Subject: Software business(es) (Was Re: EY invests in ...)
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999 11:43:00 +0900 (JST)

Russell Nelson wrote:

    >> But hmmm... if it's that easy, why aren't there more free
    >> software businesses?  :)

>>>>> "John" == John McDermott <jjm@jkintl.com> writes:

    John> Perhaps because there are few case studies.  [Book idea:
    John> Successful Free Software Businesses: Case Studies]

Plug, plug: I've had three responses to my proposal for a preliminary
questionnaire for such a project.  :-(  All positive, though.

BTW: You also need unsuccessful ones (preferably as prologues to the
success stories of the same entrepreneurs).

    John> I do think that the success of the Red Hat IPO will help
    John> other businesses think about becoming free software
    John> businesses, but even the IPO seems to have little helped
    John> businesses consider even *using* free software, let alone
    John> producing it.

Fred Brooks, Jr., tells a story[1] about Tom Watson, Sr., learning to
sell cash registers.  He applies it to teaching documentation skills
to programmers.  We need to turn it around and apply it to teaching
selling skills again, to programmers.

Part of the problem is that many free software businesses (those that
produce software) need both wizard programming and berserker selling,
precisely because it's so easy to catch up and so hard to build a
brand without the protection of a government franchise.  That
combination is hard to find.

It just occurred to me that one reason it's hard to build a brand is
that it's hard to point to hard statistics on satisfied customers who
have paid hard cash.  Also, most businesses get substantial growth from
referrals; if your mainline product is available for free downloading, 
that customer has no opinion of your worthiness _as a business
partner_, no matter how much they like your product.

If you didn't read it here first, will you lend me your URLs?



Footnotes: 
[1]  The Mythical Man-Month, Ch. 15, p. 164.

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