This is a tougher question for me as there is no clear cut answer and the ideas I have are spread across all platforms – web / phone / tablet / desktop. All platforms have different pros and cons and also require different development skills.
I’ve been developing web based apps for over 20 years. The original ARCHICADselect Website was powered by early ASP and SQL Database. This evolved over time and became a whole front and back office system integrated with accounting, support, payments, subscriptions.
More recently I have been learning iOS development with Swift and SwiftUI. This has certainly been fun and has been great to see some early ideas come to life on my iPad – even if they are very primitive!
When considering platforms I’m also coming back to business models like subscription and freemium.
Freemium is where you have a Free Version and a [paid] Premium Version of the software. The general idea (and the details should be a post on themselves) is that the Free Product is a marketing Tool to capture as many users as possible and then convert a number of these to paying customers.
A key consideration with regards to Freemium is the “cost to serve” that is, how much does it cost to serve each freemium user. There are many businesses that have failed purely due to the excessive costs associated with supporting their ‘free’ users.
A fairly simplistic view admittedly is that free customers on a “web based” system will have costs that can increase significantly as the number of customers increases. While a piece of software installed on a users iPad has a very margin cost to serve which (should) stay under control with large volumes.
This is not the only consideration but an example of how different platforms can have different affects. Like I say Freemium is a strategy in itself and I’d be jumping the gun a little to be deciding my business model detail without first knowing what I am developing.
In short, this is one area I still need to give considerable thought, though based on some prototypes to date I can at least reduce the options to web or iPad – or ultimately maybe a mix.
For those of you who know me or are readers of this blog you’ll know I have a passion for creating business models based on recurring revenue – the majority of my consulting projects have been based on this aspect of business.
While Salesforce is generally credited with making Subscription based Software / Software as a Service mainstream, the last 20 years have seen
Subscription businesses build revenue over the long term so have high cash requirements during the short to medium term. However, the pay off, if executed well, can be very rewarding.
Another advantage is that the cost to get started can be very low if based on a monthly model. This is not to say that sales are or will be easy – value still needs to be delivered at any price – but having a fee based on a period of time reduces risk for the customer.
The flip side of this is of course the ability for customer to stop paying if they don’t see value. Therefore the sales process for a subscription business continues long after the initial purchase.
As a person who has always had a customer centric mindset I see subscription models and the associated customer journeys as compliments to the overall strategy.
While this may seem obvious, it also requires more explanation. With Cadimage we created a series of Tools for ArchiCAD. While the Tools were our IP, our customers also needed to own ArchiCAD before they were even a prospect for us.
Some estimates indicate there are 3-4 million architects worldwide. Let’s keep it simple and say 2,000,000. If you create a product that you hope will see a 15-25% uptake (tough) you could have 300,000 – 500,000 customers. But if you rely on that customer already owning a particular piece of software the 2,000,000 total addressable market is considerably reduced.
We found with Cadimage that even simple marketing like Google Ads was fraught with difficulty, as we’d constantly pay for clicks that were worthless as the people didn’t even own ArchiCAD.
I want to create something that can be assessed completely on its own merits and provide value in and of itself. Depending on what we end up deciding it may need to work alongside other software, but I don’t want other software to be a pre-requisite.
While there is huge potential to create add-ons for the different BIM systems other issues we faced was customer expectations that the primary software should “just do that” ie the tools we were delivering were expected “out of the box” this led to many people not investing (even a relatively small amount) to buy tools that could increase their productivity. They would say “the product will do that at some time so I’ll wait” I could never understand people who would prefer to wait in order to increase productivity.
If you look at business you can sell things or you can sell time – I realise this is reasonably simplistic but I have owned and advised both types of businesses. I find the ability to scale a product business far more compelling as you can scale without the direct correlation to employing staff.
Don’t get me wrong, it is great to create, build and nurture a strong team, but with a service business the easiest way to scale it to sell more time which requires more staff (again apologies if this is too specific)
If I was interested in the service business I could focus my current consulting business in that direction and think about how I could expand and scale. This isn’t really me, I want to be more hands on creating something tangible (or at least as far as software is tangible!)
Its been over 4 months since my last contract finished and with Covid spreading throughout the world we are in lockdown here in Hungary. It could be sometime till I get a new contract one feels.
I’m not one to sit idle for long so I’ve kicked off a number of ideas to see what may come of them.
Starting can be tough and although I’ve started researching, prototyping and thinking whether it will result in a new business is anyone’s guess.
Since moving to Hungary I have worked for GRAPHISOFT SE, and then subsequently started my own Consulting Business. While I’m working for myself from the consulting point of view, it is still for other people’s businesses and deep down I feel I want to build something of my own.
As I’ve been investigating I’ve started to think about what I would want a new business to look – maybe it’s a weird place to start, but based on past experience there are some things I have strong feelings about.
I’ll explore my ideas in a series of posts, and update this post with links as I continue.
I’m just back from a few days in Newcastle for the ninth bim show live event.
Its the first time I’ve attended but I have to say that Rob and the team put on an outstanding event packed full with a huge line up of speakers and exhibitors.
It was great as always to catch up with Rob Jackson and meet Emma Hooper. The work these two are doing primarily for Bond Bryan but also the wider community is incredible – I’m not sure where they find the hours for it all. They had two presentations regarding Better Information Management which were brilliant.
It was great to catch up with and also hear David Philp presenting as the Chair on the first day. It is a few years since David was down in New Zealand but it was good to reconnect.
Paul Tunstall’s demo of Rhino/Grasshopper/ArchiCAD/Twinmotion while showing me things I’ve seen many times before really started me thinking about something.
There was a good balance of presentations and social time and I hope I can make the trip across to attend again next year.
I also enjoyed getting out for a run and taking in some of the local architecture.
I’m in Bristol catching up with my former team from Cadimage UK. We’re almost on the shortest day, so there is more dark then light. It was a great change to test out the camera on my new iPhone 11 Pro.
Its safe to say I’m pretty impressed. Equally impressive is the lighting on the University and Cathedral.
Over the years I have travelled through countless airports and a number of train stations. Though train stations were built decades before airports the architecture catering for the mass transit of people is awe inspiring in both contexts.
Paddington is a regular of mine and it always evokes thoughts of steam trains and pullman carriages
Airports are equally impressive and have allowed many architects amazing expressions of structure to create grand spaces
I was in Christchurch Airport earlier this year and was impressed with the detailing in the regional waiting area:
Below are some shots from London Terminal 5, Taipei, Dubai, Hong Kong and Zurich
We’re in London for a few days to get in the festive spirit and today visited the Museum of Natural History. It is probably one of the most photographed buildings in London as the construction is absolutely incredible. Add the skeleton of a blue whale to the entrance hall and its hard to take a bad photo.
The exhibits are amazing but I was more carried away with the architecture.
This has been a target a couple of times in the past but for one reason or another it’s taken till now.
I had never really thought too much about running a distance over a long period of time but years ago I read this post and though the concept sounded relatively simple of running 3km/day – which I translated to be 6km every two days.
Aside from the actual running, the great thing about a goal like this is how you break down a goal in to smaller steps with their own targets: 500km in 6 months, 84km / month etc.
Breaking it down helps you focus on the short term while knowing the long term will take care of itself, it also allows you to celebrate the little achievements along the way.
Obviously not all goals can be easily broken into the same repetitive steps but the concept still holds.
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