As a power user and an entrepreneur (not to mention a developer), I often look at a software product or service and think how I would’ve done it differently. If the concept is interesting enough, I might dive into some initial research to understand the market and the needs of the target audience.
Most often the process stops at that point as I realize that –
- The product is not as simple as it seems on the surface,
- There are reasons it is built the way it is, which were not immediately apparent,
- There is already strong competition in that space
I went through a similar progression when I came up with the idea for my startup, Binpress. I had just finished yet another client project rather quickly, thanks for the most part to the mature code-base I’ve been building for several projects up to that point. I was thinking to myself – instead of continuing to provide custom development for one project at a time, wouldn’t it be more efficient to just license the code stack I’ve been using as reusable components?
That was the initial idea, anyway. From there it grew to an idea of building a marketplace for developers to do the same, with the major competition at the time being codecanyon. The reason I felt codecanyon were “doing it wrong”, is that they focused on low-end, low-cost components mainly for designers and beginning developers, without any kind of quality control. They did seem to be making significant revenue (I scraped all their sales data and I can say with confidence it is significant).
Understand first, build later
Alright, so why am I bringing this up now, and how does it relate to the title of the post?
The research process I went through when I decided to build Binpress took close to a month. I used codecanyon for a while as a publisher and sought out additional similar services. I talked with freelance developers looking for internet jobs and codecanyon sellers, gathering as much insight as I could. The goal was to understand why codecanyon was built the way it is, and if my take on it is valid.
Not everyone shares the same process – I just read a blog post on a new service called Gitiosk, which is termed “Building a Binpress challenger in 48 hours“. In it, the team explains why they think it is better than Binpress –
- It is not a marketplace
- They don’t do any marketing for you
- No review process or quality control
- You basically sell your code yourself
Basically, they looked at all the main value points of Binpress and decided they are expendable. As someone noted in a HN thread on the blog post, the value offered by such services is everything but the actual sale. There is marketing and reach, which is difficult for everyone and developers especially suck at it, there is licensing which is difficult and confusing and you better have some legal authority, there are conversion and trust issues with prospective clients, if your code component costs something significant (we have components on Binpress that sell up to 1500$), or even if it costs at all – don’t underestimate the barrier of getting someone to hand over his credit-card details online.
We solved all of those problems (through a long, iterative process), and despite the opinion of the commentator on HN, we did take off – since the value of quality, ready-to-use code is not zero as he suggests (a surprising viewpoint). Gitiosk looked at the same market and decided to solve a very different problem. In my opinion, as someone with close to 2 years of experience with this market, they solved the wrong problems – and it’s probably only because they didn’t understand it enough.
On the bright side, it did take only 48 hours for a team of 4, so no major time loss there. Time will tell if their approach is better than ours (though I feel we already made our point, with many developers making a living from being Binpress publishers).