Selling nothing is great way to make lots of money.

Vaporware? (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)

I was watching Duck Dynasty. Yes, yes, It’s not real, I know. Regardless, it is pretty funny. In this episode, I ran into a really interesting concept that goes against everything the techie and software developer side of me stands for. In the episode, they had sold a ton of cooking DVDs through catalogues, and had only produced the cover the DVD. The DVD content itself did not exist. They were able to prove a market for the product and only then proceeded to make the DVD to sell. The joke was them running around to produce this crazy DVD that the main characters in it didn’t even realize they were doing.

In other words, they sold vaporware, and a whole lot of it, and only when they new they’d recoup the costs of the DVD did they actually make it. (I’m guessing if they didn’t recoup the costs, they’d have returned the money with some standard excuse.)

Throughout my entire technically inclined life (high school, university and beyond), I’ve been told to despise vaporware. In fact, I think this is why many developers really dislike salespeople. “Vaporware” is more of a dirty word than f*** or s*** in many circles. The only other term I think is equally used as a perjorative is FUD. Yet, in this circumstance, it worked wonderfully – it provided the capital they needed to make the video well, and if enough sales weren’t made they would simply use one of the standard stock excuses you hear and return the money.

It hurts me to say this, but selling nothing is a great way to make lots of money. Note I’m not saying that you should sell nothing and get paid for it, I mean selling something you don’t have yet and use that to raise funds to build it.

Sounds a whole lot like Kickstarter actually. Except, in this circumstance, if you don’t deliver, you will have legal consequences unless you give the money back (and even then.) However, in this circumstance, it’s a lot easier to convince people to pay in because it isn’t a donation, but an actual purchase.

So what to make of this? Personally, I don’t know. I know my team has some amazing ideas for hardware and software, but we don’t have the capital yet to follow through like we want to. Yet, to sell it without already having it built seems somehow wrong, even if the client gets the product in the end (and may even not realize that it was vaporware at any point.)

However, I’ve learned in my life the propaganda and ideologies that have been ingrained in me sometimes are dirt wrong. So, this is definitely something I need to kick around in my head a lot more.

As a rule, I’ve always either sold a product we had, or a service we were ready to provide as soon as the contracts were signed. However, if you were selling thousands of products to thousands of people, and you had a plan to have it ready by the time they expected it delivered, if you got the money, what to make of that? More people will be happy to get a good product and you will be able to continue to sell it after the initial bang.

Selling nothing seems to be a great way to make money and, in the end, make a great product from scratch.

What are your thoughts?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Some translation needed (applications of immix)

Symbol of Confusion
Symbol of Confusion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A big problem I’ve encountered in business is the widening chasm between sales, marketing and IBM-style management folks and the new group of technical experts coming up. I’ve been in rooms where the marketing people have great ideas about a product and the technical people simply cannot understand or comprehend what they are saying or, worse, why it is a good methodology to sell a product. To them, it’s the technical structure of the product, the spreadsheets and data, not the human or “mushy” interaction with the wetware on the other side.

There are times I wonder if part of the reason techies spend so much time on futurism is the hope that by removing the wetware entirely, the system becomes much simpler.

However, it goes the other way around. Techies will describe what they are doing in terms that to them are simple, but to the sales and marketing guys are essentially another language. Many smart sales and management folks will usually retort with “ok, let’s pretend I’m an idiot, please explain this to me in language I understand.” I surprisingly polite, if somewhat demeaning way to ask for clarification. The issue though is when the techie “dumbs it down,” they resort to either simpler technological terminology, defeating the whole point of why the prototype they built is cool, or they change the terminology to a different field that they have less respect for (This is more common than you’d think.)

I confess, I’ve done both of the above. I’ve put on my sales, marketing and management cap and found it excruciatingly difficult to explain to a techie why the direction they are going won’t work. Why to sell the produce we need to do something more palatable, more refined. Why, at the end of the day, we need to have a product that actually works rather than the potential for an awesome product eventually. This is something I want to fix eventually, since if I put on my techie hat, I fall into the same holes as them. (Whoo, that’s cool, do that, don’t worry if it doesn’t work…)

I’ve put on my techie hat, went into a sales meeting and found myself discussing the more complex points of software engineering on a clustered system to an individual who only wanted to know why the algorithms on mutual funds were taking longer to calculate than he wanted.

