|Micro-ISV: from Vision to Reality|
|summary||Step-by-step guide to building a software empire|
The questions are all valid and so are the suspicions. As young entrepreneur travels around the Web forums and self-help sites, he, perhaps, becomes discouraged, overwhelmed by the amount of information and by the obvious risk factor of the software business. There are just so many things involved in running a software company, that someone ought to write a book. A book that wouldn't talk about C++ vs. Java, or object-oriented vs. procedural languages. But a book about running a small, one-person software company. Bob Walsh's Micro-ISV: from Vision to Reality introduces an aspiring software enthusiast to all aspects of running a software company. Whats a micro-ISV, you ask? The term ISV or independent software vendor, was coined by Microsoft to describe the set of software companies that were
- not yet killed by Microsoft
- not yet bought by Microsoft
- too small and insignificant to present any interest to Microsoft, except for selling them developer tools and MSDN subscriptions
The term micro-ISV was coined by SourceGears Eric Sink, who was writing a "Business of Software" series of columns for Microsoft Developer Network, and relates to one- (seldom, two- or more-) person software development company.
Micro-ISV: from Vision to Reality is a handbook for independent software developers interested in generating a side or main income on their own. A quick glance at the table of contents will be a bit deceptive, as there are only 7 chapters. But they are surely packed with lots of useful information and references. Bob Walsh takes the reader from coming up with a good idea for a software product (Chapter 1) to establishing a development environment for a successful software startup (Chapter 2), where the reader learns that CVS servers are not optional. Chapter 3 - "Presenting the Product", is 60 pages long, and talks about appealing presentation and promotion of the product mainly through the product or company Web site. A spoiler: Bob Walsh chose BlogJet Web site as an ideal candidate for a case study on how to design customer-friendly and at the same time income-generating Web sites for a software product.
Chapter 4 - "Business is Business", focuses on what a developer from US, UK or Australia need to know about their local incorporation laws, and what should be done come April 15th. Throughout the book the author assumes that the reader is on a very tight budget (sorry, venture-funded startups), and thus prefers to do most of the stuff himself or get the best quality for the money. "Focusing on the customer" (Chapter 5) deals with marketing (and offers some practical advice instead of general sentences about "solving the customers problem") and establishing support business. Chapter 6 - "Welcome to the industry", discusses potential promotions and partnerships that are useful for software developers and their companies, and finally Chapter 7 - "What Happens Next?", offers some perspective on micro-ISVs who made it big.
The book is sprinkled with illustrations, references to existing micro-ISV practices, and interviews with owners and managers of successful software companies. Interviews are essential part of the book, and they help the reader to gain the perspective on the software industry from someone else than the author.
Throughout the book Bob Walsh recommends numerous services, but at the same time they never feel like a plug. His suggestions include glyfx for icons, GoDaddy for domain names, 2checkout and PayPal for payment processing, InvisionPower for customer support message boards, DemoCharge for producing those walk-through tutorial movies, and are generally motivated by personal experience or recommendations from the others in the industry. He also pays a great deal of attention into available free sources, if the software developer is on a really tight budget.
The book itself is Windows-centric, which is hardly authors fault - this is the single largest market for independent software vendors, defined by hundreds of millions of users who are online, and thus marketable via Download.com, Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing or Windows Marketplace. Mac OS market is never really discussed in the book, although some chapters, which are not market-specific, might be interesting to independent software vendors for Mac OS. Commercial market for Linux software applications is close to non-existent, unless answering telephone support calls or selling service contracts excites you.
The language of the book is approachable and makes the title an easy read. I found it a bit over-packed with Web site screenshots - after all, do we really need a screenshot of www.businesslink.gov.uk to get the point that this site offers entrepreneurial advice for those in the UK?
The appendix includes all the referenced URLs, books and articles for each chapter, which makes it a useful resource. Its also available online on the companion site for the book, that also contains authors blog. The question of whether to blog or not to blog is also discussed in Chapter 3, together with a review of available blogging platforms and downloadable packages that might be suitable for a software company. The interviews in the last chapter also seem to be presented in a haphazard manner, as if the author collected some content, did not find an appropriate place in the book for a sidebar, and then decided to dump everything left over into a single chapter. However, for someone starting a software company some of the interviews might be invaluable.
Bob Walsh's book is not a good material when your next startup involves creating a social bookmarking Web site, a highly popular blog, Linux consultancy or a scientific application that would be interesting to 5 big clients on this planet. However, for the use case when you think you can write a usable and popular Windows application and also sell it online to hundreds, thousands and (hopefully) millions of users, this book will be indispensable. If you're just thinking on whether or not you should start a software company, perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the writings of Paul Graham first. If you think, however, that the software industry is dominated by major players like Microsoft, Adobe, Google or Symantec, consider the top downloads list on Download.com and then see how many of popular products in that list are made by the companies that you might have never heard of.
In his spare time Alex likes to read good technical books."
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