Sunday, August 5, 2012

Business of Software 2012 Scholarship

Clayton Christensen Makes us Laugh
Students who are serious about starting a real business need to attend the Business of Software Conference. A student might think that she already has everything she needs to build a business. She'll have a degree. She subscribes to Fast Company and Inc. magazine. She reads Hacker News religiously between classes, and follows the top VCs on Twitter and Google+. She even created an anonymous online social network to organize lock-picking field trips through the steam tunnels on campus. Pick/Up has matching iPhone and Android apps, natch.

But I bet she hasn't had the opportunity to meet and learn from founders who are quietly operating successful, sustainable, and profitable software businesses around the world. Until she's met that one Dane who sells image stitching and recovery software for a living, she has no idea how straightforward a software business can be. No subscriptions or viral marketing required. How can that be enough to pay the bills?

Karl Treier
And then there is that guy that suggests that you talk to customers face to face like they did in 19th century France before the internet was invented. He also suggests that all those social media and business rules might be wrong because he has such great success ignoring them. Why doesn't he just find a business co-founder to tell him what to build? Why doesn't he just believe what he reads in articles with titles like "N Ways to Double Your ____"?

Oh, and what about that guy who sold his company for a fortune and then locked all his money into a charitable trust? He reduced all his belongings to two carry-on bags and one bike. Why would you do that? Doesn't he know that you can have two bags and still be rich?

Then there is this Business Professor, who sounds like a qualified conference speaker. But instead of talking about business plans and venture capital, he talks about what job a milkshake does! Where do they find these people? Everyone knows what a shake does. You put it in your mouth. You drink it. Why doesn't a restaurant just make the best shake and be done with it? You don't need an advanced degree for that, do you?

Minimum Viable Product
This other fellow has a strange idea: he wants you to try to start selling your product before you even build it. Literally. He picks a name, puts a web page up, invents prices, and lists the features. The entrepreneur only builds it if there is enough demand. Except he doesn't build it. He pays a contractor to build it. Is this even really a software business?

Delegates meet people who are like them, share experiences, and share knowledge. It helps knowing that there are other people out there who are like-minded, friendly, and are on the same path. And you also meet people that aren't like you, who have amazing crazy ideas, and completely different businesses than you do, and that's interesting and useful too.

Dharmesh Shah
Students are at a point in their life when they can most easily take a chance and try out a few of these different viewpoints and ideas. The one problem is that the conference is expensive by student standards. But I can help with that.

For the second year I'm sponsoring student / recent grad scholarships to the Business of Software conference through my business, Moving Average Inc. The scholarship gets you into the conference. You'll still be responsible for getting there and finding a place to stay, but you're resourceful. You'll get a ride and surf on a few couches. Then you'll have a wonderful experience making friends and learning.

If you're an interested student or recent grad and you can make it to Boston October 1-3, please visit the Business of Software Blog to learn how to apply for the scholarship.

I hope to see you in Boston!