Market-driven product development

15 06 2008

Over the past six weeks I’ve done more to connect with potential customers and understand the market needs than ever, and it’s beginning to pay dividends in my motivation for product development.

My re-entry into the world of climbing wall management began last month with a trip to Boulder, Colorado for the second annual Climbing Wall Summit. It was there that I began to recognize the growing desire for climbing gym management software. As one conference participant put it, “there is a national unspoken need in our industry for someone to do this [software] right.”

As part of my effort to understand that need I’ve begun following a few climbing blogs, news sites, and forums (see the climbing news in the sidebar). Even the Climbing Wall Association recently opened up an online forum, which I’m hoping will be a valuable resource in connecting with others in the climbing community. The CWA is also planning to form a committee on the development of climbing wall management software, and I’ve thrown my name in the hat as a potential member of that committee.

In addition to establishing connections with potential customers and gaining exposure to real market needs, these sorts of interactions have helped make what I’m doing relevant. As a software developer it can be easy to become isolated from the users of the software and the market it serves. When that happens for me I tend to lose a little motivation, so I’m beginning to see the need for balance between product development and connecting with the market.

As a result of this renewed connection with the industry I’ve begun working on the next version of ClimbPoint, which I’ll document over on the ClimbPoint blog. Included in version 0.7 are a few features requested by my beta testers, and down the road I plan to take action on some suggestions I received while at the Summit.

Even with the launch of ClimbPoint I’m still learning a lot about starting up. I’ll continue to blog here about entrepreneurship and starting an ISV, but product-related news and information will be posted on the ClimbPoint blog.

The ups and downs of starting up

17 03 2008

As I reflect on my journey toward product launch it seems to be (among other things) one big emotional roller coaster. I came to this realization a few months ago when I was in a pit of despair with regards to the probability of successfully launching ClimbPoint. Despite the bleak outlook I knew that things would soon enough be on the up and up, so I pressed on.

The diagram below is my take on what I’ve experienced to this point (I’m at the end of the Demonstrating phase now) and what I expect will follow in the months ahead. I think I’ve already begun to accept the emotional ups and downs that go with starting a new venture, but we’ll see what happens. As a side note, this experience has been not unlike the ups and downs of grad school 🙂

Entrepreneur emotion curve


The five phases at the top of the diagram correlate to the main phases of Vijay Jolly’s nine phase commercialization process, which I’ve mentioned before. I’m curious as to whether other entrepreneurs have experienced similar highs and lows when starting a new venture. Anyone relate?

Regardless of my current feelings on the potential for success, the stance I’ve taken to this point has been one of perseverance with the intention of taking this project as far as it goes. As I’ve mentioned before, I think getting there is half the fun.

Entrepreneurship and Failure

10 10 2007

The prospect of starting a company or developing a product, for me, has led to a bit of soul searching. Why am I really doing this? Do I have what it takes to create something that people will actually want to pay money for? Is there a real need for my product?

I don’t have answers to either of the first two questions, but an article in a recent issue of Inc. has me thinking. The article, Mapping the Entrepreneurial Psyche, states simply that the reason people start companies is to prove themselves superior to others. Now, I don’t necessarily feel the need to prove myself — but I do enjoy a challenge. And I have experienced, as quoted from the article, “the joy of creating, of getting things done, or simply of exercising one’s energy and ingenuity.”

For me the article was an interesting introduction to Joseph Schumpeter, and I was particularly struck by his ideas on failure:

“Schumpeter held the view that failure was a phase through which nearly all people must pass on the way to success. The ability to take a punch, and then get up off the canvas to win the fight was, he thought, one of the defining characteristics of entrepreneurs”

I experienced a sort of failure a few months ago in regards to ClimbPoint wall management software. As I alluded to in the recap of my trip to Boulder for the CWA Summit, I had the opportunity to send a demo version of my software to a climbing wall manufacturer after the conference. They were interested in reviewing the software so that they could, at some point, begin offering the software to new climbing wall customers.

I was excited to have someone else review my software, so we signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (thanks Nolo) and I sent them a copy. The feedback that I received was mixed. The software seemed too simple, and it was lacking in the area of reporting features. The idea was good, they said, but it needed some refinement.

At first this news was devastating for me. Someone (gasp) didn’t like what I was doing! But that’s not entirely true — they said it was a great idea (why else would they have wanted to try it out), and I got some really good feedback out of the deal.

I’m keeping this experience in mind as I begin to ask others to be a part of the ClimbPoint Beta testing program…I’m keeping things hush hush right now (partially because I don’t have time to post it all) but hope to let you in on my master plan very soon. Stay tuned…