May 17--When James Horey released his first software product, an open source development tool for big data applications, the response was overwhelming.
For three weeks, Horey watched as people bookmarked, downloaded and installed his product, Ferry, from OpenCore an online marketplace that he hopes will help connect potential users and developers.
"There was a lot of support as people found out about the software, then it plateaued and then the level of interest sharply dropped off," he said. "That was my first harsh lesson."
Horey, whose product had gotten a lot of attention those first few weeks because it was new, realized he needed a strategy to promote the software and service so he could get more users.
"Getting more users serves a couple of purposes. It gives me feedback about what sort of features people actually care about, and on the commercial side, I think the more open source users I can get -- people who are clearly interested in data and this product -- the more likely they are to become paying customers," said Horey, who has since left his job as a research assistant at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to focus his efforts full time on his startup.
Horey considered digital media sites like TechCrunch and Wired for broader exposure but thought "there's no way a startup is going to get that level of attention." He contributed a story to user-submitted content site Hacker News but found it impossible to stay on the front page for more than a few seconds.
One way to reach a bunch of developers, he concluded, was to attend a conference. Horey recently presented at PyData, a gathering of users and developers of data analysis tools in Python, held at the
"The big question mark is will people actually use this open source development tool. If they're not, then it would force me to rethink my priorities. If I can't get people to use the free version, I won't be able to get them to use the paid version," he said. "Technically, I'm not that concerned. But it is pretty crazy in terms of prioritizing time and doing everything I need to do."