Can Your Code Be a Product?

I was speaking to a developer the other week about compression, as I tend to do these days.

"I should really tell you about the compressor I've been working on! I've been developing it for the past year." he says.

"Wow, that's amazing! When are you going to start selling it?" I said instinctively. Then a strange pause occurred, and as I wondered what that awkward silence was all about, I realized that he worked full time for a corporation in one of those illegal contracts that says the company owns all his work. But moreover, he'd done this on company time for his company. He was the only developer on the project, he could've worked out a deal to do this as a business, but he didn't.

Sometimes that makes sense. Sometimes we get to work on things we could never complete alone. We learn new skills. We work on things that can't necessarily make a lot of money on their own, or would take much too much sales and marketing to do easily without a company.

In this case, it actually didn't make much sense. He knows people who would buy it. He just wasn't thinking like a business person, he wasn't in that mindset. And he potentially lost millions-- at the very least hundreds of thousands-- of dollars for that.

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I talked to a developer a few days later in a really similar boat. He'd made an app himself during some time off, but he wasn't that confident about it and he just went to work full time at a company after his time off. A couple years later, someone had literally made millions off of a very similar app by making the tech and getting acquired.

I'm not saying he would have also made millions, but the possibility didn't even come to him.

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Software development is a unique place to be. In how many other professions can two developers run a company quite comfortably and make and sell a product? It's pretty amazing.

It doesn't work out for everyone, of course. But the key point is that it is possible. We don't necessarily need giant corporations or a team of salespeople to do well, depending on what we're making. Binomial's certainly doing okay without that, so we're a good case study there.

I know many developers who are essentially making products and giving them away for just a salary or throwing them out because they don't truly understand their worth. Next time you work on a project, really think about what your work is worth and get creative about how to get at that.

Closed Source Engines are a Big Risk

Some Stories of Mentorship