I might sign up then, but I really don't like being required to sign up to access data that should be available in the first place.
Sylvain Galibert Send private email
Saturday, December 14, 2013
 
 
Just remembered this website:
http://www.bugmenot.com/view/quora.com
PSB136 Send private email
Sunday, December 15, 2013
 
 
And its Firefox extension:
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/bugmenot/

Just used the extension to log in and read the entire article.  :)
PSB136 Send private email
Sunday, December 15, 2013
 
 
Thanks to everyone that made a contribution. Your contributions were insightly, I learnt alot from them.

Thank you once gain.
Mike Johnson Send private email
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
 
 

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