Monday, December 18, 2017

The Programmer's Dilemma

This day will come

So are you thinking about building your own App? But working for others, as a hired programmer, you make good money.  So just go back to work. But then of course you will never become wealthy. have an idea for an App that should go viral. The Best App ever for this idea. What should you do? You decide go for it!

It's not an easy App though, so you create a plan and you somehow convince some investors to jump onboard. Nice job! You are then cranking away on development. A small group of hand picked (by you) developers that know what they are doing.  Yahoo!

And then one day you hear the revenue question. When will we see revenue? So you remind the investors that your plan was to first build your great App and then get a ton of users. But that does not go well. They tell you that successful companies start with a minimum viable product and launch. They tell you how it is supposed to be done.

Now they are demanding revenue or they will pull the plug. Well, you know of companies that could use the services of your team for some short term revenue. But this will distract you from finishing your great App. So, being a smart programmer, you resist and keep working on your App.

Next the investors tell you that they do not understand what you are building. They ask for projections and insist on revenue or they will pull the plug. Next they tell you that you can never replace your competition. The old There will never be another MySpace argument.

This, my programmer friend, is where most fail.  This is the big gotcha moment.  This day will come. You will either lose your funding, or start working on side projects.  But here is the amazing thing.  Those who find a way to continue and finish their visionary product are often successful. Well they are successful if they actually finish the App without shortcuts and compromises. They are successful if they go beyond the minimum viable product because in the App world, you don't often get second chances.

Perhaps some good  advice is to anticipate this event.  But regardless of your original pitch, this day will come because good software development takes longer than expected and investors want revenue. Most investors do not understand the value of App users. The people that invest do not understand how a company can be successful without revenue. And so your great App could die before the world even knows about it.

One possible idea is to create an App that you can give away (no Ads of course) so you have a better chance of going viral. And what if the App itself has a way to generate revenue, either from In-App sales or other means like printing.  Another possibility is to turn your App into an SDK that you can license, not sell, to companies with existing users.  Ok, good thinking, but you still have the problem of funding beyond the gotcha day.

The answer is you need to be ready. You need to learn to become the worlds greatest salesman for your great App. Not just for selling your App to the users, but to sell your idea again and again to your investors.  And if possible, make sure your early investors are not VCs. The traditional VCs do not care about your vision and they will forget what you said in an hour.  Continuation is what separates the programmers from the successful entrepreneurs. How they pull it off though - I have no idea. But somehow they persist until they succeed because failure is not an option.

So when this day comes, just remember that this too shall pass. So laugh at the world.

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