Would you have turned down an offer of $1.5 million and a car of your choice?
September 4th, 2007
Would you have turned down an offer of $1.5 million and a car of your choice?
August 28th, 2007
About the only thing worse than finding out your app has been cracked is when you have one of those “I should have thought of that” moments. Last week when poking around the Sites for Sale forums on Sitepoint I came across another website/application for sale where the software helps people recover their content if their blog has been deleted. In his sales copy he says:
A Google search for “deleted my blog” returns 12,100 results.
After reading this line my first thought was “I wonder if that domain name is taken.” It wasn’t, so now I’m the proud owner of DeletedMyBlog.com.
I’m no SEO expert, but my experience with the term microISV has taught me that a domain name that matches a common search term will consistently rank high in the search results if it has enough valid content. By not registering the domain, the owner of the site missed a great opportunity to build a site that could provide a lot of information and eventually push the person over to the other site to sell them the software. Or, skip that altogether and make that the site for the software.
At some point, missing the obvious happens to everyone and it usually happens often. Just ask Eric Sink, he has a post devoted to this very blog about it. [waves]Hi Eric![/waves]
If your goal is to launch a successful microISV product, there’s no doubt you have your hands full and your mind cluttered. You may be Getting Things Done but you’re not going to think of everything. So how do you avoid missing the obvious?
- Ask for help - 10 points if you ask for opinions on your product from a non-programmer, 25 points if it is someone in your target market. I hear Bob Walsh has set up shop as a microISV consultant, he could probably help you find something you’re missing.
- Set up a content site related to your niche - This will take time to implement and get indexed so you’ll have to start early, but the benefit is that you can track keywords that drive people to your site.
- Set up RSS feeds for terms related to your product niche - You’ll stay up to date on news that could affect you and possibly get ideas for things you might be missing
- Hang out in niche related forums in newsgroups - You’ll learn more about your target market and you will probably end up with more credibility in your niche
- Purchase and/or research your competitors and document the differences between your offerings - This should be obvious in and of itself but some people still just build what they think people want, not what they really need. Identifying your competitors shortcomings is a huge selling point.
- Test niche-related terms with Google Adwords - Similar to #2 above. If you use the broad match option to show your ads, you can see the terms being searched, drive traffic to your site quickly, and gauge response early in the development process.
- Look at every major feature in your product and ask yourself “What is a completely different way to solve the same problem?” - You may come up with a completely innovative way of solving your customer’s pain.
Chances are I’ve missed something obvious in the list above. If you have any more suggestions, please share it in a comment.
August 21st, 2007
Author of The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss, has posted an interview he did with Matt Mullenweg, the creator of Wordpress. I won’t rehash the entire interview here but there are several good points that you can take from Matt’s experiences in creating one of the most popular software apps in existence today.
What are the top 3-5 principles you focused on that made WP successful as a product?
Besides timing and luck, I’d say:
1. Minimizing startup costs…
2. Being adaptive to user-led changes in product direction
What are the top 3-5 principles you focused on that made you successful as a developer?
2. At the same time, I’m happy to ship a crude version 1.0 and iterate. I find my time is more effective post-launch than pre-launch.
August 16th, 2007
In my year and a half hiatus from posting here, I continued to lurk and follow the goings-on in the microISV community. One thing I noticed is that not much changed. The same topics continue to be asked in a slightly different way, people come and people go….some people come back. I think this will always be the case because the microISV community is such a small niche and the very nature is that people work alone.
The one issue that still sticks out is that there aren’t more people getting ahead. The two causes seem to be a lack of motivation and lack of results. A lot of times, these two things create a never-ending circle where lack of one begets lack of the other. This is essentially what happened here at the site, life took over and the rewards hadn’t previously been big enough to create the motivation to return to the site once my time was freed up. Here’s how the post a few days ago came about and it is a good testament to how one simple thing can get the ball rolling again.
Two years ago I modified a VBScript that was posted to Lifehacker.com and sent my update to the Editor, Gina Trapani. She posted the updated version of the script and even included it in her book. Fast forward to late last week when I made some updates to the script for my personal use and decided to once again send the update to Gina where she in turn posted it to Lifehacker. When she linked to microISV, the number of visitors went way up and seeing this inspired me to post again.
If you’re suffering from a lack of motivation or stuck in a rut, find one simple thing that will help jump start your microISV. Pick something small in your app that has been nagging you or can be improved with just a small change, preferably something you can complete in one day. Do NOT implement a completely new feature. That may provide a big bang but could also make the mountain seem that much higher to hike. Below are five ideas to help you get going again.
