Saturday, October 13, 2012

So, how big is our market, anyway?

If I were trying to make some money selling software to mushers I think one of the first questions I'd have is the size of the market.  I'm not really sure how to answer that question with any precision, beyond noting that intuitively it seems that trying to make some money from selling something other than dog food or equipment seems destined to be, er, "frustrating" (and some kinds of equipment seem challenging, as well).  But for an imprecise measure I took a look at Jacques Phillipe's nice Web Kennel content management site, acknowledging that he's trying to solve a rather different problem from the one being addressed by Musher's Checkpoint et al.  He's got nearly 500 kennels signed up, and I took a look at the listings to try to get a handle on how many of them are paying customers and how many are using it for free.  A rough estimate is that about 10% of his users are paying subscribers, or about 50.  I would guess (with an emphasis on guess) that that percentage would be likely to go up if he supported tracking training runs, adding veterinary records, etc., but even if it went up to 100% of his users that would still be about 500.  If you were able to sell some chunk of software magic to about 500 people at $100/pop, which strikes me as about what the market would bear, that would still be a gross of only $50,000.  Subtract expenses from that and it strikes me as not really worth anybody's while, acknowledging that I could be underestimating the size of the market by some amount.  Or, for that matter, overestimating it.

I guess where I'm going with this is that it strikes me as extremely difficult to come out much ahead selling software to mushers.  A more productive model may be to start out small and simple and give stuff away for free, and community input/participation will grow the software in ways that people actually find useful for their own purposes.  I believe the young people call this "open source," while those of us d'un certain âge recognize it as the way that things used to work more generally.

1 comment:

  1. If selling stuff to the racers themselves is not big enough business, you could follow a model from some other sports. It is pretty common to have the star racers employ some tech, often free, and then the wannabe racers and normal people will buy a thousand times more gear because they think they need it. Not sure what product would work that way with mushers, however.