* 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

Very interested in starting a software business

Hi, this is my first post on this forum.

I'm very interested in starting a software business and I have some questions I'm hoping you can help me answer.  In the past I have worked as a desktop software dev using C/C++, but then I moved over to web development/*nix administration (PHP, Perl, MySQL etc).  For the past 7 years my career took a wild swing towards marketing/business.  I started out in business analytics (mostly using SAS) and then got deep into web analytics and then more complex digital analytics.  I found myself in marketing organizations in large enterprises and got exposed to a lot of online marketing strategies, tactics etc.  I have lead both analytics teams and digital marketing teams and fully managed SEO for a major brand you have heard of.  I have also run a small SEO consultancy on the side (not slimey, always fully legit) as well maintained mostly wordpress & drupal sites for friends, family and small number of clients.

Reading through a lot of posts on this forum I am seeing a very different picture than what I'm hearing on lean startup podcasts, patio11's blog and Amy Hoy's marketing material (of course she is selling a course, so the cynical marketer in me believes that she has a bias).

Now to my questions:
My programming skills are probably below average for this group, but my marketing/analytics experience is likely higher.  Do you think that would make me more or less likely to succeed? 
I think I am fairly well set up as long as I choose the right focus area, start small, prove my ideas with customers/sales, and then stay focused on execution.

What are peoples opinions on the 30x500 course?  Have many people here taken it?  I am very interested in the research methods outlined and ideas on how to properly choose a focus area.
Kremental Send private email
Monday, May 05, 2014
 
 
>Reading through a lot of posts on this forum I am seeing a very different picture than what I'm hearing on lean startup podcasts, patio11's blog and Amy Hoy's marketing material

It all sounds very simple and obvious when you read about bootstrapping a business. Of course it is much more complicated and messy when you actually try to do it.

It is like the difference between martial arts training drills (all lovely and polished) vs actual sparring (much more messy and chaotic).

>My programming skills are probably below average for this group, but my marketing/analytics experience is likely higher.  Do you think that would make me more or less likely to succeed?

Marketing skills are very helpful. Better to be a good marketer and a reasonable programmer than than a rockstar programmer with zero marketing skills IMO.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
 
 
> My programming skills are probably below average for this group, but my marketing/analytics experience is likely higher.  Do you think that would make me more or less likely to succeed? 

More likely.

I read you as saying that you can program, and you can program in C++, which means you're not a script kiddie. This means you can solve real problems. Maybe not as fast as some guys or as elegant, but you can decide to implement something and stick to it and get it done.

I also read you as saying you're essentially an expert and skilled marketer.

Given this combination, you are far more likely to succeed than a marketer with no programming chops looking for a programmer to work for equity, and far more likely to succeed than an expert programmer with little business intuition who is also too shy to promote his wares or talk to customers.

> I think I am fairly well set up as long as I choose the right focus area, start small, prove my ideas with customers/sales, and then stay focused on execution.

Absolutely.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
 
 
What Andy said.

Possibly the most powerful aspect of knowing marketing is the first step. What can you market, and to whom?

If you already know where there's a gap in the market, a market you know how to economically reach, then you're already 7/10th of the way to a successful product.

In contrast you can have a great product, then find you have no market or you cannot afford to reach your market. That's all too common I'm afraid.



AC
Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
 
 
> Amy Hoy's marketing material

Oh, yeah, that. I'm sure Amy could write great material about how to make money by selling marketing courses/materials.

Her other "business success" is just yet another "I got pushed by HackerNews" success story. It's great for her but doesn't really make her an authority on about how to make money with software.

Like that Australian billionaire heiress who told people to get a job if they want money.
Jeremy Morassi Send private email
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
 
 
"get a job if they want money"

It's good advice.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
 
 
"It is like the difference between martial arts training drills (all lovely and polished) vs actual sparring (much more messy and chaotic). "

Ha, I love this response.  I am very familiar. 
Karate forms -> practice... hey I'm getting pretty good at this... -> Start to point spar -> wow I suck...work at it -> I'm getting pretty good and I'm now winning tournaments! -> start muay thai and hit heavy bags/mitt -> wow I'm _terrible_ .. practice... now I'm pretty good -> start to spar -> holy crap I know nothing... practice....

Nothing like getting punched in the face to take you out of your element.

Trying to learn how to fight without full contact is like trying to learn how to swim without getting into the water.  It's not going to turn out well.

Thanks for the responses everyone.  I know it will be a lot of work.  I just want to build something that is my own.  I have no plans to quit my day job anytime soon, but I would really like to diversify my income.
Kremental Send private email
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
 
 
@Kremental

That's an amazing resume you've got there! It sounds like you've got more than it's necessary to build your own business.

>  I know it will be a lot of work.

It will be, but you can bootstrap anything—design, marketing, even coding. If you're missing something, you'll learn it along the way.

> My programming skills are probably below average for this group, but my marketing/analytics experience is likely higher.  Do you think that would make me more or less likely to succeed? 

