It’s often said that Zimbabwe lags behind in the realm of technological advancements. True as that may be I do believe that just points to the immense potential for the emergence of tech startups. Local software development is a domain laden with endless possibilities. I appreciate that not everyone is tech-savvy enough to code software but it’s not imperative to be able to in order to start the business. As a nation, we have a serious shortage of software developers so the prospects of making money are huge in software development. Let’s discuss how you can start your own business.
Software development doesn’t necessarily need premises at the formative stages – most global software icons started off from dorm rooms, bedrooms, and garages. The issue of location again isn’t really a pressing matter owing to the fact that you can operate online.
You’ll need computer hardware & software components. Things like desktops, laptops, external hard drives, programming languages (Java, Python, C+), etc are imperative. It would be advisable to acquire genuine software versions as opposed to bootlegged ones. This applies to operating systems, programming languages and other key support software – which must be Windows-based for easy interoperability.
You must have reliable and fast internet connectivity. There are several options to choose from namely, telephone-based (e.g ADSL), wireless, fiber-based (e.g. Fibre optics), and more.
Staffing can start off quite lean ranging from 2 or 4 individuals on average. Global examples of software businesses started by 2 people are Google, WhatsApp & Instagram, whilst Facebook was started by 4 individuals. There is a principle to follow in determining your preliminary staffing requirements. There are 4 main roles that must be satisfied at the beginning of a tech startup namely, the visionary, the customer expert, the innovator & the rainmaker. The innovation pertains to the technical aspects i.e. coding and the rainmaking refers to the financial management. That is why I said 2 to 4 people because any one of those arrangements can adequately service the 4 key roles.
The capital requirements will depend on the operating scale and structure you chose with regards to the aforementioned issues. Generally, starting off a software development business is less capital-intensive. The need to source funding usually comes when the business needs to be scaled up; otherwise, you seldom need substantial funding, to begin with.
In any business, you must carve out a niche that constitutes your target market. Software development is broadly split into two segments; bespoke and off-the-shelf software. Thus your choice of a market will depend on which segment you wish to focus on. The local market for software products and services is vastly untapped as I said; you just need to bring in your unique value proposition.
The foremost thing is to obviously register your business. This not only safeguards you from possible violations but it also helps prospective clients take you seriously. You can choose to register your business as a private business corporation (PBC) or private limited company (PLC).
The software development arena involves a lot of intellectual property issues. Aspects such as patents, trademarks, copyright notices, etc are very important here. In software development, there are two broad things that need legal protection i.e. intellectual property (IP) and copyright. Fortunately, we have an office that is responsible for all such matters. The Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office which falls under the Ministry of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs. You can pay them a visit and get more comprehensive details on these important issues. They are located at Century House East at 38 Nelson Mandela Ave.
Another key issue is that of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). Make sure you make anyone you work with sign an NDA; this even applies to when you draft business proposals for the sake of sourcing funding. Software development ideas are so easy to steal, reverse-engineer, replicate, etc – so be wary of such and safeguard your ideas by NDA. Lawyers can help you draft NDAs.
Other Useful Information
Software development is a very dynamic field of endeavor. This means you must stay on top of emerging trends and the latest technologies. Some of the most commonly used revenue models by software developers are outright sales, licensing, contractual development projects & subscriptions. It’s expedient to explore ways of capitalizing on all four so as to maximize profits. Another way to make money is to institute training & consultancy initiatives – this can be done physically or virtually.
I’ve told people that hardware is limited whilst software is limitless. The advancement of hardware is stalled by barriers placed by laws of nature whereas software isn’t bound by that. This is just a way of telling you that the business prospects presented by software are inexhaustible. You don’t necessarily need to be a coder to start a software development business. You can start a successful business by harnessing the expertise of different people – after all, the ability to attract and retain experts is the hallmark of a smart business person.