‘Ware in the World

If there’s one piece of fatherly advice that my three sons have heard enough times, it’s my admonition that "You don’t live on the west coast of the United States: you live on the east coast of the Pacific Rim. That’s the arena where you’ll be playing." Proof of that proposition can readily be found in the growth of the salesforce.com developer community in India, where Apex Developer Network members outnumber those in all other countries outside the United States.

There’s almost one ADN developer in India for every four in the U.S., with India’s community growing on a hockey-stick curve that really turned upwards at the beginning of July: ADN memberships in India grew as much in that one month as in the four months prior.

India’s surge of on-demand entrepreneurship reminds me of Frederik Pohl’s 1972 novella "The Gold at the Starbow’s End." A key plot device in that story was a study — possibly fictional, possibly not — that found people tending to use everything available to them in solving a problem, even when the best solution only used a subset of those resources. The rest of the story concerned a plan to place a carefully chosen group of talented people in a situation where they would have limited resources but a lot of time to think.

With low capital costs of entry, few infrastructure requirements for going to market, and excellent leverage of common developer skills, the on-demand proposition is compelling for the kind of development talent to be found in India — and in many other countries as well. India’s Wipro, for example, is reportedly offshoring work to China, Romania, Egypt and even to the United States.

The chance to compete on a world stage without needing to borrow startup money seems an especially timely attraction today, and possibly for years to come. We’ll all do well to remember, though, that it’s only in the very short run that the question is who’ll work for less money: the real question, very quickly, becomes one of who delivers the greatest value, and on-demand development is a good way to do that regardless of what your developers are paid.

August 15, 2007