Most of us have probably heard the adage “You can judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners” from Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He is not the only one to share that line of thinking; “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members” from Mahatma Ghandi or “you measure the degree of civilization of a society by how it treats its weakest members” from Winston Churchill.
There is a pattern here, how you treat the smallest, weakest or least privileged members reflects on you as a collective. I’ve been thinking a lot about my interactions with Microsoft, Telerik and Xamarin lately as a small time developer in the ecosystem and a from the perspective of Resgrid as a bootstrapped SaaS startup and I’ve come to the conclusion that how technology companies treat their smallest customers/developers reflects on them as an organization.
There are a lot of companies out there in the technology space that just don’t want to have anything to do with you if you’re not going to throw four plus figures at them, minimum, a year. Then there are those that would rather try and pressure you to pay a lot of a product when you’ve told them time and time again you can’t pay for it. Finally, there are those out there that will give you a steep discount and actually make you feel important.
I’ve dealt a lot with Telerik over the last year and I have to say, rarely has a company made me feel more like my opinion matters. I may have issues with their products, pricing, feature sets, priorities and implementations from time to time, but never have I ever felt slighted when I email, call or send in a support request. They know I’m a bootstrapped startup, but they still give me an amazing level of feedback, interaction and communication. Special shout outs to Rob Lauer and Stefan Rahnev from Telerik. Telerik not only makes me feel like a VIP, but they also work with me on price. I can tell them my budget and more often then not they will work to keep me.
On the other extreme is Xamarin, who was co-founded started by Miguel de Icaza, of GNOE and Mono fame. With his Alt.net roots, background in open source and community you would think Xamarin would be all over helping the little guys and building an robust eco-system. First and foremost Xamarin Free product is a complete joke. You try to build anything that takes a reference, even against the .Net Framework, and BAM no more development for you. I recently signed up to try it out, hit the brick wall of “no development for you” with their free product and then asked a sales rep what discount pricing was $650 for WP, iOS and Android annually. When I made the sales rep aware of my situation and line of thinking, never heard back from him.
Finally there is Microsoft who is kind of in the middle. I’ve had downright amazing interactions with them and the BizSpark program in general. I recommend it to anyone who is starting a company, even if your not a MS/.Net developer. 3 years of $150 Azure credit a month, boy you got a deal there. On the other hand interactions with developer/platform/channel evangelists who are supposed to help bring a developer/small business up in the ecosystem seem to fail, if I don’t have a hundred thousand bucks or are building a Windows 8 Store app or Windows Phone 8 app they want nothing to do with me. “Hey I already have this app, can you get me in a program or help out” Nope sorry and they run away, mission accomplished. When talking with them it’s what can you do for me, not what can Microsoft or I help you with. I have no confidence that when I do develop that Windows 8 Store app that they will be around to help get me deals, get my business into programs or help with support.
It’s all part of their own endgame’s really. Microsoft wants Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8 Store apps at all costs, Xamarin’s sales rep’s apparently want a big commission or a large logo they can slap on their “look who’s using us!” page and Telerik, well they just seem to want developers using their products. The sooner companies realize it’s people like me and small business are the start of something big the sooner they may get that big sale and people recommending their product or service.
Service counts, and how you measure the greatness a company is by seeing how it treats is smallest customers.