Who Said It’s Easy

To start this new year, I’d like to put my thought on software business. It’s based on my thought and experience only.

Been in software development business – more generally IT business – for 13 years, I think I can say few conclusions about it. It’s not easy! If there are startup communities, both more to business and more to technical, that say or even imply (through their activities) that the IT business is easy, they got it wrong.

There are two approach to do software business, doing tailor/custom-made apps for enterprises or government agencies, or creating products and/or services for the end users/consumer. The thing is none of that approaches is easy.

Doing project-based for enterprise/government may result in fast money and arguably easy to start, but it’s pain in the ass during the process. The problem is politics. Based on my experience, no software projects in enterprise/government are for innovation. They are created for helping the business process. The business process inside the enterprise may be an innovation, but the software to support it is not. Don’t expect that you can create apps that implement the latest and advanced technologies, great user experience, and bla bla bla, but still getting appreciated. The common mediocre technologies will do. The most important thing is that the project is finished on time for the sake of the job of the internal team behinds it (project manager, team, or whoever responsible for the project inside the enterprise/government itself). Enterprise/government’s software projects won’t appreciate innovation! Even they say they do, but when the job/good name is compromised, they’ll choose to abandon the innovation. That’s why I said it’s politics and it’s pain in the ass.

On the other hand, doing apps for end users is not an easy money. Not everybody is as lucky as Instagram, that does photo filter app, has no revenue, but gets bought by 1 billion dollar by Facebook. Don’t get fooled easily by the numbers released by the principals or survey companies, as the real game is though, real though. The thing is the end users like free apps, and once it’s free, it’s hard to charge the users later. I remember a so-called angle investor at a startup-related seminar said that you should charge the users from the day one. That must be true, although you’ll find that it’s hard to make your paid apps/services stand out in the crowds. Unless your apps/services are really really good and you are really really lucky and be on the market at the right place and time, it’s really hard to get a big user base if your apps/services are paid from the day one. Innovation is everything in this approach and luckiness is another factor.

The other thing is the team. Although there are tens of thousands of IT/software-related university graduations yearly, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to find skillful and ready-to-use software developers. I know, you as the founder, are the smartest developer on the block, but you can not accomplish the projects by yourself. Finding skillful team member is one thing, but finding responsible and loyal team member is another thing and believe me it’s hard as well.

So again, like every business, software-related business is hard. I know this post sounds really negative and destructive, but my point is just tell you another perspective. None of that matters as long as you love what you do. Love will find the way!

3 thoughts on “Who Said It’s Easy”

  1. I echo-ed your observation man. IT, by the end of the day, is a support function to most business (unless if the company is some form of a software company itself). At that point, everything is about ROI. Some company is more sensitive to price and others may not, but the yard stick is clear.

    The biggest issue that I have with creating consumer product is how seemingly unreal the innovation that is brought to the market. Also, there is rarely a clear value exchange between the service and its user base, partly because the business model is implicit – like the use of advertising or “selling” our data. I think by end of day consumer product company with strong business fundamentals will tend to survive longer. A product that actually brings a clear value exchange to their customer and treat technology as an effective delivery mechanism. This includes company like Amazon or 37 Signals.

  2. “I think by end of day consumer product company with strong business fundamentals will tend to survive longer. A product that actually brings a clear value exchange to their customer and treat technology as an effective delivery mechanism.” +1

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