- Document your code - This will allow you to quickly go over the code in your app and see things that you may not have seen in months or even years
- Set up Google Analytics - You’ll be motivated to see the counter in the Goals section increase
- Remove a seldom used feature - Sometimes taking things away can be just as beneficial as adding something new
- Improve your error handling - Get rid of the generic error handlers and replace them with something that could help your user help themselves.
- Refactor redundant sections of code - The more succinct your code, the less room for errors to creep in
August 14th, 2007
One of the first questions everyone asks about when starting a microISV is “How much can I make?”. While most people are understandably secretive about how much money they are making, there is a place to go to get a good answer to this question.
While primarily used for people selling websites that generate revenue from advertising, the Sites for Sale forums at Sitepoint will often have people selling applications they have created. The sellers are required to post the url for the site and will show screenshots of revenues to prospective buyers. By viewing the forums regularly, you can get a feel for what the public is willing to pay and, even better, what is big in the market at the moment.
This current auction shows a good example of the depth of information that is available on the forums.
March 6th, 2006
When checking my referrer logs this morning I found that a portion of my interview for Bob Walsh’s book was quoted when someone asked if a working app can be completed in 7 days. The first reply from Bob says:
It all depends on the application, but unless you live in some parallel universe, I doubt you can build a worthwhile product in a week.
If you can, please tell us how!
Ok then, I’ll tell you how!
February 22nd, 2006
Axosoft is allowing customers to purchase a Small Team Edition 5 user license of their OnTime 2006 bug tracking and project management software for a $5 donation to the American Red Cross. The regular price is $495. I would be interested to see the results in the future on how this works out as far as customer retention when the next paid upgrade is released. I imagine that they will have quite a few customers locked in to the product by that time.
February 13th, 2006
The Coloradoan has an article that talks about the booming micro-business industry in Northern Colorado. Fort Collins has 287 businesses with 5 employees or less on file with the Chamber of Commerce.
February 6th, 2006
CNET has an article looking at the new Web 2.0 startups that are not doing startups the traditional way. The article includes the obligatory VC quote on how these businesses are good for the founder but don’t have the “fundamental ingredients for creating lasting, meaningful businesses”.
January 27th, 2006
Many developers are still creating apps in VB6 because many of the world’s computers still don’t have the .Net framework installed and they don’t want to have to include the framework in their install. Because the .Net framework will be part of the Vista operating system, Microsoft is looking to help developers upgrade their apps with minimal effort. Read the patterns and practices article to learn more about Microsoft’s strategy to help developers upgrade with as little pain as possible.
January 27th, 2006
January 20th, 2006
In May of 2005 I profiled Michael Zammuto of Sapago, Inc. At the time Michael had recently completed work on his software product and was looking to ramp up sales and take the product into several vertical markets. Things didn’t quite work out exactly as planned as Michael explains.
My application was an RFID system for Art Galleries and Museums. This past summer the product won three awards, one of which was Best In Show in the Small Business Division at Microsoft’s 2005 Worldwide Partner Conference. Two days later I got a call from a recruiter at Microsoft saying they wanted to talk to me about a senior position with the division that is producing Microsoft’s RFID product. The interviews went well enough that I instead jumped at the chance to be part of Windows Workflow Foundation, a key strategic technology for Microsoft which will ship with all future versions of Windows, Microsoft’s Office 12 Server and several other key Microsoft products.
Michael was kind enough to answer some follow up questions about his microISV experiences.
January 19th, 2006
One of the problems with being a small software company are the issues of procrastination and motivation. Seth Godin has a good post today on “stalling” and how knowledge work in particular, is ripe for procrastination.
If you’re having problems completing or even getting started on a project then force accountability on yourself. Tell your spouse, friend or even a potential customer that you’ll have your product ready by a certain date in the near future. This will force you to examine how to best spend your time and which features should be part of the product.
January 14th, 2006
A research team from the University of California has published the results of a research study that shows that office workers work on average for only eleven minutes before being interrupted and that these interruptions consume approximately 2.1 hours of every working day. One expert is calling this “work-induced attention-deficit disorder”. The researchers found that once someone is interrupted it takes about 25 minutes to get back to the original task. If you’re interested, the full report can be purchased for $199.
January 10th, 2006
Bob Walsh has been very active in the microISV world over the last year and this week his book Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality is being released. Bob has been a contributor here at microISV.com as well as moderating the Joel on Software - The Business of Software forums, and that’s only in his spare time. Bob currently runs Safari Software which sells his product MasterList Professional. Because of all of his efforts, I wanted to learn more about his microISV business and his experiences writing the book.