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building an app in 30 days is stupid

July 17, 2008

All the rage the last year or so seems to be trying to build an application as fast as possible. The common length of time seems to be 30 days, but it sometimes goes down as low as 7 or even 5. While this may be an interesting idea as a publicity stunt for an established company or for a Google engineer using their 20% time it's about the worst idea a would be MicroISV can take up. In fact, I can't think of a better way to ensure failure in a software venture (a venture you hope to replace your full time job with).

I assume this has come about from the new mantra of release early and often. Those ideas may be good ones, but for a one man show putting an arbitrary limit on the development of your product is suicide.

Let's address some of the obvious problems first. Software worth building is likely to take you more than 30 days! If it was that easy it's more than likely already been done or will be copied in moments. A more pressing issue is that it trivializes the rest of your business, which as you know is 95% of having a successful business. So the developer kills themselves for a month to get out a product. Now what. No groundwork has been done to make the product a success. You have a product and have done no marketing, have no plan for support, and no back office tools for management of your ecommerce and application delivery. In short you have a product with no business.

Sure, it's possible this 30 day app will be the one in a million that's so spectacular that all those things are optional. Personally I prefer to work towards success rather than hope it finds me.

My biggest problem with the spread of this idea is that it leads the MicroISV down the wrong path. The path of the quick buck. But there's no successful business down there, there's no quitting your day job down that path. So when the 30 days are through and many of the most important features have been cut for time the developer is stuck at the end with a half an application and so much to do.

30 day apps are just the dork version of a grapefruit juice diet or buying foreclosed real estate with no money down. My advice to those tempted by it are to put that month to work on marketing, product idea research, business reading/research or just enjoying the summer :-)

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