Why Your Programmer Friend Doesn’t Want to Hear About Your Idea for a Great App

I think a safe assumption is that anyone who is identified as a programmer (including the kid whose grandmother says is “good with computers” because they spend 90% of their time in the basement playing Call of Duty) has heard the phrase, “You’re a programmer?  I’ve got a great idea for an app!”

 

I once had this happen to me while out shopping for a new router.

The guy helping me pick one out perked up when I mentioned what I did for a living,  and then proceeded to tell me his great idea.

His great idea was actually pretty good!

So good that I was, at that point, about 75% of the way to a working proof of concept.

That’s one of the main reasons,  that based on my own experiences,  that many programmers don’t appreciate unsolicited ideas for applications.

And yes, we realize that you probably wouldn’t make a fuss if we “stole” your idea,  unless of course the product is in the 0.000000015% of applications that are fiscally successful.

Of course another issue with coming up with an idea for the next Facebook is that many people place too much value on the idea,  and too little value on what it takes to take concept from idea to an actual thing that people can use.

A couple of years ago I was approached by a friend who told me that she had a friend who had a great idea for an app.  All they needed was a programmer!

I resisted, and wasn’t even swayed when the dollar amount “in the millions” was mentioned.

Finally she offered to shut up about the whole thing if I agreed to meet with her friend.    That offer was too good to pass up, so a meeting was set up.

I listened to the pitch.

It wasn’t a terrible idea,  nor did I think it was a great one.

I asked some questions to ensure that I understood the concept.

I then asked what he thought would be his fair share of the profits.

He suggested 50%.   His justification was that without his idea,  that I would not make any money from this endeavor.

I then asked him what he would be contributing to the project.

His response was a confused “The idea?”.

He then responded in the negative when asked if he could provide anything in the following areas:

Database design
Scripting (back end or front end)
User Interface Design
User Experience Design
Server set up and maintenance
Project Management
Business Management
Legal Advice
Marketing
Money

By the time I listed all these off he looked a bit shell shocked.

Then came the big question.

What happens if this fails?

I explained to him that in addition to the approximately 2500 hours of development time this project,  that business expenses,  server hosting,  contracting out work and various other expenses would likely run to $15K to get to the point where we could being testing.

I gently explained to him that while his idea might be a good one,   that getting it to the point where it would be profitable requires a great deal of effort,  time and money.

 

So now you know why your programmer friend doesn’t really want to hear your idea.   And if they do,  make sure you have a contract in place prior to discussing it.   Otherwise there is nothing saying they have to pay your for using it.

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