Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: What is the market for developer tools like?
15 points by curiousgeek on Nov 26, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 8 comments
How big of a market do you feel developer tools are - IDEs, IDE plugins, build tools, monitoring tools etc? Is there space for small companies to build something and survive profitably here?

How about if we extend the market to include programming frameworks, libraries and database systems?

To answer your first question, very big.

From a qualitative standpoint, think of this way ... all companies are now tech companies and developer jobs are always in any recent "hottest job" list you can find. So, it stands to reason that tools for those companies and jobs will be a big market.

If you want real numbers, here's 2 examples: (1) Atlassian is now a public company and pretty much only makes developer tools. They started with one product (Jira) in 2002. They now have a market cap of $11B and annual revenues of $620M [0]. (2) If you read Indie Hackers, you'll find people like Mike Perham who makes Sidekiq. Sidekiq is an open-source tool for background processing in Ruby on Rails apps. Mike makes $80K/month on premium licenses/support. Think about that, it does just one thing for just one developer framework and he makes close to $1M per year with no employees.[1]

So, yes, I think there's a big market (in the billions) and plenty of room for small companies. Off the top of my head I can probably think of a dozen developer tool ideas that I'd consider paying for.

[0] https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/TEAM

[1] https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/sidekiq

> Off the top of my head I can probably think of a dozen developer tool ideas that I'd consider paying for.

Would you care to share and discuss those? There are quite a few categories of developer tools, a non-comprehensive list of which could include:

- generic, one-size-fits-all tools that reach a very wide audience: IDEs, issue trackers, CI and code quality tools

- frameworks and libraries, which also are fairly generic

- one-off / niche tools and scripts for very specific purpose: Those are usually developed in-house to solve a specific problem and out-of-the-box they often don't have a lot of reproducible value outside of a particular organization.

Most of those don't real lend themselves to being realised as commercial products, in part because of existing tools, particularly open source ones and also because the target audience is more likely to implement a tool they need than any other audience (http://threevirtues.com ...).

I'd be happy to discuss in an email (too lazy to list them out here right now).

Regarding open source, I agree that's tricky. But its been proven it can be done one way or another. I think ansible and docker have shown that in the ops space.

Regarding one-off/niche tools, that's where glue tools like zapier become commercially viable.

I have personally discussed this issue with a couple of people who worked for the big dev-tool vendors in the 1990s. The consensus is that open-source has almost completely destroyed the commercial viability of the dev-tool market. Eclipse is an example of open-source tooling that now has support from former commercial tool vendors.

There still is a small market (in terms of volumes) for dev-tools sold to enterprise clients. But AFAIK enterprise clients prefer to buy from "enterprise strength" vendors. Which makes it very difficult for a smaller developer to compete.

The biggest stumbling block to being a tool vendor is the demand for support. Even if you can make money on selling the tools in the first place, the on-going support is likely to cost you more than you can charge in on-going fees.

Concur. I had a decent business selling software dev tools, gave up in the late 90s. The market shrunk, and today it is extremely limited. Even very profitable companies developing embedded systems (which used to be a goldmine, e.g. medical devices) prefer to use open source.

Agreed. Developers are hard bunch to sell to. We go out of our way to find free tools and almost look down on people who use decent IDEs or other tools. One example, when I finally got legit license for Sublime Text, all of my friends made fun of me for paying for a free software.

I think it depends on your market. I would imagine it would be easier to sell to developers on Windows rather than Linux (possibly macOS). I can think of a few tools that we pay for to make our lives easier to develop on Windows: Visual Studio, Resharper (Ultimate, which comes with a few other JetBrains tools) and Artifactory. On the flip side, when I'm on my personal laptop I run Linux and have no tools that cost me money. It isn't that I'm opposed to it, I just haven't found anything worthwhile to pay for that is definitely better than the open-source/free versions.

> all of my friends made fun of me for paying for a free software

That's a pretty unethical attitude. A developer, who by definition makes her living by creating software, more than anyone else should be able to appreciate that developers have to make a living.

I'm not exactly sure what this widespread attitude is caused by. Perhaps a mixture of a lack of empathy, a feeling of powerlessness and not having significant say in an organisation's direction.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2021

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact