As an entrepreneur, whether you’re big or small, there’s a good chance you’re sitting on a successful software idea. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to develop software that can maximize the value of the business you’re already doing.
For Dan Martell, who was named Canada’s top angel investor in 2012 and is the founder of three successful companies, one of his biggest ideas came out of a small fix he created for his everyday work life. Dan would spend hours responding to professionals who were trying to network with him—and the process of scheduling a time to talk was a hassle. So Dan created some simple software that solved the problem.
The result was an award-winning software application called Clarity.
“It was never meant to be an ‘idea,’” Dan says. “Clarity was just a way for me to schedule phone calls from people who were emailing me asking to pick my brain… and then it became a 50,000-person expert network.”
Your idea is what counts. You don’t need to be a technical person or a computer programmer to come up with the next big software solution. Given today’s easy-to-use, pre-built software building blocks, just about anyone can assemble a new application.
Dan continued, “The technology has become essentially ‘modularized.’ When Clarity was built, the first version, we used just three API modules: Stripe for payment, Facebook for the account, and Twilio for the connectivity. That was it…and it was built within a day.”
Those three pieces were all it took for professionals to connect, setup a meeting, and pay each other for the expert advice they needed. Dan is confident you can bring your idea to life with the same ease.
You Need a Microscope, Not a Time Machine
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to go back to 1999 to turn a simple idea into a success. Today’s business environment is just as fertile. Dan says that’s because each level of innovation “unlocks” the next one.
“That’s what gets me excited,” Dan explained, “because I believe most companies have an opportunity to look at software. If you’re a successful company, then there’s something you’re doing—a process, a system, a methodology—that’s working for you.”
It’s just a matter of figuring out what you’re already doing right, picking apart why and how it works, and then developing that into a platform other businesses can use. Most important of all, when you craft your idea, avoid the distraction of the digital.
It’s About Solutions in the Real World, Not Programming
The technical term for this kind of business model is SaaS—Software as a Service.
Cloud-based service companies have been the textbook examples for this kind of service, and yet the definition has continued to widen as new types of businesses expand into the digital realm.
This even includes the now-famous taxi service Uber. “A lot of people didn’t think Uber was a big idea, since it was such an analog, off-line interaction,” Dan says. “People were [obsessed with] the ones and zeros,” instead of the world-changing potential of drivers and riders physically meeting up in the real world. The software just initiates the connection and secures the payment.
So find the idea first, then attach the digital relevance. You also don’t have to worry about fulfilling everything yourself. Dan says it’s key to remember that Uber is the world’s largest taxi service, but it doesn’t own any taxis. Just as Airbnb works like a massive hotel chain, but doesn’t own any rooms or hotels. That’s what makes service-based software so efficient at solving problems.
Dan says creating this kind of software is within anyone’s reach, especially if you have experience or already own a business. “If you already have a customer base, then build software that’s relevant to them… and then you have ready, built-in customers.”
Use SaaS to Boost the Value of Your Company
Dan is walking proof that software builds up business value. In 2009 he decided to expand the reach of his consulting business, which he did by creating a software platform that made it easy to network with other small businesses in San Francisco. The result was his first SaaS company, called Flowtown, and its value grew over three years as it added more than 50,000 users.
This value can add a consistent boost to your revenue, especially if you’re in a cyclical or seasonal business. Or you can cash it out completely, as Dan did when he sold Flowtown for a tidy sum to Demandforce.com.
Now it’s your turn. SaaS could be the perfect opportunity for you to take what you already know and transform it into software.
Even though people tend to fixate on the legendary stories—like the 18-year-olds who built Facebook—Dan wants to assure seasoned entrepreneurs that hard-won business experience is still the best path to success.
“It’s not about being technical anymore,” Dan says. “It’s about do you know how to build a business, do you know how to present a compelling offer to the right customer in the right market. I think software enhances all of your current business efforts by adding a much better upside.”
For more valuable insights, check out Dan Martell’s popular Youtube channel.
Garrett Gunderson is the founder and Chief Wealth Architect of WealthFactory.com, and a financial advocate for entrepreneurs.