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The Ultimate Business Plan?

After reading books like Peopleware and sites like JoS, I decided that the best thing to do with my life was to create a company that did nothing but the really cool (i.e., really hard) software (or even hardware) engineering projects. However, I could find no product idea that was "awesome" from day one, which is bad because you'd want a lot of cash or investment to start such a company.

One of the things that really p*sses me off is the sorry state of IT consulting shops. It seems that you either go with the Mom & Pop shops (good but spotty) or the big guns (expensive, and they are like leeches). So I figured that I could (with investment) snatch up a whole bunch of the smaller shops and get them working with each other. The complimentary geographies and talents should increase sales and cutting out redundancies should lower costs. I figured that this new company would instantly be 5-25% more profitable than what they were before.

Then, I would take this profit and start hiring the best engineers to work on projects that would benefit this business like network/asset management, etc. There is a lot more to this plan, but I have to keep something to myself ;-). Anyhow, I shopped it around and a couple of VCs were mildy interested. The money wasn't the problem as much as the fact that I didn't yet have a management team in place.

All of these things can be solved. My question to the group is:

1) Are there any other small to mid-size IT businesses out there that you think can be improved? Types of business, not specific ones.

2) Besides network management and possibly light-weight CRM (planned), are there any other classes of enterprise apps that haven't been done or done well.

3) If you worked for such a company, what kind of projects would you want to work on even if they weren't related to the core business?

StickyWicket
Friday, September 05, 2003

Like most programmers and technical people, you are thinking about "implementing" your business.

The first problem you have to think about is:

What service or product can I offer, that will sell?

How can I make sure it will sell?

How will my service or product be different from the other services or products that are already in the market?

Will selling this product provide me or my company with sufficient income in order to cover all the costs and yield a nice profit?

The last question is the most important one.

If you answer "yes" to that one, then yes, you can go and start your business.

If you answer "no", or "maybe" to that one, then you will live a miserable and stressful life trying to make ends meet.

So, the first question you have to ponder on is a marketing one: finding a service or product which will sell really well.

It's a tough question to answer.

John K.
Friday, September 05, 2003

Phase I: Create boutique IT consulting services.
Phase II:
Phase III: Profit!

Philo

Philo
Friday, September 05, 2003

Must steal underpants.

Richard (Underpants Gnome)
Friday, September 05, 2003

---1) Are there any other small to mid-size IT businesses out there that you think can be improved? Types of business, not specific ones.

Yes.

---2) Besides network management and possibly light-weight CRM (planned), are there any other classes of enterprise apps that haven't been done or done well.


Yes, there are plenty. The thing is, I can't tell you what they are, because then I will have a competitor.

Re: consulting

I have done a lot of consulting in the past, and it isn't necessarily a fun business to be in. The most lucrative consulting is for organizations with deep pockets, who are so awesomely screwed up they need to hire consultants. We're talking about businesses for whom paying you, Joe Consultant, $20K a month is less than what they are paying per month for toilet paper, so signing your contract is a no brainer.  You definately DONT want to target small to medium sized businesses as a consultant, because these businesses want to minimize their costs, thus they want to pay you as little as possible.

I think Joel's business model is much better: consult a bit to pay the bills, come out with a couple of decent software products, increase sales of software products to the point where you no longer have to consult. 

I used to think like StickyWicket, that I needed some "awesome idea" before I could start selling a product. Aside from the wonderful "joel test," which I had been doing anyway, but never seen codified into a set of commandments, the most important lesson I've learned from Joel is (no offense, Joel) is this:

I can create a totally boring and lame product (Yet Another Bug Tracker And Web Site Management System) and if I tighten up the code base enough, and sell it properly, I can have a business that supports me in manhattan, with new office space and employees and time enough to write tons of crud into my blog. 

Thus I've been working on my own boring and lame product, that fills a need and doesn't crash, and am working on figuring out how to sell it, so that I too can have a cool office space in Manhattan, and stop consulting.

rz
Friday, September 05, 2003

"create a company that did nothing but the really cool (i.e., really hard) software (or even hardware) engineering projects"

Um.... as other people have pointed out cool does not necessarily = need in the market place. Need in the marketplace is much more likely to = money than cool.

www.marktaw.com
Friday, September 05, 2003

That's kind of why I'm asking what people think is needed. I can think of a few things, but a lot of the obvious stuff has been done (naturally). I'm no longer a bright-eyed, bushy tailed kid, and I've noticed a lot of people like me (30-45 yrs old) who notice all of the things that have never been done correctly. I want to give people the chance to do what's never been done before and wanted others to share what this might be.

