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6 Some Final Considerations 173
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And it s a pretty complex little bit of code. It generates a random number each time, and there s a hidden mathematical algorithm that we run on this side, and give them a number that they type in and they re good to go. If a really smart programmer looked through this, they could figure out the algorithm. But all the little pieces are scattered around in different tables and places in the database. Smolin: How much do you sell it for Capistrant: We used to sell it as a product for somewhere between $4,000 and $7,000, which was great when we got the hit, so it was like getting a big shot in the arm. But it really hurt when sales lagged. I had to think of overhead, you know, the staff and the office, and so when we d run low, times I would be really sucking wind. So, I decided that the best thing to do with this would be to sell it as a service, as a subscription. And by doing that, it makes it a lot more attractive to get into because the user thinks, Oh, all I do is start at $40 a month, and that s it So it makes it very easy for people to bite. Smolin: So now you sell it, you sell it as a subscription service, not as a product. Capistrant: I do. Smolin: So what they pay per month depends on the modules that they get Capistrant: Yes, the pricing system is based on the combination of modules and number of concurrent users. And I advertise the pricing quite clearly. There s a spreadsheet on the web site that they can download and use to figure out the math themselves. And it works out pretty well. Most people are pretty pleased by that price. You know, it all ranges anywhere from $32 to $200 a month. So then, that s what I want to do. I want to build up a subscription base, and that s money that keeps on flowing in as long as I, you know, keep on good terms with those customers. Smolin: So Federation was first released when Capistrant: Spring 2000. Smolin: And you do updates on a regular basis Capistrant: Constantly. In one sense I still treat it as custom software because if someone wants me to build them a new set of reports or a new table Smolin: Some new function. Capistrant: A new function, new module, I m a sucker for new business, and so I will do it. And I have a way of upgrading the version number at the minor level, and sometimes the release will only go to one person because it s a very minor change. But, on a significant scale The ones that actually get packaged and tested About once a month.
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6 Some Final Considerations
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So it s pretty frequent. And the thing that I ve always been happy about is that 90 percent of the development cost of this has been customer driven. Smolin: So do the custom modifications that you make generally become part of the standard package Capistrant: Yes, and that s what people like about it, too. But every time that something is added, I m very careful to not lose something else. I m also very careful to make it turn off if they don t want it. Smolin: Right. Capistrant: So they have a lot of flexibility in turning off features that are either irrelevant or annoying. Smolin: So you distribute this by download from your web site, right Capistrant: I distribute through an FTP site. I give them an e-mail and say, Here. Each customer has a private FTP folder, and they download it from there. If they need a new version or a fix or a bug fix, they download from there. And the other thing that s related to that is that I use GoToMeeting from Citrix to support my customers remotely. I can actually install it, and my fingers can be on their keyboard and on their mouse, and instead of going through the horrible pain of explaining how to do something, I can actually do it for them. Smolin: So you re not using a commercial installer like Wise Capistrant: We tried doing that and it works, but the problem with the database, especially the multiuser database, is that it just doesn t install on one machine. So you have the difference between where the back end resides and where the front end resides, and we ve never figured out a way to make that intuitive. So I ve given up on that and just tell them, I ll help you install it. That s part of the package. Smolin: How long does it take the typical user to implement the product, get up and running Capistrant: To physically install it takes fifteen minutes. You just create the folders in the right places, copy the files in, and you re done. Make sure the front and back end links are proper, and we re good to go. The thing I ve often underestimated is how complicated it is to someone who is seeing it for the first time. I think it s intuitive because I ve looked at it every day for seven years. Smolin: Right. Capistrant: But as life is, people get overwhelmed pretty quickly, and it s a complex program. There s many, many features. I keep forgetting that they need a lot of hand holding. I d say that one of our biggest oversights is, you know, not highlighting that at the sale time.
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