The Business of Software
The following articles originally appeared on the MSDN website. From October 2003 to April 2005, I wrote a column there called "The Business of Software". Thanks to Chris Sells for giving me the opportunity to write for MSDN, and to Maurine Bryan for doing a great job with the editing.
Geeks Rule and MBAs Drool (Wednesday, 6 April 2005)
It is common to see software companies starting out with two founders,
a geek and an MBA. Do you really need the MBA?Tenets of Transparency (Monday, 14 February 2005)
Quibble over the
details if you like, but don't avoid the main point of this article: You cannot expect your customers to trust you if you are unwilling to trust them. You might not like my suggestions. That's okay. But you still have to figure out how this principle applies to your situation.Finding a Product Idea for Your Micro-ISV (Wednesday, 15 December 2004)
You are a geek. You think about technologies first. You see a cool new
platform and try to think of a way to use it. You discover the
Opacity property in Windows Forms and you start trying to think of
ways to apply it. If you are not already using the .NET Framework, you are
frustrated, because everybody else is talking about how cool it is.First Report from My Micro-ISV (Tuesday, 5 October 2004)
The best decision I have made here was to keep my risk low. I only
invested about a month of my free time in the original development. I only
spent about seven hundred bucks in cash. I started small and I kept my day
job. Because of all these conservative choices, my micro-ISV is still
alive even though my total revenue wouldn't pay for a set of the new Star
Wars DVDs.Exploring Micro-ISVs (Wednesday, 15 September 2004)
As far as I can tell, all of these guys are making a nice living for
themselves by selling software products in a company with (essentially)
one person. Many of us would not find it intuitive to aspire to be a
single-person software company. Still, companies like these are
fascinating to me. Some founders of micro-ISVs are making big bucks, even
as they maintain a lifestyle that allows them to lead a very balanced
life.Product Pricing Primer (Wednesday, 18 August 2004)
Product pricing is hard. There is no magic formula that will
determine the best price for your product. I can't provide any easy
answers, but I can give you some things to think about as you make your
pricing decisions. In the end, you will just have to make a decision
using your own judgment. There will be times you will wonder if you
made the right decision. You may never know for sure.Hazards of Hiring (Thursday, 8 July 2004)
In the end, every hiring decision will be made with your own
judgment, and there are no guarantees. However, giving consideration to
these issues can help raise the probability of making a hiring decision
that you will not later regret.Going to a Trade Show (Friday, 28 May 2004)
Trade shows are my favorite of the basic "marcomm"
tools because they are so interactive. Advertising and
PR are primarily one-way communication, from you to the customer,
without much chance for information to flow the other way.
Other marcomm tools certainly have their place, but
there is nothing like a trade show.Closing the Gap, Part 2 (Monday, 10 May 2004)
Have I not described exactly how you want to be treated when you are the customer?
If so, then shouldn't you be treating your customers the same way?
Why not?Closing the Gap, Part 1 (Wednesday, 24 March 2004)
Any sales guy who is offended by all the vicious jokes in this article is probably not competent.
A sales guy simply must have a thick skin. If he can't handle my
caricature, how will he cope when a customer tells him "no"? Even the
best sales guy is going to hear "no" more often than "yes". If he can't
accept all that rejection without getting discouraged, he's probably in
the wrong job.Be Careful where you Build (Monday, 23 February 2004)
I asked the business folks to leave the room because the solution to
this problem begins with us, the geeks. We are the ones who understand
the technology side. The reality is that these technology choices
cannot be made without our help. Furthermore, we can probably learn a
thing or two about business a lot faster than the business guys can
learn how to find a memory leak or dereference a pointer. Let's agree
not to get uppity about this. The goal here is to learn how to bring
our technology expertise into platform decisions as effectively as we
can.Starting Your Own Company (Wednesday, 28 January 2004)
The crazy thing is that you have to do it all. If you don't
do it, nobody else will. This takes a lot of versatility, and it
explains why entrepreneurs are usually generalists, not specialists. We
are the type of people who tend to be just a little bit good at
everything, rather than very good at just one thing.Make More Mistakes (Friday, 19 December 2003)
"Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite
simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of
failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't as all. You can be
discouraged by failure — or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make
mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you will
find success."Finance for Geeks (Monday, 24 November 2003)
-- Thomas J. Watson, Sr.
I'll begin with a short summary of what accounting is all about.
Then I'll cover the concept of profit margins. Finally, I'll talk about
outside funding sources and the perils of building a company with money
from other people.Whining by a Barrel of Rocks (Monday, 27 October 2003)
Let's face it -- small software companies just aren't cool. The press
does not typically write stories about small software companies. People
like to read about high flying IPOs and the overnight creation of paper
billionaires. People want to know what John Doerr's latest thing is.
People want to know when the next bubble will arrive. Articles on this
kind of glamour are the content that sells publications, so that's what
the press writes about.