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Interviewing Software & IT Leaders
In the fourth issue of Avangate Digest, we had the pleasure to talk to Andy Brice, a UK-based software developer with over twenty years of professional experience and the owner of Oryx Digital, a software company which sells shrink-wrap software and provides consulting to other software companies. He launched Oryx Digital with PerfectTablePlan, desktop software for doing table/seating plans for wedding receptions, corporate events, charity dinners etc.
Adriana Iordan: Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you came to found Oryx Digital? What is PerfectTablePlan?
Andy Brice: I have been interested in computers since I was 12. I started programming in BASIC on a BBC Micro my grandmother bought for our family. I did a degree in physics with the vague intention of becoming a theoretical physicist or an oceanographer, but I became more interested in programming.
I got married in 2004. To help out with the planning I offered to do the table plan for the reception. Table planning sounds rather trivial, until you actually have to do it. It was a nightmare, even with only 60 guests and no family feuds or divorces to take account of! I searched the Internet for software to help, but I was rather underwhelmed with what I found.
I was made redundant from my .com job at the end of 2004. I had had enough of working for other people and decided it was time for a new challenge. I set up Oryx Digital at the start of 2005 with the intention of writing shrink-wrap software, providing consulting to software development companies and perhaps selling some of my photographs. I released the first version of PerfectTablePlan later that year and have been working on it continuously since.
Andy Brice: According to my cookie tracking, the blog has sold one sole copy of PerfectTablePlan! But I didn't start www.successfulsoftware.net to promote PerfectTablePlan.
Andy Brice: The results of print ads in wedding magazines (as far as I can tell) and affiliates have been particularly disappointing so far. Download sites also don't work well for me - most of my customers have never even heard of Tucows or Download.com . I would advise others to concentrate their efforts on SEO and Adwords beforehand. Start with a small daily budget for Adwords if you don't want to learn the hard way. Also, no matter how good your marketing may be, you still need to have a great product and great support.
Andy Brice: I asked lots of friends and acquaintances what they thought a reasonable price would be for PerfectTablePlan. The feedback I got was that anything under £ 20 would be an impulse purchase. I also looked at prices of competitors. I started at £17.95 and raised it to £19.95 as I added more features. $34.95 was roughly equal to £19.95 when I set the dollar price. It wasn't a very scientific process.
Andy Brice: My customers not having to read the documentation I spent ages writing. There are lots of things that go towards making software usable. But the key thing is that it is obvious what to do and how to do it at each stage. This is particularly important for PerfectTablePlan as many of the customers only use the software once (for their wedding) and many of them aren't very technical.
Andy Brice: The other table planner products I looked at, seemed rather moribund and I really wasn't sure if there was much of a market for table planners. But I sold my first license through a wedding website within 48 hours of the first release. That was a huge relief.
Andy Brice: Too many to list! Thankfully none of them have been serious mistakes, so far. The founder of Honda once said "Success is 99% failure". He was probably an optimist.
Andy Brice: In roughly decreasing order of importance:
I would always recommend that ISVs have more than one ecommerce provider, so they can give customers a choice. It also protects the ISV if one provider has server problems, which does happen. I understand from forums that some of the ecommerce providers (giving no names, but I don't mean Avangate) try and upsell all sorts of dodgy deals to ISV's customers. To me, this is totally unacceptable.
Andy Brice: Being noticed and staying ahead of the competition. It doesn't matter how great your product is if no-one ever hears about you, so don't skimp on the marketing. Even in my little niche I have at least 8 direct competitors and at least another 40 products with some overlap. I have to keep working hard to stay ahead. But I have lots of stamina and no shortage of ideas.
Andy Brice: Every person is different. Every market is different. What works for other people or in other markets may not work for you. Beware of 'one size fits all' advice. There is too much else to put here. You'll have to read my blog!
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