Can a single developer write code and then sell it? Yes, but it takes a lot of work to turn it into a product that people will want to buy. “Customers don’t buy code, they buy products,” explains Athol Foden, president of the branding firm Brighter Naming.
Foden led a session at Silicon Valley Code Camp entitled, “From Development, to Product, to Market.”
While you can create what you believe to be beautiful code, it’s not yet a product. There’s much more involved for you to turn work into a product that’s marketable. You need packaging, pricing, values, a brand, datasheets, documentation and support – all things a product manager handles. If you’re a lone developer, you’ll have to do all those things.
You Must Get Close to the Customer
If you work in isolation and don’t communicate with your potential customer base, you can’t succeed, says Foden. You have to give potential customers the product and see how they react. Get feedback and get real customers. Foden jokes that a Stanford student does not qualify as a customer.
The customer feedback is critical because what a developer might think is great code may completely fail in the marketplace. Alternatively, if your potential customer says they like it, they’ll tell their friends. It’ll force you to productize your code. And you can also ask, “Where can I find more like you?”
Foden offers up Peter Kellner, founder of Silicon Valley Code Camp, as an excellent example of someone who successfully productized his code and got close to customers. He developed a piece of software for opticians. When he originally designed it, he created it for one. Once he satisfied that optician, he looked for more by attending conferences.
In the end, Kellner sold his company (Foden’s mistaken when he says otherwise.