Shine A Light On Indies

January 12th, 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I’m pretty excited about what I like to call the “indie software business”. On Windows and other platforms this segment of the market is often referred to as “MicroISV.” Leave it to Mac developers to have a prettier name for it ;) but basically these terms refer to the same thing: small, usually 1-5 people software development shops, often based out of homes or other non-conventional office spaces. We fall somewhere in between the hobbyists and the full-fledged venture startups. Our ambitions range from self-sufficiency to funding a small staff, but we’re usually putting our own savings on the line. We’re bootstrapping our way into the hearts and minds of customers.

One of the challenges therein is getting the word out to … everybody. The customers, the press, other developers. The more people who know about you, the more likely they are to tell other people. You know, the whole viral thing, except Mac developers haven’t yet come up with a term for it that doesn’t sound like a sickness.

When I put on the One Finger Discount promotion last year, I was trying to tackle this problem on a small scale, and it worked. The excitement of the 20% discount, and the feeling of all this great software clumped together in one place inspired customers to check out lots of new things which had previous fallen beneath their radar.

But it was nonetheless on a small scale.

I’m excited to learn that Macworld Expo is taking the indie developer community to heart with this year’s show-floor offerings. A new $1250 entry-level exhibitor’s place gets you a spot at a kiosk with other indie developers, where you will be exposed to the thousands of enthusiasts and hundreds of members of the press who are expected to visit the show.

But Macworld has also taken a page from the One Finger Discount playbook, offering a free level of participation that closely mirrors the One Finger Discount model. The Indie Developer Spotlight invites developers from around the world to put their apps on sale for 20% off during the week of Macworld. In exchange, they get to be part of the virtual community and have their stuff listed on Macworld’s indie developer spotlight page.

I spoke with Paul Kent, Macworld Expo’s organizer, a few weeks ago. I tried to express on behalf of the indie community what we need from a trade-show like Macworld. Well, it’s not much different from what any business needs: maximum exposure for minimal cost. In our case, very minimal cost ;) Space on the show floor at an event like Macworld will never be dirt cheap. I have to imagine there are too many expenses in renting the space, paying for insurance, union laborers, etc. So $1250 feels like a very compelling price to me.

If you can’t afford that, or can’t make the travel work with your schedule this year, at least you can get in with the free, online community.