Yet, ironically I’ve found when I’m not the one communicating, it has put me into an interesting situation. I can read over a paper on advanced clustering algorithms and explain to a manager of a small company why this is useful for their primary software product. I’ve also found myself in a technical development meeting explaining to techies that the sales manager is not demanding an entire rewrite, but simply a new field on a single screen.

So, while this is important and I enjoy playing this role. I realized that this is ironically what immix has become. The internet is full of 100s of APIs and organizations have likely thousands if not millions of different systems that have their own DBs, no APIs, no clean way to link to the old database and combine it with new systems in a clean fashion.

While more standardization of APIs is useful, that doesn’t give many businesses any ROI since they don’t want to throw out all of their existing work.

immix has become for many organizations an interesting middle man. It allows the various systems to communicate to it in their own way, and then through module building communicates what is necessary to other systems (including the nefarious wetware I mentioned above.)

It makes the software and hardware talk together. It creates a social network for humans, hardware and software.

Carrier to Noise Ratio of a QPSK Signal
Carrier to Noise Ratio of a QPSK Signal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The realization I had is that over the last 5 years we’ve encapsulated in software what I’ve been doing in business for a long time. we’ve built a technical translation system that allows normally incompatible systems to understand what they are doing and make more intelligent solutions, and this is important. The internet is overwhelmed with people talking to the wind, and many of the time with good ideas when you can understand the underlying logic. Adding things to the mix will just make it even more confusing, adding noise and not signal. Not because there isn’t signal, but because the things are all communicating slightly differently.

However, by having a centralizing IoT framework that repolarizes those signals all into the same frame, you can actually start to make sense of it all.

I’ve always felt like a jack of all trades because of my varied knowledge and personally worried that it put me at a disadvantage as I needed to read so much more to get the depth I wanted in all of the fields.

However, now it gives me an advantage because I can talk the various languages needed to build good businesses, and I can see how to build a framework that does the same thing electronically.

Maybe I finally found my niche.

Some translation needed.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Just a little unintended give

I’ve learned over the past 5 years, business is a funny thing. It’s sort of like piloting a boat without any real certainty of where the final port will end up being. You aim for ports that you know of; either from journeys others have taken, or from rumours of lands unexplored. The part where it ceases to be like piloting a boat is that you aren’t at open sea, you aren’t able to predict the weather, and to be honest, you can’t see the stars nor have GPS.

One person I’ve spoken to said, “it’s like tap-dancing.” You have to keep the beat and just keep on going, light footed, skipping past all of the issues, and not letting a stumble break your step.

That could be true too, but the problem is it’s like tap-dancing, where the music may suddenly turn into a polka or a samba at any time.

What I’m finding is it is, for better or worse, a martial art. You can learn from the masters and work your way up, and yes, some people have a natural knack for it. You start by learning the rules and the strictest throws and punches, being judged exclusively for how exact you perform them. However, as you go up the ranks you learn that being strict and rigid is a darned good way to break your arm. Following the specific steps you’ve learned is a good way to get thrown to the mat pretty quickly. Why? Because those are the specific steps everyone has learned.

What you realize is that it takes a little unintended give, sometimes.

Some people call it pivoting, but to me that implies a bit too much forethought. The decisions you make are too quick and too responsive to be simply a pivot. Spending a lot of time on a decision is a good way to waste money or, to use the martial arts analogy, quickly be thrown out of the ring.

We’ve probably all heard the “Kung Fu” slogan that you want to be like a reed, able to bend in the wind, not a stick which snaps. We also probably think we’ve taken it to heart in various areas of our lives. Probably true for the ones you can think of. Similarly. most people forget that a reed also had some rigidity, otherwise it cannot stand at all.

It’s not being a wet spaghetti, it’s a little unintended give.

Sometimes it sucks, but at the end of the day, it seems to be the best way to survive, grow and move forward.

A broken reed dies in the pond.


Enhanced by Zemanta