Now Is The Best Time Ever To Buy Instead Of Build
Starting a successful software business isn’t easy, but building the software for that business is getting a hell of a lot easier — at least for teams willing to buy over build.
The explosion of Web API providers targeting developers as their customers has created a ton of opportunity for software business builders to buy building blocks off the shelf.
In fact, the ecosystem for Web APIs has gotten so diverse, it’s possible to build almost an entire product simply by stitching together a few of them.
Here’s an example of something I’m actually spinning up right now as part of a bet to prove just how much you can build without heavy-lifting.
A Web Wake-Up Service
Say you want to build a paid subscription wake-up call service that is fully automated. Members can sign up, schedule a wake up, and be called on time.
This entire app can be built almost entirely from the following APIs and hosted services:
- Stormpath can be used to create the entire user creation, user data persistence, and user authentication and authorization logic. The product even provides white-label, hosted creation, login, and password recovery UI workflows.
- Stripe can be used to collect and charge the user’s credit card without introducing security or PCI issues into your app. Like Stormpath, Stripe provides much of the UI here.
- Twilio allows you to place phone calls programmatically. That’s a huge deal, because building such a technology from scratch would be downright impossible for a growing business.
- Mandrill can be used to send users emails about monthly activity and updates to the service.
With these services, the only “meaty” dev work left is relatively rote: collecting the user’s desired time frame and scheduling a simple job that will programmatically place the calls on schedule via Twilio.
That aspect of this particular app is tantamount to its “secret sauce”, and indeed, that’s where I as the developer should spend the majority of my time: building, tweaking, and improving the one piece of my app that does something different or novel and distinguishes me from other products in the marketplace.
(N.B., I’m willing the bet there’s probably something out there that could even streamline that work, too; I just haven’t heard of it.)
But what of the interface?
Well, with services like Stripe and Stormpath, a lot of the more time-consuming interface work is done for me.
The rest can be easily patched together from existing open-source libraries and frameworks like Bootstrap atop lightweight flat-file “CMS” platforms like Jekyll, which gel nicely with the authentication and authorization aspect of Stormpath, as well.
Yes, you still have some design work to do to make it all look and play nice, and there’s work to be done to make it responsive and accessible, but that’s window dressing for virtually all fledgling software businesses.
Competition is fierce in the software world, and anything an entrepreneur can do to streamline the dev process and expend energy only on the specific value-add that his or her company brings to market is critical.
API service providers like those mentioned are in the business of helping you do just that. Most of these providers’ services are purpose-built and easy to plug-and-play, oft reducing dev effort and time to market in a big way.
Sure, some (artisanal software engineers?) may deride a young business coupling itself too tightly to others that could disappear at any moment, but that’s an issue that can be overcome if and when it becomes an issue — after product-market fit is found, after core assumptions have been validated, and after the (paying) customer has been found.
Don’t scale (prematurely) is the mantra du jour, no?
The preceding example is just one of the infinite possibilities available to new software businesses can make a reality with very little time and very little investment — and it’s one exemplary of why now is the perfect time to buy instead of build.