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,