In the 1990s we had Visual Basic, Delphi, and then Visual Studio come along. All great tools for corporate developers who needed to build apps for their workgroups.
But since then developer tools have stagnated. Yeah, we’ve had Ruby on Rails, but that’s really aimed at web developers (Twitter was originally built in it, for instance) and the kinds of database and UI tools that corporate developers needed weren’t there.
Oh, and you can build a LOT without knowing any code. May says it’s not just aimed at developers, but can be used by “citizen developers.” IE, those who don’t know how to code very well. That is exactly the audience that Visual Basic was aimed at back in 1992, and it went on to be the tool for corporate developers. Will Application Craft take over that mantle? We’ll see, but this is a very interesting start. What do you think?
Some of my favorite companies have started without any VC or outside investment.
Think that’s not possible?
Well, go look at GoPro‘s new HD sports video cameras. CrunchGear loves them. Heck, even if you don’t need a great sports video camera, you really should visit their website and look at some of their videos. Wild! Lots of other people around the world love this company too, like the videographers at Discovery who used them for Shark Week.
You’ll discover that they are not venture funded. How did they get funded? Sold shells out of their VW bug to get the $10,000 to file their first patent.
Or, look at SmugMug. One of my favorite Silicon Valley companies. A great photo and video sharing site and community. They funded themselves, too. Recently I visited them and spent an afternoon there and you’ll see they built one of the coolest companies around (and profitable one, too).
Or, visit PCH in Shenzhen, China. Huge supply chain company, builds lots of stuff you probably own. Started by Liam Casey. Did you know how he got funded? It’s a fun story. He had an order to build a bunch of circuit boards, which would cost about $200,000 to build, but couldn’t get funding anywhere to get them built. His bank? Turned him down. VCs in California? Turned him down (he loves California, though, PCH stands for “Pacific Coast Highway.” Funny enough GoPro is located on the real Pacific Coast Highway about two blocks from my house.
So, what did Liam do? He went to the factory owner and begged him to build them. Liam, when he told me this story, turned to me and asked “how did I get them built?” I said he must have turned over something valuable as collateral. He answered that he had nothing of material value, but that I was right. “So, what did he get out of me,” Liam asked. I didn’t know, but Liam soon offered that the factory owner asked for his passport. I love that story because it shows you can start a sizable company with nothing but hustle and your passport (the factory owner hired him to go and check on other factories, which soon became the database that is at the heart of PCH now).
So, again, why do you need Venture Capital to build a great business? Can you do it on your own without taking outside investment? These three companies, among others, like 37 Signals, demonstrate that yes you can.