Sunday, November 07, 2004

Adjusting expectations and strategies

Fresh from my realisation that Sydney wasn't the most original idea in the world I've re-analysed my situation and made some adjustments. While I was never absolutely certain that Sydney would be a run-away success I have to admit I was fairly confident that it would spark a reasonably successful business. With that business I expected to be able to set myself up comfortably for quite a few years to come.

I'm not so certain of that anymore. Finding out the market for Sydney has become a fair bit more crowded with New York, London and other products has lowered my expectations somewhat. I'm now thinking that a few years of quite modest* income is a much more likely outcome.

* Keep in mind you're talking to someone who currently pays himself a wage that's much closer to the unemployment benefits amount than the average weekly wage so my idea of a modest income is probably well below your idea of a modest income.

I'm not giving up though, just acknowledging the more likely than not possibility that Sydney isn't the million dollar idea I thought it was. Maybe Sydney is a stepping stone idea, something that I can work on while I come up with the next project, or perhaps it will eventually evolve into something else completely. I'm going to forge ahead though, at worst the experience will help me to better prepare for my next venture. I also think I can probably make enough sales to go part-way to getting me off the tech support consulting treadmill.

My strategy does need some adjusting though. Previously my strategy was simply success or bust in the form of one grand release (which with all the recent delays would have been late 2005). Since I no longer have as much blind faith in the Sydney concept it would be foolish to keep putting all my eggs into that one basket.

I think I need a more staged strategy, one that's more transparent as to how well the project and business is performing to it's goals. That way I'll hopefully be able to recognise if and when Sydney has run it's course and when it's time to move on to the next idea. Here's a rough outline of what I'm planning:

  • Release a version sooner rather than later,
  • Reduce the scope of the first version to allow this,
  • Target a narrower market where I have a good channel to market Sydney through,
  • Leverage any successes in this narrower market to expand to other markets and
  • Reinvest this initial income back into the business.


At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Cool, I get to comment on a post which was written in the future - it's still Nov. 6 here)

That's a good strategy. Probably more important than the revenue from your initial customers though, is the feedback that they can give you to help you refine your product, marketing, etc. That presumes, of course, that the initial revenue is at least enough to keep you afloat.

Having a good initial product is useful, but more important is how quickly and efficiently you can iterate to the product the market really wants. You can probably survive being wide of the mark with your initial product more easily than you can being slow to adapt.

Good luck!

Tom Morris
(same Tom as before)

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Roger Jack said...

I also agree that this is a better plan. There is nothing wrong with having competition. In fact, it validates that a market exists. You just need to find a way to differentiate your product from others in a way that is meaningful to your customers.

Good luck!

At 2:01 AM, Blogger Chris said...

VCs prefer to back experienced entrepreneurs, even if they've been unsuccessful. Why? Because just as you've discovered, there are a host of issues you can't anticipate until you're actually trying to build a business.

Congratulations on accelerating the speed of your learning!

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Craig said...

You shouldn't be discouraged because you have discovered you may now have serious competitors you did not anticipate. Remember WordPerfect and 1-2-3 used to have market monopoly.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Staged, more flexible strategy sounds good to me. I wonder if it would be possible to build a prototype with some cooperation with a potential customer, and avoiding building the software in total blindness. I wonder if you are familiar with 20/80 rule, which says, when applied to your situation, that 20% of the features provides 80% of the functionality your customer needs. Now, it would be cool to know those 20% of the features as early as possible.

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Craig said...

80/20 rule is a misnomer. A customer may use on 20% of the features of a product, the problem is every customer uses a different 20%.

At 5:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if every client would use different 20% set of the features for their 80% of the needs, this would imply, that all the features are of equal importance from the software vendor point of view, which I don't think is the case. This depends on the business domain, but I would say, that there can be found core set of features. Additionally, there are probably features "everybody" uses, and features that "nobody" uses.


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