Thoughts of an Independent Software Vendor

I’ve been building and selling code for a few years now and this is usually as a part time thing alongside something else I’m already doing (i.e. a proper job or having a family). A few years ago I launched a company called Fervent Software which sold Studio to Go! I then launched a company called QuantockSoft which sold a product called TemperDB and I’ve just started a new company called Xyglo which has just started selling some software called Friendlier.

When you’re bringing a product to market (*) and you can only devote part of your time to it due to other commitments, there are many factors you have to weigh up. Some of these relate to the limited time you have, some of them are applicable to all ISVs. First and foremost you need to determine if there is a market for your product – that’s pretty important! Secondly you must decide if what you’re trying to build is achievable with the amount of spare time you have – also important. Thirdly you need to know how to spend your time – when to code and when to spend time on designing and when you have market or promote your piece of software. And finally and most importantly you need to know when to get it out of the door and actually start selling the thing.

Of course all of these steps are potentially perilous. If you’ve come up with something that is innovative then how do you know there is a market for it? As a small independent you don’t have the resources to have a focus group – and anyway have you even defined a core market? So maybe you’re taking a risk on the product or perhaps you’re launching a product to compete with an established player. In that case how do you ensure that you differentiate with that player and still get your voice heard? Secondly are you being realistic about how long it will take to build your software? If you have plenty of spare time and energy then this might be less of a concern, but if you have a family or other commitments be sure to work these in to your planning. Thirdly – and this is actually the best part – remember that you are the boss now. So when it comes to scheduling when you do stuff you can chop and change. If something is becoming a drag in your coding then give it up for a while and do some website stuff, or draw a logo, or write a press release or do some market research. Remember that all the effort you’re putting in is pushing the product in the right direction so don’t dismiss non-coding hours as non-productive ones. Even talking about your ideas with people counts as working – just don’t let them necessarily talk you out of it!

So let’s say you’ve got to that point when you want to release your software on the world but you’re still wracked with indecision. Is it ready? Is it good enough? Is it the right price? Will anybody want it? The only way you’ll find out is by pressing the button and getting it out of the door. If you get that far then there is no better feeling. So good luck.

(* I started writing this with the intention of saying how much easier it had got to build and release software regarding the tools, the payment providers, the website hosters etc. I’ve not got that far this time but I’ll get on to that at a later date. Also we need to talk about App Store vs truly Independent.)

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