Alex Payne is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

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C4-[1]: Daniel Jalkut on "Application Acquisition"

Daniel has recently taken over MarsEdit from Brent Simmons, developer of NetNewsWire. In that vein, he’s speaking about how software acquisition pertains to indie developers. Meeting Brent at last year’s C4 conference put him on the path to acquiring MarsEdit.

Daniel argues that developers already operate in a culture of acquisition, and that there’s no shame in starting from someone else’s code base; revision is easier than creation. An acquiring developer has to balance the PR gains in taking on an established product with the risks of being perceived as a “software flipping house.”

Risks in acquiring include the up-front costs, supporting a big user base, and taking on a potential volatile set of technologies and requirements. Daniel suggests having a “minimum success plan”, a balance between your investment of time and money in the acquired application and the potential returns. The total cost of acquisition is more than just the base price; factor in renovation, support, icons, hosting, bandwidth, design, and so forth.

Finding an asset is easiest when you ask for what you want; blogging about it worked for Daniel. Once you’ve found an application you want to acquire, evaluate the seller, the code, the cost and potential risks. Discern the seller’s motivation for offloading their app. A principal point that Daniel emphasizes: are you passionate about the product you’re acquiring?

Many factors go into to sealing the deal. You may consider getting a lawyer and/or an accountant. Determine exactly what’s being sold in term of code and marketing assets, and what the acquisition schedule is. Figure out pricing and how to transition existing users into your customer relations setup. Definitely set up version control to stage and release. Make announcements and do PR.

Choice quotes

“You think about acqusition and you think about people on golf courses, dressed like Rentzsch.”

“I’ll take a drink of water now… [amplified sound of drinking] Huh, that’s cool!”

“If you refuse to start a blog or don’t believe in blogs, you should give up.”

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