In any field, starting up a new business while surrounded by established giants can be a daunting task. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of software development, where—in today's modern information age—you are essentially trying to set up shop right next door to the existing, well-established alternatives. Your physical location, as a software developer, is all but meaningless.
As a software startup, you need to be able to do two things primarily: you need to be able to develop new software applications affordably, and you need to be able to bring them to market, allowing them to stand alongside those produced by larger firms and compete based upon their own merits. There is always a need to be met, or a niche to be filled, which some as-yet unimagined software application can do better than any product in existence already; as a software developer, you just need to be able to create it without spending a fortune (and put it where people will see it).
Open Source Technology: Expediting Your Development
Open sourcing of information is not a new concept, and when applied to entrepreneurial innovation it has seen the launch of world-spanning industries. In the early 1900s, for example, Henry Ford won a legal challenge against an automobile industry monopoly over a patent for a key engine component, which allowed him to initiate the formation of a new association with involved “cross-licensing” independently developed patents without money being exchanged in the process. This led to the rise of the automobile age in the United States, with prices becoming more affordable, innovation being encouraged, and design advancement proceeding at an almost breakneck pace.
Likewise, open source technology exists today in the software world. It can be used to provide the groundwork for the development of your own software applications, without having to worry about patents or licensing fees. Open-source technology is, by definition, free to use, modify, and distribute, which makes its use very commercially viable. Websites such as http://www.SourceForge.net allow networking between developers of open source software, as well as lists of open source projects in development—and free downloads of the results, when a project is completed. You can follow along with a given developer to see how his project is proceeding, and offer feedback or assistance as desired.
Taking it to Market: Where to Go to Sell Your Software
In recent years, a number of highly-ranked websites have appeared that are specifically designed to help startup companies market and sell their finished software. These websites have straightforward fees, are relatively low-cost, and may offer useful assistance with advertising. One such website, http://www.FastSpring.com, promises an elegant sales page which can be customized to fit the appearance and design of your existing website. FastSpring takes the headache out of dealing with shopping carts and individual transactions, not to mention handling interactions with multiple credit vendors.
Regardless of where you go to market your software, however, how you do it is at least as important. Pay attention to concepts such as SEO, or “search engine optimization,” the use of important keywords (terms frequently searched by someone looking for what it is that you have to offer) to ensure a highly-ranked website in major search engine results. If someone searches for something using your keywords, and your website isn't on the first page of Google's results, you're going to be in for a rough time. While we're on the subject of Google, their Adwords program—while not strictly vital—is a surefire way to drive targeted Internet traffic to your website. If you're trying to market software online, you need to learn what Adwords are all about, and use them—or pay somebody to manage this kind of thing for you. Google Adwords target ads based upon viewers' searches and online sales transactions; if somebody visits your website due to Google Adwords, it's because they want to be there, and further: they've invested money, in the past, into accomplishing what your product will do for them.
Other Sources of Information
A few minutes spent searching online will introduce you to many possibilities for developing and selling software efficiently and affordably, regardless of the size of your operation. You are strongly encouraged to investigate such sources of news and advice as http://www.softwarepromotions.com (which offers a periodical newsletter) and to spend some time browsing the Internet, educating yourself on the resources that are widely available, many of them for little to no monetary outlay.