Business Posts

The Business and Technology of Zero-Knowledge Software

In the past year and a half I’ve written a few times about an encrypted email app we built at Black Chair called Parley. Parley, at this point, is essentially dead: the service has been in “pre-beta” for about 7 months, and we haven’t made any significant changes to it in at least 5. As it stands, I consider it an impressive accomplishment for our company, but it needs quite a bit more work before being ready for prime-time and it is unlikely to see those changes without a significant cash injection. (Basically, we chose a horrible intersection of the consumer space for a bootstrapped project: email software is very difficult to get right, encryption is very difficult to get right, they are both even more difficult to get right on mobile platforms, and—even worse—general consumers are not feeling any pain due to unencrypted email. We need to target businesses, and that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.) I’m not crazy about taking on investment for this sort of project (or rather, I’m incredibly picky about who we might take on as an investor) so Parley is basically on the shelf for now.

Purchasing Custom Software

About half of our clients at Black Chair had purchased custom software from other vendors before coming to us. None of them were satisfied with their experience, which I suppose makes sense (our competitors’ satisfied customers would have no reason to jump ship). When they come to us we inevitably hear the horror stories, and I live in constant fear of becoming the subject of such a story in the future. As far as I know, it hasn’t happened yet, but I’m not deluded enough to take credit for that—our processes need work, but even if they didn’t statistics dictate that we will eventually be spurned by an angry client. Nevertheless, the study of ways in which I can delay that eventuality has become a bit of an obsession.

The Economics of Custom Software

It was a Saturday afternoon in spring, and I was sitting in my parents’ basement with the lights off, staring at the monitor belonging to our brand new Compaq Presario computer. I was replying to a client email debating the price of a project (after the work had been completed), which we had previously agreed would be a whopping $600. I was 12.

The whole thing had started for me about a year before, when I got a bit carried away in computer class and ended up building my school’s website. My school was affiliated with a church, so I built their website too. Those two were freebies, although I did end up leveraging the first into an educational copy of Macromedia Flash, which cost several hundred dollars at the time, and I believe the church found a volunteer stipend for me at the end of that year as well. I then made the website for a Bible camp, for which I timidly charged $300.

Cash Money

“Cash is king” is such a stupid expression. I usually hear it in the context of fat cat Wall Street analysts discussing the assets of multi-billion dollar corporations, and I’m so used to tuning those voices out.

Which might be why I found myself in the following situation an embarrassing number of times this year: closing comfortable five-figure deals with a client in the afternoon and then walking 5km at night because I couldn’t afford the bus fare to meet up with my friends. Or raiding my pantry for a week while waiting for a cheque to clear, because I couldn’t afford groceries.

How To Make Money By Spending Money

Today’s lesson is officially the final instalment of Black Chair’s Super Guide To Love and Happiness: Get Rich Quick(tm) By Improving Your Web Traffic.

Or something like that. (Sorry, I guess I’m feeling a bit goofy…)

Until now, we’ve covered measurement, email marketing, social media, and search engine optimisation. The final element of a well-rounded introduction to internet marketing is this: paid ads. Yes, contrary to popular belief, not everything on the internet is free.