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Okay, time to come clean about Scarecrow

A couple of years ago, I was pretty excited about Cabin Fever Software. The notions behind the company were, essentially:

  1. There are a lot of “niche” software ideas out there, and a lot of business owners who–if anyone asked–could rattle off a complaint or two about problems they have…problems that might very well be solved by a bit of dedicated coding time.
  2. A lot of large organizations are propped up by a few really good developers who feel trapped by their jobs…most of whose time is wasted by nonsense.
  3. If these developers and business owners can just get together, they’re a natural fit. On one side you have somebody with a problem in search of a solution. On the other you have a coder who’s good at solving certain sorts of problems, who desperately needs good feedback to know whether his/her solution will work.

So if you’re a large corporation, you can’t really target these micro-niches. Your organization is too inefficient, and there’s not enough money. And if you’re a sole developer wanting to work freelance for an hourly rate, you can’t get the individual small-business owners engaged, because they can’t afford you.

My solution: offer “free” software development for small businesses, and then sell the product to others at a reasonable price. It doesn’t take a lot of customers to support a single developer, or a small team…and I want to help free my people from one-size-fits-all corporate life wherever I can. That’s all of my people–I am claiming both developers and business owners here. I want the good developers to quit their jobs, and I want business owners to have access to, essentially, bespoke software. This may strike some people as radical, but I think this is all very doable. The process needs some refinement, but the basic idea ought to work. Actually I think this model is bound to come into existence eventually…I just want to see how I can help.

There were a couple of other guys who jumped on the bandwagon with me & then fell off for one reason or another, but that’s what I’ve done: I created Scarecrow in response to a customer request, and with a lot of good feedback as I went. It’s a test case, and I’m fairly pleased with it as far as it goes.

But then…I think I lost the thread. What I really want to do is build relationships between small businesses and developers, and learn how they work, and talk about them. And promote whatever seems successful. What I’ve done instead is work to sell Scarecrow itself. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, I guess, but it’s not why I got into this. Of course it’s exactly the kind of mistake you’d expect a coder to make, isn’t it?

So I’ve been talking about new pricing options for Scarecrow, and the front-end web app is being rebuilt. But I need to ‘fess up: I want to find good web developers and make customer retention easier for them. I want to give small business owners some insight into what they really get from their hosting providers, and (later…I have more notions in mind) from the web developers they hire, too. I think ongoing relationships between (any kind of) developers and business owners will generate all sorts of cool synergy.

Don’t get me wrong–I think the new mini-B2B features I’m building into Scarecrow will probably make me some money. But what I really want is a discussion. And nothing on the Scarecrow site gives so much as a hint about it. I think that’s a huge mistake.

Sadly, I’m writing all this after a thoroughly unproductive day (week…okay, multiple weeks), because my family and I recently moved to the Washington DC area and my daughter’s preschool doesn’t start until late next week.

The bright side? The enforced downtime is helping me to remember why I got into this to start with. Periodically I seem to need a reminder.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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