While in Cambridge, I went to watch a panel talk about building a software business. Neil Davidson, CEO of Red Gate and organizer of The Business of Software conference was on the panel. He'd sent around a note a month or so back and since I was going to be in Cambridge, I asked if I could be booked. I'd enjoyed the conference last year, so I was looking forward to it.
I was late going, having forgotten about it, gone running after work and for some reason remembered it at 6:45 after it was starting at 7. Actually 7:15, so I had time to shower, figure out the directions to Downing College, and walk over from the hotel.
It was nice being back in academic environment, around old architecture, a lot of which the University of Virginia seemed to have copied. I got into the lecture hall just the panelists were being introduced. The host asked them to introduce themselves, talk about why they should talk about software business and then answer two questions, one of which was "Is now a good time to start a software business?" I can't remember the other one, but Neil started out describing himself and Red Gate and then said that it's always a good time to start a business.
However things went sideways from there, at least for me. The other panelists spent more time talking about their businesses or what they were involved in without giving advice. I didn't think it was possible to actually talk about your past without giving a useful anecdote, but I saw it done quite a few times.
It also seemed that the panelists lost sight of the idea of helping people setup a software business. They tended to get bogged down in their stories rather than keeping the central theme in mind.
They also seemed to talk about funding and venture capital, which are parts of the business, but they didn't give great advice, I thought. They walked the center line too much. I did like that my boss, Neil, came out against VC money and gave some specific alternatives.
There was a question on ideas, and I was hoping for some good advice there on finding ideas or evaluating them, but for the most part I didn't hear any/
All in all not a great session to attend, but I did like being back in an academic venue, much nicer than so many business offices where I've seen these things held. It was great to also see professionals out there taking time out of their lives to participate in these events and help others get started themselves.