Where are all the software startups?

Where are the software startups? Where are they?[1] It’s a question that’s been on my mind for years. I don’t get it. Clearly many people want to work on their own software. The abundance of open source software is evidence for that. Clearly people want the independence you get from doing your own thing. Clearly people want to be in charge of their own destiny. Clearly there is a market for software that doesn’t suck. Technology is still in its infancy. Most software hasn’t been written yet.

How can it be that this market mismatch continues to exist. People with money to spend are clamoring for better software and there is an abundance of skilled software engineers and designers who want to make high quality products. Where does the software market break down? What’s going on here?

I can’t blame the potential customers. They can’t buy software that doesn’t exist. Nor can they buy software they have never heard of. My best answer is that people who really should be doing a software startup overwhelmingly don’t.

Are the incentives wrong? Doesn’t look like it from my vantage point. What do startups offer? Unparalleled freedom to pursue an idea you’re passionate about. Financial rewards when you make something people want. The satisfaction of bootstrapping something from nothing. A sense of independence and self-reliance. The absence of office politics and other nonsense.

And yet, we’re stuck in a place where most software kind of sucks[2] and software hasn’t gotten any better in the last 20 years from my vantage point. This is not just me being cranky. I’m trying to figure out why more people don’t get out there and make better software and enjoy the spoils.

[1] In Europe there are very few software startups. If you live in SF you might not agree with the premise there are few startups.

[2] You can’t even copy-paste rich content between a word processor and gmail. Apple Notes spins at 100% cpu unless I switch to “card layout”. My receiver crashes and loses its wifi connection. Nothing just works. Computers are fast but software is agonizingly slow. No software is truly cross-platform.

You can follow us on Twitter @jdvhouten and @wcools and look for #80daystartup

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