* 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

Finding new business ideas

What are some tips on finding new Micro ISV business ideas?

I believe I've got the skills to create good things, ether it be Web/Software or even Mobile. The problem is, I have not a single idea on what to create.

I know many of us struggle with this and that the best ideas come naturally by paying attention to the surrounding.

Other than that, does anyone else have any suggestion? Maybe look at some business blogs/websites and see what's trending?

Looking forward to hearing all of your opinion.
John Senar Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
Try mobile game development
Alex Vasilevsky Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
You need to add value by solving pain. Talk to everyone you know who runs a business to see what pain points they have.

If you have expertise in a particular industry, hang out where the corresponding business people hang out (not the IT people necessarily) and see what they consider pain points.

Even if you have no suitable areas, select one that interests you and immerse yourself in it. You'll quickly identify areas where there are issues and then you're well on your way.
Scorpio Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
Talk to lots of people (esp non-techies) and find out what problems they have. Think about problems in your own life. Think about which ones could best be solved by software. Tip: Ask about whether they have any overcomplicated and/or unreliable Excel spreadsheets.

Don't start with a cool technology then try to work backward to what problems it could solve. That is less likely to work.

See also this guest post on my blog:
http://successfulsoftware.net/2013/10/31/3-practical-tips-to-find-a-niche-for-your-software-product/
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
Run away from "boil the ocean" ideas. For example we know that network effect is so powerful, the more people using your software/service the more beneficial it gets and more people it attracts (see WhatsApp with one million signups per day). But magazines sell success stories, creating survivor bias. Thousands of instant messengers like WhatsApp launched before it and sunk.

Everything that requires thousands or millions of people to be useful (think twitter, ebay, whatsapp, stackoverflow) need a lot of money or influence, which you, as a sole developer, by nature don't have.

You can create services that are useful for one person, and might later be useful for lots of people with more integration, like youtube (personal - video hosting, lots of people - content serch, comments, popularity), flickr (personal - image hosting, lots of people - content serch, comments, popularity), dropbox (personal - file hosting/synch, lots of people - file/photo sharing).

Today we're connected to a lot of devices, smart tvs, tablets, smartphones, besides computers. All running under incompatible operating systems. Take this in consideration when creating something.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
Read Paul Graham's essays. Besides being well written and full of interesting ideas, he has one or two that specifically list business ideas. They are too big for real people (IIRC, one is basically "replace Windows"), but, they're thought-provoking and will get you thinking.

Or, write another ToDo list and hope for the best ;)
GregT Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
It sounds arrogant for me to say this. I can honestly say I am the exact opposite. For some reason ideas just flow to me naturally. Over the years I tried to learn how to make ideas feasible. Many ideas died. But a dozen or so stayed for many years. At any given time I have 4-5 things on top of my head and they are all too good to let go. I have too many distractions and the ideas are all evolving in parallel.

My secret is to get to bed early and wake up early. Most ideas come to me at around 5am when I just wake up.

My problem is focus and how to commit to one thing and give up on others.
Bo Yuan Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
Thanks guys. I'm listening to the podcasts from Smart Passive Income.  Has some nice advice.

@Bo, that's good that ideas just flow to you. Do you think they are profitable? What technologies were you planning to implement them on (If you were)? HTML/Javascript? MVC? C#?
John Senar Send private email
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
 
 
I think when you're trying to find new business ideas it's best to go with what you know. Not necessarily something you know how execute all on your own, but a domain and concept you thoroughly understand. If you really understand it you can find the people to execute it.

I think if you have an idea and its in something you don't know inside out but it just sounds like a good idea, ask yourself, why isn't your idea being done now? What are the challenges to executing the idea?

I've had many many ideas over the years. Some of them was a little to soon. A lot of them I see are being done now over and over. I revisit them periodically to see if my original ideas still stand and is it worth the risk to execute.

Another thing if you really really feel strongly about an idea, don't let other people tell you it won't work because it's a solved problem because 'its been done already'. Case in point 10 years ago, I had an idea to make a forum as a service that people can embed into there sites. Even bought a couple of potential domains for it. All I heard was forums exist and everyone has them. Who would pay to incorporate yours into there sites. A few years later there's Disqus.

But one thing I've learned, is with every idea think of how you can make a living from it. Even if the idea is 'free' to use. Learn how to write a basic business plan to learn how to turn an idea into a business. After all ideas is the easy part. Making an idea into a successful business isn't.
TrippinOnIT Send private email
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
 
 
I'm finishing my PhD or my PhD is finishing me :-D I'm almost 39, working since 18 and programming since I was 8. I read a lot of books about business and software business in particular. I love the MicroISV book and Erik Sink's blog. I wrote a book about Python programming for beginners. I can code in C++/Java/C#/Python and Javascript but I have absolute zero talent for design. I'm trying to outsource this part, but so far I did not find a cheap design source. After the rant...

But I have a lot of ideas written in a file in my Dropbox. From time to time I read this file, I write a little bit more. This year I'm adopting the shameless shoot in all directions strategy. So, whenever I have an idea, I try to write an app for it (I'm starting my second now).

Most ideas I had were "we gonna take over the world" :D I started to look for start up meet ups nearby, visiting the Microsoft Innovation Center, going to open source meetings and Maker events. A lot of ideas came from these meetings, as people have very different backgrounds and most of them are not constrained by tech/programming issues.

Something that worked for me was to visit professional conferences... I think I bought Delphi in 1995... at Comdex... in one of that I will be rich fast moments :-D
DotScared Send private email
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
 
 
@DotScared

You might find it easier to come up with a viable business idea if you spend less time hanging out with techies and more time hanging out with 'normals'. Writing products for techies is hard. They are used to free software and they always think they could write something better in a week than you worked on for a year.
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
 
 
Coming up with ideas isn't easy, but this is important: You must be excited about whatever idea you choose.  Going from idea to a business is a VERY long slog, and your excitement is what will drive you through the first few YEARS of seeing very little for the amount of effort you've put in.

And, repeat after me, developing the software is only 20% of the business.  Documentation, marketing, website, SEO, marketing, blogging, polish and shine, did I mention marketing?  That's where a business succeeds or dies.
Doug Send private email
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
 
 
GregT: I have yet to meet a great ToDo list that works everywhere,
plus can be organized in topics, subtopics and priorities and set alarms.
If you build something like Evernote, with native clients for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, Mac, Unix plus the Web, I think there is still a market for such think.

To prove that not only good ideas but great execution matters.

I'm still (mis)using Google Calendar for some of my to-do items because of its features (schedule/snooze/multiple alarms)...
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
 
 
I recommend reading the book "Do More Faster"

It is written by top VC's and their subjects.  It is about TechStars an incredibly successful incubator program that has launched hundreds of successful tech companies each one with almost no capital.

It will help you dispel the myth that you need a good idea.
C. Stark Send private email
Thursday, March 06, 2014
 
 

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