What’s a better gift for a business than new markets? That’s exactly what is waiting for many small software companies. In a smartphone and tablet app market that often disappoints developers because of the small average sums they can expect to make, there’s good news. Small software companies now have competition from do-it-yourself enterprise workers who are creating the apps they need.
That may seem contradictory at first. How could more competition from people doing something as a sideline be good news? Because the reason employees at large corporations are rolling up their sleeves to create their own apps is their inability to find what they need already on the market.
According to a report from Intuit QuickBase, “nearly one in five information workers has built or customized a Web app or software for work purposes without support from IT.” People are trying to solve their own problems because they can’t find the tools they need:
Businesses that empower employees to create their own solutions are quickly finding lasting value. Sixty-eight percent of information workers who built or customized an app on their own said they completed the work in less than a week. In contrast, 72 percent of those using an internal development team to build a solution reported it took more than a month to complete.
That’s what makes this news such a good sign for entrepreneurial software developers and companies. Clearly there is significant demand for apps, whether running on a smartphone, on a tablet, or in a browser (think of the app marketplace for Google’s Chrome).
But one of two things is happening. Either the apps that workers need really don’t exist, or it’s next to impossible to find them. In either case, there’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs.
What they have to do is get out of the habit of marketing to the IT department and find ways to go directly to the workers. Maybe the offer is to quickly develop specialized apps at a cost that comes within the budgetary signing limits of the employees or their direct supervisors. Or it could be that the developers just draw attention to what they already have.
It does seem clear, though, that there’s a significant opportunity out there, and probably one that will be recurring, as new projects and changes in the business environment likely create needs for new applications. There could be a business model here: a boutique custom software factory, getting products ready for those that want them, and then generalizing the results for an app that could be sold to other companies and workers who have similar needs.
If you build something people want enough, they will pay to download it. Just look at the experience of comic Louis CK, who started selling his latest one-hour comedy special at $5 a shot from a website. Within four days, he brought in more than $500,000 when filming the concert, producing a final video, and creating the e-commerce website ran just over $200,000. There’s a profit you can laugh about.