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Working out Volo

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User offline. Last seen 12 years 2 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10

Volo is my brand new F/OSS-based software startup that freely gives two web-based tracking products away, as well as sells the media, the manual, the tech support, and the consulting. I am working out its profit model and marketing at this time. Feel free to give me advice. Occasionally I am elated, sometimes I am discouraged. Your feedback can help me see what people actually want.

Latest, this week:

* Volo at volosystems.com has been launched for two weeks now. It currently has no cash and has paid at least $1000 in expenses and expended 5 years in web development of its main product.

* I hold down a difficult day job for 8 hours and have a 1 hour commute each way, making for 10 hour days. I work Volo at nights and weekends and it's had a huge toll on my health, family. I have the "startup bug" and will not stop until I am successful. My hope is to have this pull me away from my day job and into working most of the time for Volo. When that occurs, I'll switch to daytrading for half of the day and then switch to Volo on the other half. Eventually I can quit the daytrading and work full-time with Volo.

* I purchased a CDR burner with Lightscribe in order to have somewhat elegant but inexpensive distribution costs. Later on when I can afford silkscreened CDRs, I'll use those. Good thing the burner and the software was LaCie, which clearly supports Ubuntu Feisty and works fantastic.

* I purchased from ULINE a pack of CDR mailers, and the material for the manuals was purchased from Office Depot. I could stand a quality, color laserjet, but I'll have to wait until some revenue comes in.

* The website hosting was from one that was a2hosting.com because of their PostgreSQL and SQLite support, two databases I love. They also had a good scalability plan where you can start small and move up with what I considered to be fair, incremental costs.

* The company was created with the help of LegalZoom.com.

* I've sent out official press releases to all the Linux trade journals, print or online, as well as lxer.com, reddit.com, digg.com, and listed myself on Wikipedia in a table of Issue Trackers.

* I've posted on ubuntuforums.com in the Developer area to see if others have gotten involved in doing GSA-schedule or FAR (USA Govt) work with their software development projects. I will continue to find other places to get advice regarding this. I'm wondering if there is an inexpensive and yet effective way to get involved with this. And, to allay your fears, when I say get involved with the USA Govt, I don't mean in support of the wars or not in support of the wars -- actually, there are tremendously helpful things that can be done for USA citizens through F/OSS-based software.

* I've left voicemails with various startup incubators in South Carolina, USA but have not heard back.

* I was contacted by a startup company seeking to be a VAR and they asked if I had considered reseller options. I had not and could take some advice here. About 15 years ago, I've worked for another company that was a Novell VAR and we used subcontractors in all states and territories of USA, so I'm sort of used to this. However, what concerns me is my fee and how I can help their company as well as mine, and any other pitfalls that I might encounter.

* I've had praise for one product and then praise for another. The praise was glowing and it was a thrill. You see, it's not all about sales. It's about getting excitement and buzz, then feedback, making the products stronger, gaining marketshare over the competition, and finding profit from F/OSS that makes it all that worthwhile to make more and improve the products I have. I hope to continue to react positively to any criticism and to make the products better. I hope to receive more feedback.

* I snatched up a free voicemail number at privatephone.com and I recommend that if you're a startup.

* I highly recommend trying to stay as cheap as possible as a startup. Become a money miser and watch that spending. When you feel it's too much, put a halt to it and work towards the marketing.

* I've noticed I'm not very good with marketing and sales. I hate it, actually. I'm much better at being the idea man, and sharing my excitement for what I've built, and then building something as cleanly and efficiently as possible. I wish I had another partner, but then without revenue at this time, I'm stuck.

* I've written an article for corporate IT managers and small business owners about the concept of Issue Trackers. I have then created an outline from this. I need to submit this outline now to some magazines to see if they wouldn't mind having me write a full-blown, interesting, edgy, and entertaining article for them on Issue Tracking, with the hopes that readers will see the author blurb at the bottom that talks about my product very briefly. If you can suggest some magazines that might be worth my while for this, let me know.

* I've wondered if I should generate a survey to submit to about 1000 F/OSS companies to ask them very simply if they are profitable, if they could share with me what was the first thing that started to make them reliably profitable, and if they have advice for my company or my product. What do you think?

* I'm working on making my product run on a server appliance, and to produce my own web-based management software for Ubuntu Server that will host this appliance. The server appliance will come in two modes: an elegant Mac-Mini type of box (just a slight bit bigger) for law offices, or a rackmount server. It will not come with a monitor and keyboard and will be administered remotely. Just plug it in and go, practically. Of course, servers like this need to come up on DHCP by default at first, and need the MAC address printed on a label on the NIC in the back of the system. A system like that can then ping all hosts on the given subnet once every 2 minutes, for at least 2 hours. That way, a LAN Manager can use the 'arp' command on Linux, Mac, or Windows to translate the MAC address to an IP address, can hit the website, switch it to static, and then go reserve that IP address on the DHCP Server as a static entry. Anyway, so far the software is started, and I have a collapsing/expanding Javascript menu on the left and modules that load on the right. It's going to look similar to eBox at ebox-platform.com but be geared for Ubuntu Server, PHP, Apache, PostgreSQL, SQLite, and my product.

