Category Archives: microISV How-To’s

How to start a software company?

Another software developer question:

I have a good product in my mind and want to invest more time and money in it.
So far whatever small software I have created are for few people and with only me developing that software. Now I have some software in mind that will be for more users and big enough to include other people, and I will be the first customer of it (manufacturing is my prime business). How & where should I start ? ( people, office, location, software developing, release, sales ) ?
Any first hand experience is also welcome.

First, understand the difference between a program and a product. A program works for you. A product makes sense to other people. So you have to add error trapping, fix all possible input errors automatically and give a non-techie error message on anything else. That requires testers who don’t know anything about your product, and the best type are the ones who you can watch trying out the product. (While you don’t help, but do take notes.)

You have to make it look good. It has to be visually striking, while immediately understandable. You have to write documentation, and that, depending on the product, could be an old-fashioned instruction manual, or a video demo, or a set of slideshow tutorials.

People, office, location? There’s no short answer. Like any other business, your staff will have to be able to communicate skillfully with your potential customers. Being near those customers, or some of them, will give them a big advantage in learning what’s needed, and in beta testing, and perhaps give you leads for hiring sales staff.

Sales used to be all web downloads, and before that, mail order. Now, unless this product will be highly specialized within the manufacturing industry, your choices are web sales of a downloadable and installable product, or SAAS/software as a service/cloud. The difference will be the answer to this question: Where will it be used? On the manufacturing floor, where network access is likely to be internal only? Or in the manufacturer’s offices, which will have outside access? IOW, there’s a big difference in how you sell manufacturing control software, versus purchasing department software, because one needs tight security and the other needs access to outside product specifications and availability in real time.

Jerry Stern
Chief Technology Officer, PC410.com

I assigned copyright to a client, can I develop a new similar app?

A software developer’s question arrived:

I assigned copyright to a client for an mobile app, can I develop a new similar app to sell?

That question comes down to what’s in your original agreement, and in particular whether (and how) ‘derivative works’ were included or excluded. You might want a lawyer to look it over.

Here’s my non-lawyer view: In the most restrictive case, where you sold everything as a “work for hire” and agreed not to create derivative works, you still have the right to create a new similar app to sell, but only if you use none of the code and images and development work used for the original app. Start entirely from scratch. That’s basically how the Compaq computer was created as a clone for the IBM PC, but Compaq took an extra step: One team created a set of requirements for a clone of the IBM BIOS software, and another team, with no overlap, wrote the new BIOS.

Put another way, if i write an article for a magazine (remember those?), on any given topic, and I’m paid for it, I can still write another article on a similar topic for some other magazine, and get paid for it. And I’ve done exactly that. The results changed dramatically because the audience changed, but the initial topic was the same. Your knowledge gained during the first project is yours. You’ve only sold the product of that knowledge.

Jerry Stern
Chief Technology Officer, PC410.com

Telecommute: Preparing for Polar Vortexes, Super-Flu, and Road Closures

Weather’s changing here in Maryland. Seasonal, mostly. But we had polar vortex brutal cold last Winter. There’s bridge construction going on between here and Baltimore, with lane closures both promised and complex, changing with rush hour traffic flow. And the super-flu is working its way East. Makes me want to work from home, and connect remotely into computers for work. I’m ready to telecommute; are you?

snowplow out front? telecommute to work!

Telecommutes and remote control for business computers require software. Several types exist; not all of them work for telecommuting.

  • Remote Repair: This is for remoting into a computer for repairs or training, and it requires a person at the computer being controlled, to click a link or run a program. The software used for the connection goes away after the connection is closed, so you can’t log back in without starting over.
  • Managed Services: This is for working on computers unattended. I use a program like this, that lets me control hundreds of computers on-demand. While it can be used for working remotely, perhaps for an entire office, it’s not the economical choice for telecommuting.
  • Remote Login: This is for telecommuting. Like the managed services software, it can connect to an unattended computer, but it will generally be easier to use, and add features like remote printing (print in the office, to your home printer), and remote sound (you hear the office computer’s sounds from home).

There are some other considerations before choosing to telecommute. If your office has gone to the cloud, just log into the cloud servers directly from home. Check with your MIS (management information systems) department first, to see if they have any limitations in place; some systems will only allow logins from work locations. If you run processor-intensive programs, like dictation and speech recognition, it’s better to install those locally, and then just send the completed documents to the work machine.

In Maryland, call us at 410-871-2877 for help getting up and running with telecommuting. We’ve worked with many programs, and can recommend both free and paid products for most requirements. Outside Maryland, we may still be able to help, by remote login, of course.