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Liquid Mirror

Riding the shareware wave.

As the economy continues to be more dark cloud than silver lining, shareware has become increasingly popular for budget-conscious buyers. Michael Stevenson, founder of Los Angeles-based Liquid Mirror, is happy to hear it, and happier still to churn out shareware that keeps the customers clicking. He talks about file systems, marketing, and hypnosis.

Why did you start the company?

When Windows 95 first came out, I was fascinated by the new desktop and file system, but I was baffled by the fact that they didn’t provide any way to copy or move files. After doing some research, I found that I could write a program to make copying and moving files very easy. After a little urging from friends and family, I added a registration screen to my program and submitted it to a few shareware sites, never expecting to actually get any customers. That first version was simple and even a little buggy, but I had 10 customers by the end of the first month. AnyWhere has come a long way since then, with version 6.0 right around the corner.

Do you find that shareware is growing in popularity?

Absolutely. Not only are home users downloading and buying more shareware, but IT managers are finally becoming receptive to the idea of using shareware, which has really helped the industry. Shareware is not really a type of software, but a marketing technique. It’s “try-before-you-buy” software. The real draw is the fact that there’s little risk to the user. You can go to your local computer store and pick up a program off the shelf, but once the package is opened, you’re stuck with it whether you like it or not. With shareware, the only risk you take is your time. I think most developers will move to the try-before-you-buy method in the next few years. They will have a hard time keeping up with their shareware competition if they don’t.

Your company tackles such a wide array of projects; how do decide what to develop?

I consider myself a pretty average guy, so if I find a need for something in my everyday activities, there’s a chance that others will also need it, so I write software for it. Most of my software starts off being just for me, something that I will program for myself whether or not it will sell. It really is great motivation. I think it’s much better than being motivated strictly by money.

On your site, you mention a book you’ve written on hypnosis; what made you tackle such a non-techie subject?

Until a few years ago, I had a fourteen-year, two-pack-a-day smoking habit that I just couldn’t shake. I was at the county fair one day with some friends when we came across a hypnosis stage show. Within three days of buying the hypnotist’s “quit smoking” tape, I threw out my last cigarettes and never smoked again. I became so fascinated that three and a half years later, I’m a board certified clinical hypnotherapist with a small practice. I wrote the book because there was a real need for an easy-to-read book that helps clear up some of the misconceptions about hypnosis and shows how empowering and fun it is.

Do you use your hypnosis skills in your business?

I actually do use quite a bit of what I’ve learned in my marketing and advertising text. Studying hypnosis and social psychology has helped me to understand how people’s minds work and taught me how to communicate more effectively. I use many of those principles when I design my Web sites, banners, and sales pitches.

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