User offline. Last seen 11 years 31 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
Here's a little

Here's a little encouragement for you: libervis network has a project "in the fridge" that we can't execute yet. One thing we need is bug tracking software (which needs to be customized A LOT), the other is a large huge sponsor. We now know where to get the first (and who to pay for the customizations we need), the second still is a problem.

User offline. Last seen 12 years 2 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
Thanks for the news. Gah!

Thanks for the news. Gah! The Volo site is down. A2hosting said they would need to have maintenance on the servers and they're running over in time. Too bad I didn't use DynDNS -- I could point to a separate site in the interim. (Note that some people have complained that DynDNS doesn't always work and it still takes 24 hours before they replicate your change. But most of the time it works.)

User offline. Last seen 12 years 2 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
I've thought that, in the

I've thought that, in the interim of waiting for Volo Milestone to engage, that I might bootstrap the business with other means. I also think that once I have an actual server appliance with Volo Milestone, I might actually begin to see some serious traction with it.

Some of my bootstrap ideas were:

* No matter what the bootstrap idea is, I could always reference a link back to the main site of volosystems.com. That way, I could potentially upsell on other things.

* Take a look at mint.com. What if I were to create a similar site that took your finances and budget numbers and drew a set of charts? It's not a very hard site to do. I could even import CSV data fairly easily. People could get some charts for free and then more thorough charts could be done for a higher fee. An economics student could be found on the web to give advice on making the charts better. I think if people could get a better handle on their budgets, or have something they could pin up on their refrigerator every month to help them see how good/bad they were doing from the previous month or same month last year, and broke out in spending sections, that it would be of enormous value. And I would think that people would pay me at least $12.95 a year for that. Of course, I'd have to tell people that I won't store anything except an alias and finance numbers, not stuff for identity thieves, and tell them that PayPal handles the credit processing and identity storage for me.

* Create template website packages and post them on the web.

* Resell jewelry. There's incredible markup there and many existing sites are clumsy and poorly executed. Yet, some sites have great items that are discounted. If one could produce a site that looks fantastic, operates smoothly, keeps no inventory and merely resells what's offered on the other sites, it's win-win because you make money and so do the sites you resell for.

* Resell camera security equipment. I'm in the wrong business! I mean, there's massive markup here. I've seen how simple these devices are to hookup because in my day job they had to do this. Yet security companies that come out to install them will charge a bulk cost of $15,000 and may only have to spend less than half for the equipment. Plus, I don't even need to keep the inventory, just resell stuff from other sites that, again, are poorly executed and unattractive, and charge my own markup.

* eBooks.

* Document the company progress with a journal. If ever I become slightly profitable, I could then turn around, reformat the journal into a book, and sell the book idea to a print publisher.

* Rate Your Site, $5. I could be paid $5 to rate website designs and provide advice. It's a little tough, though, because, duh, I could use a little advice myself!

* Web-based Easy Database. It's a primitive database website for businesses to track stuff or make personal todo lists. Make 1 database for free, buy a set of five more for $9.95. The databases stay active and aren't removed until you delete them or have 1 year of no activity. Each database can have secured login accounts and you can share logins across a group of databases. Another cool feature could be static and dynamic popdown listbox fields, and different field types. Another plus could be that I make the site look like Google.com's stuff and perhaps they might actually want to purchase it some day because it could blend in so well with their site.

* Content Affiliate Marketing, and with tips from wickedfire.com. Sites like this are exactly like those on the Libervis network. They are forum and news sites. They make cash "in the margins" (literally) from Google AdSense and other advertising opportunities.

User offline. Last seen 7 years 26 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-26
The reseller channel looks

The reseller channel looks like a good option to me though I'm not experienced in it. You hate sales and marketing, and can't scale very fast if hours per customer are high, in your position I think I'd gladly let someone else do it who has paying customers and meets them during working hours. How about a smart logo/link with something like "official Volo partner" or something for the resellers website?

As for fees I'd steer clear of flat rate and negotiate a rate for billable hours based on a little market research. Vars could get new staff every so often who want to be spoon-fed, or decide it's cheaper to let all their customer support staff contact you instead of one of their own people, trapping you in call-centre hell for a set fee. Time is money, that's the core calculation.

On the other hand, staying in the revenue chain could be hard since you're giving away the software. Once the vars get up to speed will they need you at all? No, that's vendor lock-in, but you can be very useful, I'm thinking silver, gold, and platinum support plans with fees matching service level. If you're the guy who controls the official release you can charge a premium for prioritising certain change requests which would otherwise be back-burner jobs, you could outsource some of the coding for speed but watch cash flow like a hawk, cash on delivery but the buy-sell lag can kill.

As for getting someone on board for sales and marketing, does it have to be a salaried employee? If you knew someone with the right stuff the offer of shares in the business might tempt them to work without pay up front like you. A reseller pack could spawn a small army bringing in customers for a percentage, but a small A-team can run rings around a much larger B-team. One person with the right contacts could land large accounts very quickly, it could mean 80% of 500k instead of 100% of 200k, if you get the right person. As with any business it's all down to the team, the seller the counter and the doer.

