As we go to press, 118 developers are packing up and heading home after exhibiting at the fourth Australian Software Showcase in Sydney last week.
Organised by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) with Compuware Asia-Pacific, Microsoft and the Macquarie Bank as the main partners and sponsors, the event has been described as "the only one of its kind" in Australia.
The Showcase has been envisaged as an opportunity for local small-to-medium-sized software development businesses to launch and market their products to a business audience of over 1000, generate business leads and make contacts with peers.
"There are so many innovative software solutions being developed in Australia with the potential to earn major export dollars," commented John Debrincat, vice president of Compuware Asia-Pacific, one of the show's sponsors.
"[But] because of the relative isolation and smaller domestic market, these products often struggle to develop the critical mass to make them a success," he explained.
It is easy to see how an exhibitor fee of around $350 can be considered a good marketing investment by over one hundred startups and SMEs who have products to market, but little market exposure.
In fact, the AIIA's Software Showcase is widely seen as a cost-effective product awareness campaign ideally suited for businesses with no marketing budget, according to Andrew Sharp, sales and marketing manager of Sydney-based text retrieval software developer ISYS/ Odyssey Development.
"Last year's show was Odyssey's first [at the Showcase] and the quality of leads we generated from that show directly and indirectly resulted in a substantial amount of business for Odyssey," he said.
Comments like Sharp's justify the simple philosophy behind the AIIA's initiative.
"Looking for resellers and business partners is high on the list of priorities for our exhibitors," explained Fleur Bailey, AIIA's export manager. "Thus our show has a fairly simple format, it is only an exhibition that encourages people to make contacts and generate leads, making it more of a business than a selling event."
Even so, the AIIA predicted some $1.5 million worth of business were to follow from the leads and con- tacts developers made at the 1998 Showcase.
However, for the likes of Perth-based Fundi Software, business relationships are what they come to the Showcase for. "We participated last year and got one long-term relationship out of that, so we can see a bit of value add in it," said Fundi's director of business development, Lagis Zavros.
"This year, we are trying to establish a wider network of resellers for our SignIQ product and we're hoping to get some identification through this show."
As Zavros pointed out, the existence of software development companies and the success of their products depends on the process of product marketing.
Events like this are a perfect opportunity for software companies like his to do some no-frills, but effective campaigning.
"It is important for local software companies to have an avenue to make their products known to the market, their peers or venture capitalists," he said.http://www.aiia.com.au/showcase.html