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That was a pretty good post, csomar, but I'm going to critique it anyway. (If it was a crummy post, I wouldn't even bother.)

What I like about it: You're focused on building something that supplies an actual demand. Good!

What concerns me about it: You're still too focused on yourself. Every one of your bullets was about what you want your business to look like.

I think you're focusing too much inward when you need to be focusing on your prospective customer and how they will benefit from the value you provide them.

Examples are everywhere, just a few off the top of my head:

  - salons that wants to optimize their scheduling
  - retailers that want to improve one on one communication
  - actors/artists that need better portfolios
  - shopkeepers who want to capture more POS info
  - teachers who want to play bingo in class (never mind)
Get out of your office and find people like this first. Ask them, not us, what they want. Then figure out how to provide them with what they crave. (Once you find one niche and get going, you'll be surprised how much fun it is and how well it works out.)

The rest (your bullets) will take care of itself. The shape of your business will be the byproduct of doing whatever you must to satisfy your customers' needs.

One great resource that will probably help you:

http://www.amazon.com/Start-Small-Stay-Developers-Launching/...




You make a great point about the egocentric nature of a developer.

It reminds me of the saying "Working for youself means you don't have a boss. It means you have customers, which are much less forgiving and demanding than a boss would be."


edw519, I think your advice is in the right spirit but (as you admit) naïve.

nopassrecover, edw is 100% on target about looking outward. However actors, salons, and teachers are all good examples of people with little money to spend, who would not capture significant extra margins by adding software.

In my estimation, nopassrecover, you would do better to think deeper in the B2B value chain, particularly if you can flex relationships you've made in previous industries you've worked in. Imagine how many more people you could touch writing software that hooks into a shoe factory's shoe machines than making a web store -- and how much less of a customer's attention that would require.

Two consejos that I think are good (but not necessary) for entrepreneurs to follow:

1. Do a part-time job while you work on your own thing.

2. Use knowledge & relationships from businesses you have worked in directly.

And (3) for hackers specifically: spend some time thinking about and researching how the commercial world fits together. Who made the plastic fibres in the salon's brush? How does the aesthetic layout of the salon enable them to charge more? What other construction materials could they have used? What catalogs are thrust in the face of new salon owners and how does that affect the way they see their choices? What's the price history of the real estate they own vis-à-vis the other places they could have set up shop? And more generally: What companies in the world do the most revenue and why? What companies have the most profits?

The salon scheduling example is particularly naïve, because scheduling software would not add much value to either salon owners or customers.

But edw519, I very much agree with you about looking outward (both to meet business minded people and to meet people who don't have iPhones).


> The salon scheduling example is particularly naïve, because scheduling software would not add much value to either salon owners or customers.

Interestingly, someone told me recently that his sister, who runs a salon, spends a ridiculous amount of money on precisely this: scheduling software! He's a hacker and couldn't quite work out why she would pay $thousands (sic) for some crappy semi-customised calendar when Google Calendar works just fine: in the end it came down to, "because all the other beauty salons use this software".

Not that I'm recommending this particular niche, mind you...


As I understand it the dominant salon software is tied to product ordering and upselling; scheduling is of secondary importance (or less).


> What concerns me about it: You're still too focused on yourself. Every one of your bullets was about what you want your business to look like.

You could also look at them as constraints that need to be satisfied for things to function: it needs to look like that if it's going to work for him. I think it's worth filtering things like that if you're aiming for a "lifestyle" business. You're correct that you also have to filter by "what can I do to help people", but you're going to have to run both filters sooner or later.

I agree completely about the Start Small Stay Small book. I think it's one of the better ones I've read in a while. There's nothing earth shattering, but it's full of concrete advice and is aimed at "the rest of us" who don't live in Silicon Valley and aren't aiming to "change the world".


This reminds of the PG/FW email chain a couple of weeks ago re: AirBnB. No mention of the things we talk about a lot on HN such as scaling, UI etc... just the potential market for the product. Obviously at that level the discussion is very strategic, but it's where we all should really start.


AirBnB solves a real economic problem with the www. Just like Craigslist, a good idea doesn't need to be complex or splendiferous.


You're still too focused on yourself. Every one of your bullets was about what you want your business to look like.

Indeed. In business, u comes before i.


Unfortunately, it's also BS from start to finish (heh heh). People still care about their own lives, even if they realize that it's useful to appear unreservedly dedicated to the customer's needs.

And the niche you choose does make quite a difference in what the resulting business will look like, what demands it makes on your time, what kinds of customers and partners you will be interacting with, etc..

Unfortunately, if you're looking for "a niche, any niche" that happens to meet criteria completely unrelated to what the need actually is, who the people actually are, etc., it seems unlikely to work out well.

I suppose this depends on personality, but... it's hard to build a business. If you find the perfect niche but you actually have no past domain experience, don't have any personal connection to the "pain" you're fixing, etc., what will carry you through? I imagine you'd be much more likely to throw in the towel when things got tough (and I suspect investors would worry about that as well).


Get out of your office and find people like this first. Ask them, not us, what they want.

You make it sound much easier than it is. Getting out of the office: easy enough. Finding the right people who can tell you the right things at the right time: difficult. Very difficult.


No one said it'd be easy. But if you listen to customers with money and problems, at least you have a shot at being successful. When you approach people as the potential solution to their biggest problems, it's surprising how easily people will open up to you. And if one person doesn't open up, improve your pitch and go onto the next.


You're presuming you can actually find the right people to begin with.




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