My gut tells me if the vars are chomping at the bit they know their customers are ready to pay, there's money out there with volosystems name on it and I'd be keen to tap that as a priority if the right deal can be done. The greatest negotiation position is being able to walk away from the table, and since you're already direct selling you don't need them, if they thought you did you'd be fighting for a survival deal. They should be made aware that using vars can be one element in your mix, win-win but not dependence.

That's my two cents for what it's worth :-)

User offline. Last seen 7 years 26 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-26
I think if you do 10% of all

I think if you do 10% of all that you should definitely drop Supermike and leave it at Cal-El. You're as bad as me for the seedbank of ideas, that stack of A4 pads has grown steadily since '92. But just as my one wish would be infinite wishes, several lifetimes are needed to do all the interesting things personally.

That list of projects seems to suggest you're in the "anything but this day job" place right now, but as your first post pointed out that already is a cash cow until another venture gets going, and you can go part-time when volosystems starts pumping. Focus. Do one thing right at a time and enjoy the journey.

Volo isn't the be all and end all, all the more reason why getting the right folks on board even if that means you're not the 100% owner looks like sense to me. If I've learned anything it's that one man isn't a winning team. Once you have a winning team and strong revenue, you gain excess capacity. With that capacity other projects can be spawned one at a time with the same approach to making each one a resilient economic engine. Make that three cents.

User offline. Last seen 12 years 2 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
Hey, some decent thoughts,

Hey, some decent thoughts, Democrates. Thanks. By the way, the volosystems.com site is up, but it appears that my stats are blown for September (the stats generate an error) and I noticed it wasn't the very latest backup, but pretty close. The only thing new was that I had updated some feature requests in Fixer for the Fixer app and those are now gone. Luckily I remembered what those requests were.

User offline. Last seen 11 years 31 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-08-23
Sure, there are

Sure, there are possibilities to make money everywhere. But you have to do what matches both your talent and your passion, or else you will have put just another boring task on your plate. How much do you know or care about jewelry?

1) find a problem you care about and which you can fix
2) fix it
3) profit

User offline. Last seen 12 years 2 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2006-03-10
I just had an awesome

I think I have a great idea.

Okay, SugarCRM already has a revenue stream. And in a slight sense, they're a competitor of mine. But not quite. I mean, Sugar offers so much more than my product in one respect, and so much less in other respects. I really don't want to be a competitor to them at all. I want to be a partner. So the idea is that, since SugarCRM is always looking for new gadgets to plug in for their portal system, I could provide a small Volo Milestone gadget that displays some new, current, and resolved ticket summary information pertaining to a given user or their workgroup, and then provide a launcher button from that so that the user could launch a new window and log right into Volo Milestone if someone has installed this on their network. That way, the products complement each other. If someone just isn't satisfied with the issue tracker provided in Sugar, they could try mine out. As the relationship continues, I could find even more ways to link the features of Sugar inside Milestone and inside the Milestone gadget inside of Sugar.

It could be a great way to pipe some of Sugar's extra, untapped revenue stream into my revenue stream. It's win-win for both of us. Instead of a potential customer here or there abandoning Sugar because it may not have an Issue Tracker that they like, even if they like many of Sugar's other features, they could stay with Sugar and implement my Issue Tracker.

Moreover, there are countless portal products on the web, and they're dying to list new gadgets for their product. Google even has a gadget system for iGoogle and in a way I can make it link back to someone's local Volo Milestone server in their office or whatever IP address they have it on. The trick is to understand the gadget API, extract the username in the portal product, and sync it back with the username in Volo Milestone. Then, when someone clicks the "Open Volo Milestone" button, it asks them to login and they can then see their tickets. As time progresses, I can improve the gadgets such that if you login to the portal, you have effectively logged into Milestone, and thus you can click the button and jump right to your tickets in a new window.

memenode's picture
User offline. Last seen 10 weeks 2 days ago. Offline
Joined: 2004-07-12
Sounds like a good idea. I

Sounds like a good idea. I think that these "win-win" alliances are what you should be after. Also, it might be good to hook up with the Free Software developers and users community somehow, find users among GNU/Linux desktop users who like to tinker with stuff and who develop their own software. There are a lot of them and some might just find your fixer better than trac or bugzilla. This may not directly generate any revenue, but it generates another thing you desperately need, publicity and potentially the buzz around your offerings.

Cheers

__________________

Daniel Memenode signature

User offline. Last seen 7 years 26 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 2007-02-26
That sounds promising. Can

That sounds promising. Can you isolate all portal specific code to each portal plugin or will volo also need an abstraction layer with integration code for each one?

I'm wondering if the trick is to keep the plugins as simple as possible to minimise upgrades for user installations, and centralise as much of your code as possible for ease of patching and upgrading. Forgive me if that's total codswallop, I've never done what you're proposing but may well look at it properly in the future for some project.

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