Seth Godin –The business of Software

via Seth Godin

If you are reading this post, you may know how far I like all the super valuable inputs of Seth Godin. Really inspiring! So, when Seth was publishing a post about the business of software, I was super excited.

First I have learnt that Seth’s first job was to lead a team that created 5 games for …. the Commodore64!!

Some, to my point of view, very interesting abstracts from his post. Although I *really* encourage you to read the whole post (even a bit long, really great!):

[…] Clearly, just writing a piece of software no longer makes it a business.
So if it’s not about avoiding fatal bugs, what’s the business of software?

At its heart, you need to imagine (and then execute) a business that just happens to involve a piece of software, because it’s become clear that software alone isn’t the point. There isn’t a supply issue–it’s about demand. The business of software is now marketing (which includes design). […]

COMMUNICATE TO USERS: As we’ve seen in just about every industry, marketing involves effectively communicating a story about benefits to (and among) the people who will appreciate them. For software entrepreneurs, this means identifying a group of people who need the utility of what you can offer them and who are willing to give you permission to educate them about why they should buy. Without either element, the software is dead. […]

I think niche opportunities for software are largely unexploited. […]

So, the questions I’d ask:

  • Who can I reach?
  • Is the product so remarkable that they will talk about my product with their peers?
  • Can I earn and maintain permission to continue the conversation?
  • Once they learn about the utility offered, will they pay for it? […]

ENABLE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN USERS: This is the holy grail of software. […] The network effect is the increased utility of a device that enables communication. […] If you can improve productivity or satisfaction by connecting people, then people will selfishly help you do your marketing.

When building a software business that uses the network effect, I’d ask:

  • Does the connection this enables create demonstrable value?
  • Is there an easy and obvious way for someone who benefits to recruit someone else to join in?
  • Is it open enough to be easy to use but closed enough to avoid becoming a zero-cost commodity? […]

LAST THING: Paying for it. In a competitive market where the marginal cost of an item is zero, the price will move to and eventually reach zero. […] The goal, then, is to create a dynamic where the market isn’t competitive. […] The other condition that’s necessary, though, is that users have to believe that payment is an option. The web has trained the vast majority that interactions online should be free. That makes the act of selling software, particularly to people who haven’t used it yet, really difficult. There are two ways around this:

  1. Free samples. Many software companies (37signals being an obvious one) have discovered the drug dealer model, in which the software is free for a month, connections are built, utility is created and then it begins to cost money.
  2. Move to a platform where commerce is expected. […] The app store for the iPad is like that. The expectation is that this software is going to cost money. It’s far easier to sell a serious app for the iPad than it is on the web, because the platform is organized around commerce.

[…] I wanted to help you realize that just because you can code something that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The issues of permission, of networks, of scarcity and of the desire to pay are inherent in the business part of the business of software. […]

Wow, really really impressive analysis!

Demonstrating strength

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Wow, interesting post from Seth (a while ago, but still ;-). It is about showing (or not) “weakness” to the outside, which is seen for Seth clearly as a strength. Totally agree with that. I don’t like people that are making errors and have issue to apologize. For me, always a first signal of “more coming issues”…

Actually, I agree with *every* point mentioned, even if there are not always *easy* to implement ;-) But who says it should be easy?


Defer to others

Avoid shortcuts

Tell the truth

Offer kindness

Seek alliances

Volunteer to take the short straw

Choose the long-term, sacrificing the short

Demonstrate respect to all, not just the obviously strong

Share credit and be public in your gratitude

Risking the appearance of weakness takes strength. And the market knows it.

And I’m still convinced you can run your business well *and* follow these kind of rules!

Do more vs. do better

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In extenso ;-)

The easiest form of management is to encourage or demand that people do more. The other translation of this phrase is to go faster.

The most important and difficult form of management (verging on leadership) is to encourage people to do better.

Better is trickier than more because people have trouble visualizing themselves doing better. It requires education and coaching and patience to create a team of people who are better.