Every month I got a phone call like this:
<John Doe> Hello Kico!
<John Doe> Its me, John Doe, how are you?
<Kico> Wow! It’s been a long time! How are you?
<John Doe> Man, I’m great, and now I have a great idea for a new business, and you are the one I need to implement it!
<Kico> Sure… again???
<John Doe> Yep! But this time things will be rather different!
<Kico> Well, let’s see it…
And believe me: John Doe is not a single guy… and talk after talk, just by “accident” I’ll all his dreams with simple questions like: “what about your business plan? Did you wrote one?” or “and how will you finance this thing?” or the worst question of all: “who will want it?”. Of course, at this moment, he will forget about that marvelous idea, but after some time he will call me again.
It’s one of the worsts developer illusions: there’s no easy way to get rich.
It’s usual to see a lot of people starting to get interest on software development based on this illusion. And what is more interesting: money on these cases lost it’s real meaning: as Aristotle used to say between 384bC and 322 bC: “money is a meaning, not and ending”. But even more than two thousand years after, people still don’t get it! Money still is seen as the main goal of everything. And here comes what I call one of the worsts developer traps of all the time: the Bill Gates syndrome:
Just because the wealthiest man on the world get rich with software, it doesn’t mean you are going to be rich too! Based on what the media says, maybe you think you will. But believe me, based on the four main arguments shown by them, you wont. The main arguments are:
- Software development is easy! (“look at Bill Gates! A wacky guy wich got billionary just doing that!”)
- If your idea is great, people will buy it (“you won’t need a business plan! People will be running after you!”). You just need to be inspired.
- Build your software, throw it on the Internet and it’s done. It will be a hit!
- A true genius never is understood at the beginning. Just after!
I’m sorry to tell you, but these four arguments are pure bullshit! So, let’s take a deeper look at them.
“Software development is easy”
Well, if t’s so easy, why most software development projects fail? If it’s so easy, why isn’t everybody coding and designing new software? Why just very few are doing this at this present moment? If it’s really so easy, why botther creating graduation courses like Computer Sciences?
Believe me: software development is hard. It’s not something that everyone can do. It’s easier than it was at the 80s? Yes, we have better tools, but the world is way more complex than it used to be back then. Please, don’t fool yourself with this bullshit.
“If your idea is really great, people will buy it!”
Sure! And you don’t even need a business plan right? How can people know what they really need if they don’t know what they need?
(here we can see the level of arrogance of these people. Just because you solved YOUR problem, it doesn’t mean it will solve everyone else problem!)
If something is going to be successfull, it have to be really well designed. It’s necessary to have a business plan, knowing every single risk. Who are your suppliers and competitors? Who will want your product? Usually, by making these questions, the “future billionaire” starts to feel a little sadness while we talk. And here comes the worst part: usually this “future billionaire” doesn’t even know how do describe his new amazing product!
Here comes my “kiconian” theorem: if you can’t describe something in words, you just don’t know it at all. The prove is simple: if you know something, you also know the vocabulary wich surrounds it and the relationship between the terms involved. If you don’t, there are just two options:
a) Your idea sucks
b) Your idea is still on development (so it still sucks)
“Build your software, throw it on the Internet and it will be a hit”
People really think that just because something is on the Internet, everyone will see it. By doing that they just forget that you have to know at least two things: how to divulge it and, even more important: how to deal with the feedback it may have! I’m the living proof that this argument is false. Here is my story:
In 1999 I wrote my first piece of software, wich was called MatMaker. It was a tool for primary and middle school students wich may have problems solving math exercises. For my surprise, it was a hit! Suddenly I was cited on several academic papers. By throwing it on the Intenet, of course I wanted to make a buck. The strategy was: public schools whould never need to pay a dime for the software, but private ones should. Well, what I got from it? Monetarily speaking: nothing. Just some experience (some (some (some))). For years this software was widely used and I never got a single penny for it. But at least it helped a lot of people, wich already pays for itself.
In 2001 I needed to send lot’s of e-mails to the users of MatMaker, so I wrote another piece of software called KMala. Since it was built just to solve my problem, I thought that maybe it could be usefull for someone else, so, again, I just made it available to everyone, for free on my website at the time. Well, for my surprise, it just got popular. Lot’s of people wrote back to me asking how much does it cost and my answer was always the same: “nothing. It’s free. If it solve your problem to, it’s fine for me”.
Well: another surprise: someone started selling the software (and this someone was not me). How it was 2001, several ISPs started to change how their SMTPs and POP3s servers worked. As a consequence, KMala just stoped working. How I didn’t know that at the time (it was working just fine for me), it was just ok. But suddenly my inbox was full with complaints of people wich actually bought the software threatening to sue me if I don’t fix it. It tooked YEARS for me to clean my name and show those persons that I actually NEVER sold this software to ANYONE.
(important detail: for my horror, a good fraction of Brazil’s spam at the time was sent using this software)
As you can see, I’m a good example that this argument doesn’t work at all. In both cases, it was a hit. The problem was: I didn’t knew how to deal with the feedback.
“A true genius is never understood at the beginning. Just after!“
This is a cruel argument. So, to kill it, just take a look at the pictures of these guys:
Looking at those pictures, we can find a pattern: the illusion that the guys wich are getting billionaires are just developers like you and me. You got the illusion that at the first moment they were completely ignored, but later, given their geniality, they just triumphed over those who ignored them right? Wrong!
They’re actually just the public face of their companies! Who at the beginning do you really think managed the business? Do you really think that Steve Jobs was the only responsible for every single aspect of Apple administration at that time? Of course not! Let’s face it: it’s too naive to think that way. Behind those people there’s actually lot’s of highly skilled executives and venture capitalists wich REALLY manage their companies. Without them, believe-me: there whould be no Microsoft, Apple, Facebook or any other.
Ask yourself: if you are starting a new company, why make it’s public face someone wich doesn’t appear to have any business experience at all? The answer is: because it’s all about marketing. The target audience is you, the developer. They want you to think: “Hey! if they did it! I can do it by myself too!”.
Notice that behind every one of these “leaders”, the product its actually a platform. A platform wich you may enrich by adding new functionality with your software. You may of course make some money with it. But believe me: who really makes the big buck is not you.
So, I’m sorry if I just destroyed one more of your illusions.
Getting rich is not easy. And if you really see money as your goal, well… sorry to tell you. But you are an idiot. Money is only the medium, not the goal. And, after all, when you die, what really matters it’s not the money you made. It’s what YOU made with it stupid!
Software development is extremely difficult. If you just get into how these people really got all their money, you’ll find a lot of work, uncountable frustrations and a huge amount of stress. Nothing is easy. The only thing they all share in common consist in their perserverance.
And where does this perserverance comes from? From their real love to their jobs! You got to be deeply in love with what you do if you REALLY want to make something that matters. You have to wake up, brush your teeths, eat, walk, sleep thinking about what you’re doing. Not as a punishment, but as the main goal of your life, at least at that moment. It must be almost like a sexual experience when you are working. If not, believe me, you’re screwed.
Only if your fathers are extremely rich you’ll get rich in an easy way. If not, sorry to tell you again: it’s going to be a rocky road!