My name is Anne Gunn. I live in and work from Sheridan, Wyoming, USA. I’m in the process of starting a very small software company — what’s known in my industry as a ‘microISV’. I’m going to follow the practice of some of the people I admire in this industry (specifically Patrick McKenzie and Peldi) and write up a review of what we accomplished in the last year. It’s traditional to compare what you actually did to your goals for the year but since I didn’t publish goals at this time last year, you’ll have to just take my word for it that much of what we did was intentional.
I’ve been in the software business a long, long time. Long enough that I fondly think of cloud-computing as timesharing-redux. For the last several years, I’ve been making my living as a freelance programmer, specializing in Windows internals, and mostly crafting bits of Windows Services, often talking to a SqlServer database backend.
Once, long ago, I was lucky enough to be one of the co-founders of a fairly successful software startup. And, for a few years now, I’ve been hankering to get out of the business of selling myself by the hour and back into the software product business. 2010 is when I stop talking about it and began to make real progress.
What we accomplished in 2010:
Created a business entity called the Sheridan Programmers Guild (SPG). Legally, this is just a registered trade name owned by the corporation I share with my husband for our freelancing work. Mentally/morally, this has been a huge step for me. From business cards to the sign on the door to copyright notices on our products, having a business name of my own reinforces the product company effort and makes it more real every day.
Published product! And have more on the way. We have a total of four phone apps (3 Android and 1 iPhone) out, two more Android apps in development, and dangerously too many ideas for what we could build next.
Hired an employee. The .3 of me devoted to SPG became 1.3 in stages over the course of the year. I was extraordinarily lucky to find a talented young programmer to work with me, first as a high school intern and now as a full-time employee. And although Hokan will almost certainly leave before the end of 2011 (think of this as a ‘gap year’ for him), every week he is here, he does great work and enables me to finish projects I would only have gotten started by myself.
Moved to new offices. My husband and I shared the same rather dull, cramped two-room office suite in a downtown bank building for 11 years, ever since we first moved to Sheridan. Late in 2010, thanks to a remarkable coalition of state, county, and NGO entities, we were able to move into a new little business incubator on the edge of town. I miss downtown and want to move back some year soon. But having more space, better divided, with doors we can shut so that we can each do our own work in relative peace and quiet, has been a huge boost.
Begun to build the ‘worldwide network of capable partners’ that it is going to take to pull off all of the things I want to accomplish over the next few years. Sheridan, is a great place to live and Wyoming is a great place to build a business. But, let’s be real, I do not live in the center of the software development / app marketing universe. So I’m going to need to build up a virtual side to my company to compliment the small group of folks who will come to work in the same space with me every day. In 2010 I worked with software developers in five cities across four states, with graphic designers from two corners of Wyoming, and with virtual assistants of one sort or another in at least four states.
Began to define the tool set that we will use to build our software and our organization over the next few years. This includes Google Apps, Harvest, BitBucket, WordPress, and, of course, the whole Android and Apple development stacks.
Initiated some marketing efforts for our products that I hope will pay off in 2011. We aren’t as far along as I’d like but, as my kind spouse reminded me just the other day, we only got the first apps up in the marketplaces in Sept/Oct and it was a busy fall. Probably the most significant of these efforts was becoming a contributor on personal technology issues to NurseTogether.com, a website for nurses. This gives a national outlet and some direction to the blogging that I had already begun doing on my own ChecklistRN site, in support of our apps targeted at Registered Nurses.
Held on to my ‘day job’ as a freelance programmer working for a very small group within one of the world’s largest software companies. I work very hard to make sure that my remote colleagues on that development team have the same kind of real-time access to me and productivity out of me as they have come to expect over 5+ years we’ve worked together. The upside of this effort is that it does help me remember to ‘work ON my product business and not IN it’. The downside is a lot of early mornings and weekends doing SPG tasks. (I am not a late night sort of person. I’ll get up at 4 long before I’ll work till midnight.)
Sales. Sales? Revenue? You want to know if we’re making money yet, right? Well you have to take my word for it that 2010 was never about generating significant revenue from the apps. It was all about educating myself on the new platforms, tool sets, and marketplaces. Remember, the last time I was a software product manager was in the ancient days of shrink-wrapped software. I figured I’d have to spend $10,000-$20,000 on this part of my education and, without having done the detailed accounting (which I should do) I’d say that’s about what I’ve spent. It’s a lot of cash out of the pocket, but I’m acting as my own angel at the moment and it’s what I expected to invest. On the other hand, compared to the old days of software development, it’s chump change for getting four products out the door, even tiny ones. Nonetheless, in the spirit of transparency inspired by Patrick and Peldi, I will disclose my actual results here. Remember the products were all released in the last four months of 2010 and so far have had essentially no direct marketing done to promote them. Here are the retail prices and total download counts as of the end of the year. The revenue arithmetic is left as a woefully trivial exercise to the reader. (But I will reveal that the revenue highwater mark for the year was one $9.73 day.) BTW, if you care about my perspective at all, it is the first and last entries in this list that came as a tremendous surprise to me.
- DOT Placards (Android), free, 2430 downloads
- DOT Placards Plus (Android), $1.99, 41 downloads
- PasswordRN (Android), $3.99, 21 downloads
- PasswordRN (iPhone), $3.99, 2 downloads (+ 2 comp copies given out)