Founder's blog

How to find the right idea for your mISV

Sep 19 2007 :: by Alex
Since Jitbit is a "mISV" (a software company with less than 10 employees), I'm sharing some mISV-thoughts.

Here are some tips on how to pick the right idea for your first product:

1. Find problems to solve. There are two types of successful software: problem-solvers and "fashion products". The first software product for your mISV should be a "problem-solver". Period. Not some fashionable Web 2.0 fancy social application that the crowd will hopefully go crazy about. Not a product that everyone loves just because "it's cool and all my friends use it". Ok, we all dream about it (I even started a couple), but don't. You shouldn't work on the "next Skype" since you don't have venture-capital behind you to support this kind of product. Your first product shouldn't be the "next iPod", cause you're not Steve Jobs, and you don't have an Apple-II division that makes money you can spend on a Mac-project, which can stay unprofitable for years. Even Google had an initial investment of $1.1 million dollars (including the famous $100,000 check from Sun Microsystems). So, start with a problem-solver.

How do you make a problem-solver? Find problems. You will never find them by spending your day sitting at home, surfing the Internet and reading blogs. Go and face some problems. Find them. Watch other people working with computers. Interview your friends. The best place to find problems is your fulltime job. Find a temp job if you don't have any. Find problems to face.

This may sound too obvious, but we came up with the idea of creating Net Profile Switch after buying a notebook four years ago. Jitbit was a consulting company at that time, so me and my partner spent at least one day a week working at the clients office. So I brought that shiny laptop home and discovered that I cannot connect to my home LAN! I had to change the laptop's network settings, since I had a static IP environment at home and we had dynamic (DHCP) addresses at the office. So Net Profile Switch became our first application, and the first sale came about 3 months after the initial release.

We created our Macro Recorder when I had to issue several hundred digital security certificates by submitting request-codes to a web-form on a CA-server. I had to open a text file, copy the text to the clipboard, open a web-browser, paste the text on a form, submit the form, save the file, and do it over, and over, and over... That's how the first version of Macro Recorder was born. It was buggy, it could automate mouse actions only, and it had all mouse moves and clicks hard-coded into the program, but hey, the macro worked.

2. Always carry a notebook and a pen. Luckily, I had it with me when the above ideas came to me. Forget about PDAs, they're not fast enough to accept your phrases and sketches.

3. Ask your wife. Seriously. Do what Guy Kawasaki says - ask women. He's absolutely right. Ask women about your product before making any decisions.

4. Research the market. Never ever write a single line of code without doing a minimal market research. At least create an AdWords account (you will need it anyways) and use its keyword tool to find out, if people search for the solution you are going to provide.

4.1. Look for the competition. Beware, if there's no competition in the selected niche. It means that the niche is dead. Don't think that you're the only one with this brilliant idea. Most likely someone has already tried it. Read this excellent article by Eric Sink: Choose Your Competition.

5. Stop. Relax, take a deep breath, sleep on it and think it over in the morning.

'How to find the right idea for your mISV' was written by Alex by Alex. CEO, founder