I’ve gotten hooked on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site for creative projects (art, movies, etc). It’s awesome that a community of people with shared vision can quickly & easily come together, dollar-by-dollar, to collectively “kickstart” the project of a perfect stranger. To me, Kickstarter says a lot about human nature and goodwill, non-monetary rewards, and the desire to be a part of something meaningful.
It also got me thinking about for-profit software businesses, and how to fix something that’s been bugging me: There’s no marketplace for all the “fringe” feature requests that every software company inevitably hears. In software, we survive and profit by creating features with general appeal to our customer base. We build the stuff that 80% of customers want, and “chip away” at the more obscure capabilities.
The very obscure ones? Long tail. Sadly, most never garner the attention required in order to make the roadmap. Why? The simple truth is that the cost of development probably outstrips the lifetime value of the requestor’s account. Or there’s just no time or money in the current budget. So, the development team, or the product manager, or the marketing guy, pretty much unilaterally decides to bury the idea.
But, in this day and age, does it really make sense to do anything unilaterally any more? So much of what we do is social, and collective, and based on the input of connected communities. Google PageRank. Quora. Groupon. Market price. Shit, for years, we’ve been “voting” & “liking” the software bugs we think ought to get priority. But I haven’t seen a true (ie. real money) marketplace for niche feature development.
In Fundry, I think I found it: “crowdfunding software” for software companies. A world away, Fundry seems to have been bugged by the same market flaw that’s been bugging me. Will this magically ensure that niche features get made? No. But now there’s transparency, and each feature has a fighting chance of gaining steam and getting funded (which ultimately benefits both the company and the customer).