So I’d like your advice, my dear Internet.
I have a software project called dbasr that I’ve been working on for a while — several years, on and off, in fact. Weirdly enough, it’s actually probably more relevant and useful now than when I started it.
I’ve rewritten the code base several times, but I think I’m on the final iteration for a beta release now. There’s nothing really to look at unless you’re a coder, but I’m literally working on building the UI right now.
I’ve been keeping the exact nature of it under wraps, because I wanted to simply drop it on the world. Not that it’s a secret — I’ve told a few people about it — but I’d like to be the first to market with it. (I can tell you it’s a combination of a web application and a service. If you know me and my interests, you might be able to fill in some gaps from that.)
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty substantial project for one person, and the reason I haven’t finished it is because real life intrudes. It’s a lot of code and a lot of UI design and there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ve tried to get other people on board, but understandably nobody’s been particularly willing to invest themselves into a project with no immediate paycheck.
I’ve talked to a few people I know about securing investment money — going the traditional angel-funding route. But after a lot of consideration, I’m not sure I see the point of doing so. I don’t need a lot of money — really just enough to pay my expenses while I finish writing the software, and a very little bit of hardware and running costs.
I also don’t trust anyone else to run this. My experience tells me that if I get money from angels or VCs, they’ll expect to direct the company’s business decisions, and I don’t think that’s a good idea in this case. In fact, the reason that dbasr is such a unique concept is not because I’m necessarily that smart, but because everyone who’s ever tried anything similar has ended up letting money people make the decisions on how it ought to work. I won’t do that.
I keep looking at tools like Kickstarter and Indie Go Go, which several people I know have successfully used to fund projects, and I’m thinking about using one of these for dbasr. Doing so means telling the world what it is and committing myself to a particular set of features, but I’m probably okay with that right now.
What I’m afraid of is somebody else running with the idea. In this case, I think it’s a cool enough idea that I’d be happy to simply see it out there…but I’d also like to make some money from it, and I think I’ve figured out ways to do that which are completely non-evil.
I’ve run the numbers and done my homework and I don’t think I can reasonably expect to get super-rich off of it, but I do think it will be profitable pretty quickly and make me enough money to live comfortably, and possibly expand into a thriving little business. “Little” being the key here. It doesn’t need to be a megacorporation. It’s a simple software platform that can be maintained by a small team, maybe even just me by myself to start.
I think it’s a tool that could seriously affect the way a certain subset of business in the world is done. Certainly the people who know about it have all seemed enthusiastic.
Look, whether you like me or not or think I’m a windbag, you have to admit something: I’m good at understanding where holes in the market exist. I’m neither capable nor interested in filling most of them; when I came up with an idea for an augmented reality device in 2003, I ditched it because I didn’t have the faintest idea of how to actually build something like that, even though I had most of the broad strokes of an iPhone in mind (digital compass and GPS with gyroscope, camera on opposite side of screen).
But this hole I can fill. And it might change the world, at least in a little way. It won’t cure cancer or feed starving children or teach Beyond Petroleum how to build an oil rig…but it’s pretty goddamned cool, nonetheless.
So here’s my question to you: do I go for it? Do I make some UI mockups, set up a Kickstarter fund, ask for money, share my idea with the world even though it’s not even ready for internal testing? Or do I keep soldiering away?
If I could just work on this 8-10 hours a day, without having to worry about paying rent, I’d have it done in just a few months. And it would be amazing.
Tell me what you think, in the comments here or on my Twitter @jzellis.