May 12, 2003

Interviews with Engineer Entrepreneurs

(The following is an adaptation of a recent blog post by K.Satyanarayan)

In a thought-provoking series of interviews with engineer entrepreneurs, Jonathan Rentzsch provides a fascinating insight into the mind of the software creators who turn entrepreneurs and establish businesses to sell their products.

The interview with Peter Sichel, founder of Sustainable Softworks, is particularly interesting. Here are some of the thoughts shared by Sichel:

Sustainable Softworks has a very low overhead and responsive software business model that supports a few of us to make a decent living. We sell directly to customers and encourage them to participate in improving our products.

As we learn from experience the model will adapt, but our purpose is to serve customers and build mutually beneficial relationships, not to grow for its own sake or maximize shareholder value.

I think my most important lesson is don't be afraid to try living your dream. Even if you start small and it doesn't turn out the way you expected, the experience will be worth it.

I think some people confuse marketing with sales and advertising. To me, marketing is understanding customer needs and communicating what you have to offer effectively. So my marketing principles are:

  1. Try to create solutions that people really need and will use everyday.
  2. Try to solve problems that other people are not addressing.
  3. Take the time to build relationships and trust so that people are comfortable dealing with you.
  4. Price the products to offer a lot of value

Two resources recommended in the interview are

  • Marketing High Technology, a book by William Davidow, an who became marketer extraordinaire and put the young startup Intel on the Map, and

  • Hacking the Press, a series of articles by Adam Engst of TidBITS outlining press relations and ways of getting noticed by the press, for software product companies.