Category Archives: microISV How-To’s

What are the major challenges you face as a micro-ISV?



Another question from a software developer:

As a one-person independent software developer, what are the major challenges you faced? How did you
overcome these challenges?

There was a time before the internet, yes, even before it was still ‘The Internet’, when being a one-person development company meant you worked alone. Wrote code, wrote letters to customers, on actual paper and snail mail, did your own artwork, everything. The result was a very real reluctance to allow ANY part of a project to be done elsewhere.

That’s over. Now, our programs & apps have to run alongside other programs, share data with other users of the same apps, check for updates, sell upgrades (and power-ups), and be visually stunning and immediately obvious to use without a bound instruction manual. It’s too much. You can’t do that alone; you can’t even visualize it without loads of feedback from experts in each area.

We can outsource graphics. Or web sites, animation, speech recording, writing, even blocks of code, if it gets the project done. Now, it’s a management job, rather than doing every little piece of the project in-house. You don’t need employees, but you do need trusted partners to do the tasks you will (reluctantly) admit that you can’t do yourself in a reasonable time. Or just don’t wanna.

So does that mean hire outsource help? You could. Or if you work with other programmers, or know programmers from the ASP, you can offer to trade technical expertise for help in other areas.

Jerry Stern
Chief Technology Officer, PC410.com

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