StickyWicket
Friday, September 05, 2003

cell phone / mp3 player / video game machine / text messager  / emailer / fashion accessory?

There must be plenty of ideas that people thought were good but bombed in practice, and someone later implemented successfully... like the palm pilot. Many had tried to make a handheld portable address/appointment book etc. but it took getting it right for it to catch on.

The medical industry has a lot of niche needs where a well designed product can literally save lives. Why not talk on doctor's forums rather than programmer's forums?

www.marktaw.com
Friday, September 05, 2003

Yew must be new here. We don't take no truck with "tawkin' to users"

Now yew gitcher self out of here, varmint!

Philo-Bob

Philo
Friday, September 05, 2003

I think there is a huge market opportunity for a modular home entertainment that WORKS. I have a BS and MS in Computer Science, yet I spent two hours try to wire my parent's VCR, DVD, cable TV, and stereo together.

They have about five remote controls. To watch the DVD, you don't just press a "Play DVD" button. You must use the TV remote to switch TV input "antenna" and then switch the stereo to play the right audio input. To watch a video on the VCR, you have to use different steps.

If you use the remote to adjust the TV volume, the remote switches to "TV mode". To change the channel, you have to push a different button to go back to "Cable mode" before channel + or - buttons will work again.

Someone (like Sony or Apple) should create a standard protocol for wireless home entertainment devices. No wires, cables, antennas, or modal menus. Just set your new DVD player box near your TV, they "see" each other, and then you press "Play DVD". Bingo.

runtime
Friday, September 05, 2003

Here are two ideas that I just thought of today. Go make a million bucks off each, then through the kindness of your heart, send me a royalty check.

1) A programmable radio cassette recorder (like a VCR, but for the radio). Believe it or not, Rush Limbaugh gets about 20 million listeners per day, NPR gets about 10 million, Imus gets about 2 million,... the list goes on. I missed Science Fridays today and would love to have a device like this. I've looked in the past and couldn't find anything. It would be a simple radio / cassette player that would record station X on day D from time T1 to T2.

2) A recorder that would plug into a PC video port and record in a TV-compatible format. I was watching the news earlier today and they were showing the FBI website with pictures of 4 suspected terrorists to be on the lookout for. They were filming the monitor. Why not stream directly from a PC to a recorder instead of a video monitor? It could also be used to create training videos.

Go go get 'um and send me that money!

Nick Hebb
Friday, September 05, 2003

"Go go get 'um and send me that money!"

Should read:

"Now go get 'um and send me that money!"

Nick Hebb
Friday, September 05, 2003

Nick Hebb's ideas both exist. He just has it backwards. It is already cheaper to record audio to hard drive than it is to record audio to an audiocasette. So, there is already a radio tivo available for macintosh. I forget what it is called.

It is still more expensive to record video to disk than it is to record video to DV. Thus, if you have to do a lot of video recording it is more cost effective to record to tape.
However, there are a lot of things that can record video directly from the TV, if you want ot do that. I believe my video card came bundled with said software.

rz
Friday, September 05, 2003

1) Just hook up your tuner to the VCR, tune it to the station, and use the VCRs timer. Some tuners are programmable, but that's more rare.

2) Laptops often have SVideo out. You can buy SVGA-NTSC converters easily now. But they may use the camera-of-monitor route for effect--it's hard to get a video of a monitor to look good because of the different sync rate.

mb
Friday, September 05, 2003

I could be wrong about #2, because I don't know the TV business and my video hardware knowledge sucks. But it still seems strange that if a viable product exists that major news stations still film the monitior instead of porting directly to a recording device.

As for #1, I may be wrong there too, but I haven't seen such a device. I'm *not* talking about a device that interfaces with a PC or a tuner (which usually run in the $100's). I'm talking about a good old-fashioned radio / cassette recorder with a programmable recording timer. Think low-end comsumer device.

As for price, I don't get your statement about comparable costs to recording on a hard drive. Joe Blow could spend a couple bucks on a blank 120 min cassette and record on it over and over again.

Nick Hebb
Friday, September 05, 2003

Work in niche software. Find a domain expert which is really really expert in very high margin business (for example: petroleum/energy, financial analysis) and work with him to provide software for engineering solution.

panpan
Saturday, September 06, 2003

One suggestion:

The most boring products are often the most lucrative.

The coolest products are often the least lucrative.

The reason is very simple:  There's more competition in the "cool" products.  EVERY smart programmer wants to work on something cool.

Also, do you mean COOL for YOU or for the CUSTOMER?
Remember the customer? He's the one with the money you want to trade for your software.

Entrepreneur
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

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