Sep 01

I’m in my third decade of selling software.  What’s amazing to me is how much easier it is today to market and sell software over the Web, versus back in the “old days” when we had to mess with disk duplication and mailing, snail mail correspondence, cashing checks and postal orders by hand, and providing support through dialup electronic bulletin boards.

Perhaps the greatest change is how relatively easy it is today to launch an effective global marketing campaign on a limited budget.  If you’re selling software that provides true value at a reasonable price, you don’t need a Microsoft-sized budget to reach your potential customers.

So here are a few suggestions for an inexpensive marketing campaign:

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Apr 24

To be a “most important” innovation, an innovation has to be an idea that is very widely used and is critically important where it applies. – David A. Wheeler

It’s not easy choosing the best innovators in an industry defined by innovation. The nature of software is such that the technologies, systems and products completely refresh every decade or so. The triumphant invention of just 10 years ago is now considered “legacy” or even obsolete. So making a lasting impression in the software business is a tough task indeed.

Following is my list of the top 10 software innovators of all time. Inclusion on this list doesn’t mean the person came up with every idea or wrote every byte of code. Rather, these are the people whose leadership, ideas, designs and products propelled the software industry forward by leaps and bounds. Their innovations affect us greatly even today.

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Mar 12

If you have a software startup and are looking to raise big money from venture capitalists, Silicon Valley in California is the place to be.  But new data from PricewaterhouseCoopers, National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and Thomson Financial shows that several cities outside Silicon Valley have the highest growth rates for startups and venture capital (VC) investments over the past decade.

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Dec 19

Launching a startup software company is like legal gambling:  The stakes are high, the odds are against you, but with persistence and good luck, you could strike it rich.  But as the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, and software startups can burn through cash like a brush fire through Silicon Valley.  So the trick is to find enough capital to fund your startup until it can sustain itself with customer revenue, without giving up too much ownership and control to your investors.

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Jun 02

About one-third of all software installed on personal computers globally in 2006 was pirated, according to a study from IDC.  This resulted in a worldwide software revenue loss of $40 billion, an increase of more than $5 billion or 15% over 2005.  The software piracy rate exceeded 60% in more than half of the 102 countries studied, and exceeded 75% in about one-third of the countries.

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May 24

Microsoft offers a generous program to help new independent software vendors (ISVs) develop and launch their products faster and cheaper. 

The Microsoft “Empower for ISVs” program offers software, support, and additional resources designed to help ISVs reduce development costs, test their software on multiple Windows platforms, and improve time-to-market.  Empower is a one-year membership for $375, with an opportunity to renew for a second year, and it’s available only once per company.

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May 08

I started my professional programming career over 20 years ago on the Commodore Amiga.  The Amiga was a state-of-the-art personal computer, with a proprietary operating system, windowed GUI, and dedicated sound and graphics chips when the IBM PC was still saying, “C:DOS RUN.”

The Amiga computer was fast for its time, but maddeningly slow in hindsight: 5-10 minutes to compile a typical development project.  Hard drives were still external, bulky and expensive at $500 for 30MB.  The Amiga system APIs were plentiful, massive and complex, like the Win32 APIs that followed.  I wrote software in C, using a programmable text editor and the “Make” tool to build projects.

A lot has changed in two decades.  As with most things in this business, software development tools and systems are now better, faster, and sometimes cheaper.  But what are the most important changes?

In the spirit of David Letterman, following are my “Top 10 Advances in Software Development.”  These are the things–from my perspective, in increasing order of importance–that have most improved software development and entrepreneurship over the past 20 years.  I encourage you to reply with your own Top 10 list.

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May 03

During my 25 years as a software entrepreneur, I’ve had the pleasure and challenge of selling PC software to three major markets: large enterprises, general consumers, and software developers. 

Of course, each target market has its own advantages and disadvantages, which I summarize below.  Note this list is from the perspective of a small software company (2-50 employees) with limited funds.  Microsoft and Google may hold a different view.

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Apr 24

The default WordPress blog title “Hello, World” seems appropriate for the debut article of a software development blog, so I’ve decided to keep it.

I never thought I would write a blog.  Adding to the 175,000 new blogs on the Web each day didn’t seem like a worthwhile endeavor.  What could I possibly say that hasn’t already been said?  But then I realized that at least once a day I learn a new tip or trick that could possibly benefit someone else.  Many times I’ve found the answer to a tough problem from some generous soul on the Web, so I wish to repay the favor.  Plus I suppose I have a story to tell that software developers and entrepreneurs may find educational, if not entertaining.

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