Hello, Alex from the UK


I’m Alex, I thought it was about time I joined here.

I quit my programming job around 2 years ago to go out on my own, and to this day I’m still finding myself (aka haven’t a clue what to focus on). Since starting, I tried launching an analytics product but it wasn’t anything special so I shelved it. I have a few small Mac apps http://www.sandatum.com/products/, which bring in money but not much. I don’t have many customers, but the nice comments they send me keep my spirits up! I’m choosing my next product to build, which I would like to be another Mac app - but the potential profit is in question.

In between the products I’ll do contract/freelance web development to pay the bills.

So that’s me…

Hi Alex,

Welcome to the club! That Forex trading app seems like an odd grouping with the other 2!

There’s definitely a number of OSX devs kicking around here.


It sounds like your biggest challenging is finding and validating a product idea, correct?

You might try asking that question here in the forums. I think it’s tough to find that purely through direct searching, it’s more like having to talk to people about their work and what their pain points are, and then finding an undiscovered (or unsolved) pain point.

You might check out The 7 Day Start Up (book, videos, facebook forum). It’s pretty practical advice. I’ve read the book. It’s pretty good stuff.

I think the key is to be be TALKING TO CUSTOMERS. Once you learn the skills( how to get an introduction, small talk,etc.) its actually very very easy. But a lot of engineers are nervous about talking to customers.

The customer is the test of the business. Talking to the customer is like getting to see the test. It’s legal cheating.

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Website looks nice.
+1 for Ian’s comment taht Forex is an unusual “niche” product (doesn’t make it good or bad, just an observation)

How did you end up writing that?

Thanks Clay.

You’re right about that, I have a few ideas but I can’t decide - no one thing is really “pulling me in”. I have started to think about talking to people and building something that they want, but I’m stuck finding who to target, e.g. I know a lot of tradesmen so I should probably talk to them, but would I find someone else (or area) more interesting…

As for the Forex thing, I dabbled in it a while back and there wasn’t a version for the Mac. So I thought I’d build one. I came to a tricky coding problem half way through which took some time to solve, and while I was solving it, I looked at the product as a business and got worried on a few points:

  • Using an API, I’m at the mercy of others, I didn’t want that as my first product.
  • Marketing would be very expensive, the brokers spend a huge amount on marketing from what I’ve researched (AdWords, forum ad-rates, sponsorships fees, trade show booths).
  • The brokers all offer a free web-based platform or Windows software, so I’m not needed, only a nice-to-have product.

However, in favour of this:

  • I could charge a premium price, I would expect around to start £200 and increase with features (there’s lots to add).
  • I would be happy to offer the product to the first supported broker and offer to sell it to them, so they can have exclusivity - that could be a quick sale.

The development is on hold for now. I left the product page up to see if I got much interest but other than a few leads via AdWords (expensively I may add), not much.

I highly recommend that you do some serious research on “how do you find a good product idea”.
I know people have written about this in the past, so it may just be a matter of finding the good posts.

Then talk to customers. Lots and lots and lots of customers.

I think the key is to realize the definition of a startup is “you don’t know if it will succeed”. Therefore only startups that shoot for the moon get funding. But people get things reversed, they start thinking ** every startup is shooting for the moon**

Once you realize there is HUGE uncertainty, then I’d view it all as hypothesese that you need to test.

Think about it like this: If you could magically answer 5 questions, what would they be?


  1. FIRST: what is their pain?
  2. What will they pay to solve it?
  3. How many will pay to solve it?
  4. What’s your cost to build it?
  5. What’s your cost to market to them.

And you can actually answer all of the above (with a healthy error %) before coding a single feature.
Rough estimates will at least tell you which ideas are awful ( you can’t find anyone who would pay enough for it, etc.)

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Forex trading, Image & Photo Organiser and URL checker - you seem to have picked some very competitive markets to sell into. I think it is going to be very difficult for a 1-man-band with a small marketing budget to get noticed in these big markets - even if you are only going after the Mac desktop portion of them.

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That would explain some problems I’ve faced. I thought the ‘Mac only’ factor would have sufficiently narrowed it down in a way it became a niche, or at least a market size similar to example niches I’ve come across. The URL checker took me a day to code, and I do no promotion on it what-so-ever, it was a tool I needed and I had nothing else to do. Surprisingly it did quite well on App Store promotion alone, and at £2.50 profit (after Apple’s fee) I’ll leave it that way.

What do you think to niches like invoicing software for tradesmen, web designers or one of Rob Walling’s ideas: invoicing for therapists, are they too large?

I have heard quite a bit about invoicing apps, so I am guessing that is also a very competitive market.

Do different professions need different invoicing apps? I would have thought there would just be a few different use cases (self-employed, small business, enterprise etc).

How would you differentiate yourself from all the other invoicing apps?

Disclaimer: I don’t know anything about the invoicing market.

I’m not sure myself that they do, but I’ve seen it used in quiet a few examples when narrowing down a market.

I needed to learn a new framework for a client’s project, so I thought I would use that time wisely. I know a lot of tradesmen and targeted invoicing examples were fresh in my mind, so I asked a few of them and they asked their friends on the job. The general response was that most jobs are cash based, and for when they do need an invoice, they have a Word document that they reuse. All 10 or so said no, can’t see a need. So, I never wrote a single line of code for it…

I planned to differentiate by including invoice templates with accreditations or certifications (where they had them). That should have been the sole product!

There was one angle to where it could work, and that was an employee who does several jobs a day (e.g. fire alarm testing) and has no dealings with the money. However, a business like that will already have accounting software in place no doubt, along with payroll and everything else. In the end it would be no different to any of the current big players.

If you know lots of tradesmen, try asking them what problems they have day to day. What causes them the most wasted time and money. I think this article has some useful insights:

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I know I’m a bit late to join this thread but I just wanted to say that the article on customer interviews is a beauty.

Also when Alex said “I know a lot of tradesmen” that leapt out, as if it was in flaming letters. Half the battle is won! Then in the very next phrase he sabotaged himself by deciding on a product for them. It’s great that his research succeeded at invalidating the idea, but a shame if he stops there. Go back and interview those tradies, get to know their problems from their point of view. Don’t even think “what software do they need?” Just aim to know their problems, their language, their business.

When you’ve done enough research there’s no doubt remaining about what product will sell.

And don’t give in to the voice that says some other industry will be more interesting. That voice is always there, ignore it!


Wow, Andy, that is FANTASTIC. Should be REQUIRED reading for all uISVs… errr… Boostrappers.