Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What do I know about Software Business?

What do I know? Come to think of it seriously, I started to doubt what I really know, after so many years being a software developer, freelancer and also trying a startup. What is the typical software startup in Malaysia? I guess you get a few people who share the same interest and to work very hard doing software service (customization), and hopefully be able to develop a software product one day. I think this is the typical thinking of a programmer, rather than a businessman.

I think most startup in this country got started in 2 ways. One is those who got funded, so that they could pay reasonably good money to talented people to provide software service or developing software product; to get up to speed fast. The other group started the company by leeching on the talents and customer base of their ex-company; so they have both manpower and business on the first day. My conclusion is a typical Malaysia software business does not start from group up and not fueled by passion and dream, or at least I think very few started this way.

Maybe I am being a programmer influenced by all some old time Silicon Valley stories (usually started in the garage), but even most of them got funded eventually, maybe not in the beginning. I still like the idea of dream and passion, though they might not business-wise feasible. Perhaps I find it very difficult to motivate myself to work or to do a good job, if there isn’t any passion in it. I find it difficult just to do something just for the sake of making money. Having said that, I am definitely so programmer like rather than businessman like. Am I doomed in software business?

Take Malaysia Most Wanted for example, I do it because I am passionate about it, though it is not so economically feasible. It’s difficult to get funding for it, because it is nothing too unique in the business mind. VC treats it as a portal, and VC don’t fund portal nowadays. Maybe I should term it as Social Network, since Facebook, Friendster, MySpace and all that it gaining so much popularity. Besides passion, I feel there is a need for MMW: because I need it to help me to find a nice place to dine, to find new property, or to find a nice place to travel to or to buy something from somewhere. I think there is nothing unique about it, but there is no service out there providing what I want as well. Very contradicting and disturbing, isn’t it. I think the devil is in the detail, and so is the angel. I am developing something which I can use, or I would like to use. Besides eating my own dog food, I am creating something to solve a problem, at least my problem. I wonder if I am the majority.

Other than banking on the Internet or Passion, a more typical and secure path would be software service, meaning customizing software for clients. That depends mainly on my contacts, my creditability, my craftsmanship, my pricing, my service, my direction and my luck. I definitely know how to develop software (Technical Skill) for people (Communication Skill), but the question is how to turn this into a sustainable business. I would need to find ways to get more projects (Sales, Marketing and PR Skills kick in here), and perhaps to find a few partners or employees (People, Management, Leadership Skill) to work together, and to generate a sustainable income stream (Business Skill) through the code base (faster development time) and maintenance contract, and to come out with some kind of product as well. So, how to find more projects and what kind a product to develop at a later stage.

Some say if we walk the typical path, we would end up being average as well.

What do I know? So much, yet so little. I think I need more thinking and help.


Stephen of ibelin said...

dude, dont give up, i use to read ur blog even before i was a programmer. I knew there was a chance for guys in our field to be successful.
so dont give in.

A young programmer

d_luaz said...

"i use to read ur blog even before i was a programmer", that sounds so retro. Thanks for the chin up, young programmer.