Building Software that Understands

One of the most common points of skepticism I face from people is the notion that computers can understanding anything. Meaning, they presume, is the province of human thought and not mechanical computation. Even as conversational assistants like Siri, Watson and Google Now have reached mainstream usage, the numerous failures in machine understanding serve to reinforce in their mind humanity's unique gift of understanding. It turns out that the meaning of natural language and computer programs can be modeled through formal semantics. The meaning of computer programs are modeled through formalisms like lambda calculus and modal logic. The meaning of...

Leverage in the Software Business

It’s a great time to be in the software business, because are many levers available to quickly produce products. Open Source. In recent years, open source has become a true phenomenon. One can find libraries for advanced technologies that are competitive with research offerings from the likes of Google and Microsoft. Even Google relies heavily on open source, which may be a key reason it iterates faster than Microsoft, which develops most of its software in-house. For instance, Chrome, itself based on the WebKit open source project, uses over 80 other open-source libraries credited in it About box. From machine...

SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Grants

During my MBA program, I investigated government programs for granting money to small business programs to conduct and productize technology research. There are two programs (SBIR and STTR) in which eleven different government agencies provide two billion dollars in grants to small technology companies. I actually wrote a preliminary proposal, which was modeled on a copy of a successful proposal provided to me from one of my classmates, Holly. The proposal was sent for developing feedback-controlled sports bra for SmartWear, Inc. While she was not the "principal investigator," she wrote the proposal, which led to a National Institute of Health...

Release Early and Often

Below is the blue theme that NStatic applications uses. I just went through removing a number of nonessential features from my product in order to focus on timely delivery of the first version. These features will appear in a later free update, but their presence in the initial version is simply delaying my revenue stream. This issue of “release early and often” arises frequently in blog posts; some of the more memorable posts I have read on the topic include the following: Eric Sink answers through his Business of Software series post “Finding Product Ideas” on how long it should...

Crowdsourcing

I used to think about the day (ever so closer) when I release a product, amass more money than I could deal with, and start hiring my first employee. However, my thoughts over the past year have leaned towards building a virtual company, built on outsourcing and personal offshoring, as I have written in the past. This I think is the model for future business in general… It also offers great opportunities for the individual, would-be entrepreneur, not just for “greedy” megacorporations, salivating at the prospects for more layoffs. Wired now talks about crowdsourcing as an emerging new approach to...

Software Industry Directory

I previous wrote about a directory of software companies back in 2004, which I found very useful for market research, listing various company information such as revenues, employees, products, etc. The original directory seems to be out of print, but I found another one called the “2006 Software Industry Directory” by Software Business Online. I haven’t look inside the new directory. While it doesn’t appear at first glance to be as comprehensive and organized as the original, it should be more current.

ComponentFactory

A new MicroISV, ComponentFactory, has just released its first and free (?!) product, Krypton Toolkit. You might want to grab the toolkit before the owner figures out a sustainable business model. The company develops user interface component libraries (google juice) for Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0. The founder, Phil Wright, maintains a blog (old blog), which I have been following since inception when it was listed in MicroIsv.com, detailing his entrepreneurial endeavors from initial startup such as designing his website and logo. His blog description says it all: Join me as I take a journey from concept to real...

Get Your Butt Outta Bed and Build Something

In one of my entrepreneurial posts, a reader chastises me for not delivering any product so far, OMG! You've been talking about starting this business forever! You have a penchant to just talk talk talk. How about do do do? Stop wasting e-ink and start hauling your e-ass outta bed everyday and build something... or maybe I misread you for something else than a part time pundit The reality is that my product and libraries run only on the Whidbey runtime and Whidbey had been delayed a year and a half late. I am also not allowed to ship a...

That's Impossible

I developed my software idea and worked on my business plan for over a year during my MBA program. As I was explaining my ideas, I had a number of students who expressed doubts based on “common sense” heuristics about my ability to produce the technology my business is based on. The doubts were centered on two things: The technical difficulty and “millions of dollars” in costs of creating a new desktop application. If it were so easy, Microsoft would squash you like a bug… The heavy reliance of AI technologies such as natural language processing, coupled with the difficulty...

Zombie

Part of my desire to be an entrepreneur is driven by fear—the fear of becoming some kind of zombie, working without passion, living on a treadmill. Some people use other terms like “rat race,” “wage slave,” and “mid-life crisis.” Growing up, I was afraid of acquiring the overhead of a stay-at-home mom with kids and a mortgage and working for a job, I didn’t enjoy, with the highlight of my day being, figuratively speaking, to “punch the clock” at the end of the shift, only to come home to additional pressures and count the days till I retire. Anand Vishwanath...