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Software Success Story: iolo

by NotePage, Inc.

Noah Rowles has been involved in software development in one form or another since he was about 8 years old. He is a self-taught software architect who places emphasis on design and interface rather than formula. Noah co-founded Unisyn Software, LLC in 1995, when the Internet as we know it today, didn't really exist. Unisyn Software, LLC used CompuServe extensively for distribution. Software would be uploaded to forums and CompuServe provided a software purchase/registration service (still known as SWREG), which proved invaluable when online credit card ordering didn't exist. The first big portal developed specifically for shareware distribution was Windows95.com. A download referral originating from Windows95.com resulted in Unisyn's first online credit card order, in early 1996.

In 1998, Noah left Unisyn and independently founded iolo technologies, LLC. Using much of what he had learned at Unisyn, he grew iolo into the multi-million dollar company it is today.

The market has morphed significantly since iolo's humble beginnings in the late-90's. Placement on the download sites was always free, and unless your products were not very good you were able to maintain top listings on popular download sites.

Since 1998, iolo has achieved consistent double and triple digit annual sales growth rates. This was the case even through the "dot com crash" years, where most successful technology firms' revenue streams were decidedly stagnant. iolo's projected growth from 2003 to 2004 is 230%. They were recently nominated for the 2004 Los Angeles Technology Fast 50. Noah attributes his success to the anecdote about the dog with the bone in its mouth that sees its reflection and loses his own bone trying to snatch the "other dogs". In Noah's opinion this lesson rings very true in business. The fact is that there are a LOT of things that will contribute to success, if you persevere long enough and dedicate yourself to perfecting your specific endeavor.

Noah feels that too many business people lose focus because of the sheer amount of stimuli they are exposed to. They start recklessly trying to be "everywhere" because they see some form of competition in each desired niche. This is almost always a fruitless strategy, as the only result is a futile squandering of precious resources. You have to ask yourself: Would you rather start 100 races and make it halfway through each, or start one race and win? Choose something and focus on it. Follow the rabbit tunnel all the way to the end. You have to be that hungry, and learn to recognize when changing strategies or giving up is exactly the same point where others have done so as well. The prize of unspoiled territory is almost always just a short distance here, and someone will eventually claim it.

iolo has consciously positioned their products in an area experiencing significant growth with the privacy "push". Five years ago, the word "firewall" was only used in technical circles. Now, it's a household word (and requirement). Early anticipation of these trends allowed iolo to develop products that were there to meet the needs of consumers as they became aware of risks and threats en masse.

iolo's product line has been designed with tight integration and Iolo takes advantage of selling System Mechanical Professional suite, an integrated product suite. iolo designs, manufactures, and sells award-winning software that increases the performance of computers running Microsoft Windows. Noah has found customers take advantage of a bundled product that is easy to use, understand and see the value.

According to Noah if you are contemplating retail distribution for software be sure to wait until you are ready. iolo found retail to be a seven-figure business investment with a number of risks. Net 180 terms are not uncommon and the minimum requirements set by the distributors are difficult to maintain. Noah would encourage other developers to use the Internet and other less risky mediums to attempt to grow into a strong position before pursuing retail distribution.

I asked Noah what advice he would give to developers just starting out:
- Grow roots before you grow leaves: Concentrate on the product. Don't worry about making money or quitting your day job before the product is ready. The worst thing in the world for a startup business is to have a product that sucks -- it's an almost irrevocable mistake, and can pigeonhole you forever in the "shedware" category. Customers remember, and the world is a lot smaller than you may think.

- Companies that put too much emphasis on marketing and not enough on the products end up doing themselves a preemptive disservice: They saturate the market with wide-eyed promises of incredible results at rock-bottom prices, yet they deliver substandard and arguably deceptive results. You may sell a few using these techniques, but when your product finally does work or when you actually do have something valuable to sell, your name will be mud. Plus, you will have contributed to a skeptical attitude among the software buying community as a whole, which only makes your and everyone else's job of selling legitimate products much more difficult and expensive.

Additional information about iolo can be found at http://www.iolo.com

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePage, Inc. http://www.notepage.net a company specializing in alphanumeric paging, SMS and wireless messaging software solutions. Other sites by Sharon can be found at http://www.softwaremarketingresource.com , and http://www.small-business-software.net


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