I would say that depends. Why don't you just use your marketing skills then? Research your target customers, set up a landing page. Polish a beautiful CTA and see if there's interest. Meanwhile you can refresh your coding skills, but not code anything. I've been swimming in the bootstrapping sea for about year and a half andthe most important thing that I have learned is: Spend your time and efforts wisely. Time is a bootstrapper's currency.

Judging from your post it sounds like you already have a plan: It will be software. You will have to code, etc. There is a lot more prep-work that you have to do, before you can decide that your product will be software. It can be a consulting business. It can be an info product. It can be software. What you need is a problem to be solved. A real problem, so painful that people would rather give you money so that you can solve it for them. To find a problem, you need to find your target people and research them. That's where you start. That entire paragraph is inspired from Amy's stuff. It's helped me a lot.

> What are peoples opinions on the 30x500 course?  Have many people here taken it?  I am very interested in the research methods outlined and ideas on how to properly choose a focus area.

I'd say that it gives you a valuable shift in the way of thinking. It's not a recipe. There are no recipes for success. But it's a good start, because it's a system, so your entire product will be based on *research*, not on ideas. This realization alone was huge for me. I prefer making decisions based on data over validating random ideas born in my head.

Here's what I think is most valuable in 30x500:

1. Research. Finding your target audience on the internet and researching them in detail. Now this might sound like a pile of BS, but I can tell you it's totally worth it (It might also be the most boring activity of all time) I suppose you've read this: http://unicornfree.com/2013/how-do-you-create-a-product-people-want-to-buy and seen this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exMoRoaxKtQ
2. The PDF pitch: http://unicornfree.com/2013/how-i-increased-conversion-2-4x-with-better-copywriting
3. Promoting your product.

Oh and this is a good read, too: http://unicornfree.com/2013/why-you-should-do-a-tiny-product-first

All in all the information is already on her website. But do you have the time to put the puzzle pieces together yourself? That's what you'd pay for. Again, considering your amount of experience I doubt that you'll find new approaches. You might find a different perspective to look at your current approaches.

Of course, Amy's articles are intended to funnel people into her mailing list, so she might go over the top sometimes. But the course is still a great start, IMHO.

A final word of warning:
Be careful not to get sucked into the startup-verse. Don't get stuck on reading other people's advice, dreaming about doing something instead of taking action (It's funny that they will advise you to take action :)). Doing it wrong will teach you a lot. Thinking about doing it will get you just about nowhere. Balance. One last thing worth reading on this subject: http://blog.amirkhella.com/2011/02/23/what-i-wish-someone-had-told-me-5-years-ago/

Good luck!
—Gergana
SansMagic Send private email
Friday, May 09, 2014
 
 
@SansMagic

Thanks for the detailed reply.  I had read most of that stuff, but I haven't yet seen the video.  I'll definitely check it out when I have an hour.

Regarding the product, I haven't decided on an infoproduct or software yet.  It will likely be an infoproduct at first as it is a good way to test the market and generate marketing equity (straight from Amy and Patio11's [indirectly] handbooks).

Consulting is out for me.  I already know I can do that, and the problem with it is that it scales linearly with my time.  I already have a full time demanding job as well, so I can only work with people who don't mind phone calls at odd hours, are in a different time zone, or are ok only interacting via email.  I would prefer to work with Enterprise clients, and they don't really understand not being able to call me.  I have a pretty sweet gig right now with full time employment, so I don't want to quit.

I agree that the research part is critical.  I am very data/analytics heavy on the marketing side, so I think I'm fairly well set up here, but I am still interested in learning tips.
Kremental Send private email
Friday, May 09, 2014
 
 
I agree with what the other members pointed out.  Your skills sound they will be enough.  More than enough.  But there is also a financial consideration.

Do you have enough money to sustain yourself/your family for 2 years with no income?  It might take that long to build a business that pays the bills.  Yes 2 years and that should be the minimum number.  It would also help if you had additional money to hire some people to help you.

If the answer to my 2 year question is no.  Keep working for other people, cut your expenses, and save more money.
C. Stark Send private email
Monday, May 12, 2014
 
 
@Kremental

> It will likely be an infoproduct at first as it is a good way to test the market and generate marketing equity (straight from Amy and Patio11's [indirectly] handbooks).

Thumbsup. I'm sure you've got in your head material for one or two books or video courses, etc. You've got enough experience to become an authority. Following Amy's advice, creating a landing page can be enough for someone who has experience and some number of followers to pre-sell an infoproduct. You can read Brennan Dunn's inspiring story about how he generated 4k in 2 weeks, without even starting to write his book: http://unicornfree.com/2012/be-your-own-angel-how-to-make-money-happen

> Do you have enough money to sustain yourself/your family for 2 years with no income?

Totally agree with @C. Stark. These things need just about 2 years to take off. It doesn't happen overnight, except for very rare cases like the above. And it's more work than initially advertised.
SansMagic Send private email
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
 
 
Where did I say I would quit my job to do this?  I'm planning on starting small and am interested in bringing in extra income on the side.  I expect that best case I'll see profit after 6 months., but it will be at least 2 years before I see anything if I take in the opportunity cost I'm losing due to not spending this time doing consulting on the side.
Kremental Send private email
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
 
 

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