Time to Geek out!

Stack Overflow DevDays aheadWant to hear a really, really cool idea? Do five one-day conferences in five different cities where Stack Overflow members can nourish their programmer cores for $99. That’s what Joel Spolsky just announced, and if I were you, I’d sign up pronto since this is going to sell out fast.

Here’s the cities:

  • October 19 San Francisco
  • October 21 Seattle
  • October 23 Toronto
  • October 26 Washington, DC
  • October 28 London

What’s the topics? Not nailed down yet, but expect introductory talks by people who know what they’re talking about on:

  • Android
  • Objective C and iPhone development
  • Google App Engine
  • Python
  • jQuery
  • FogBugz 7.0
  • Mercurial and Distributed Version Control

Check out Joel’s announcement, but this is going to be way cool.

Little did I know…

Here I am toiling away, and I get this email PR:


SpeedDate.com, the world’s first speed dating Web site, is the first major dating site to launch an Android application that offers portable, immediate and 24-hour access to the millions of singles engaged in online dating.  According to a poll by Yankelovich Partners, 81 percent of employed consumers feel the need to simplify their lives. By downloading the free application to your Android, users can leave their computer screens and be able to message dates throughout the day no matter their location.


I’ve missed the boat. Again. While I could have been digitally connecting with missjanelle9, I’ve been busy writing The Web Startup Success Guide and StartupToDo.com. Both of which will be useful and significant, but fun? Ha! Not to mention SpeedDate.com raised in 2007 and 2008 a total of $8.6 million in VC funding, now there are over 160,000 speed dates a day and has supposedly millions of members online at any given time..

Seriously, the Mobile platform is taking off like a Saturn V rocket. Apple opened the App Store about 9 months ago and now there’s over 25,000 iPhone apps that have been downloaded one billion times. Google Android has a store too – http://www.android.com/market/ – and Eric Chu, the Google Mobile Platforms Program Manager, whom I interviewed for the book makes a strong case that Apple is by no means going to be the only breakout mobile platform in the next 18 months.

For so many years, writing software was hard work about serious stuff. New platforms, new technologies, new societal values means there’s lucrative software to be written above and beyond – and maybe beneath and under – all of the traditional software categories.

Something to think about on your next speed date.

The MicroISV Digest

cashwaltzThe MicroISV Digest for the week ending May 11th, 2009.

(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at bob.walsh@47hats.com with the word digest in the subject.)

News and Announcements

  • Ronnie Pitts, Austin Valley Software Corporation, has launched CashWaltz, a family-focused expense tracking service designed to let each family member contribute to the task of maintaining the family budget by simply sending a text message, email or instant message. Ronnie is looking for feedback, and offering free accounts until 6/17.(via email)
  • Jason Nichols, Padlock Software LLC, has just released Padlock License Manager for Java, which let’s you create trial versions of your Java-based software. Jason is looking for feedback on his site (nice!) and product (useful!).(via email and BOS)
  • Peter Severin, wireframesketcher.com, has released WireframeSketcher, a wireframing plugin for the Eclipse IDE and is looking for product and site feedback (via BOS.)
  • Robert Ringham, chordfusion.com, has made his first sale of Whiteboards Can’t Jump, an iPhone app that let’s you click and post your whiteboard/postit/napkin art and vote on the artisitc contributions of others. And before you scoff, he’s made his first iPhone app sale – can you say the same? (via BOS)
  • Sorry – no Startup Success Podcast this past week – I’m writing the last chapter (Chapter 5 – Money: raising, managing & making) of The Web Startup Success Guide and I was maxed. Never fear, Pat and I will have show #25 out this week.

Relevant Blog Posts, Videos and Articles

  • Nothing this week.

Further (mostly relevant) Reading

The MicroISV Digest

habitshaperThe MicroISV Digest for the week ending May 4th, 2009.

(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at bob.walsh@47hats.com with the word digest in the subject.)

News and Announcements

  • Chris Hynes, Krystalware, Inc., has released version 5.1 of SlickUpload, an ASP.NET upload component that boosts robust upload handling, AJAX goodness and skins. (via email)
  • Atul Godbole, LogicNP Software, has released another product: CryptoLicensing For .Net. CryptoLicensing for .Net is a 100% .Net solution to add licensing, copy-protection and activation capabilities to your .Net, Windows Forms (WinForms) and WPF applications, components and controls and ASP.Net web sites. (via email)
  • Adriano Ferrari, has gotten his first sale of HabitShaper, a Windows goal-setting and completion program that calculates your targets for your goal, shared some stats (via BOS.)
  • In show #24 of the Startup Success Podcast Bob and Pat talk with Daniel Kivatinos and Michael Nusimow, founders of the SaaS startup Dr. Chrono, about selling to medical professionals, technology choices, and getting mainstream media attention for your startup.

Relevant Blog Posts, Videos and Articles

Further (mostly relevant) Reading

How to pull the trigger.

I wish I had a time machine. Over the years I’ve talked to scores of people who would wistfully start the conversation, “I really want to start my own company, but…” The “but” would be any one or combination (if they’d really been agonizing over it) of financial, emotional, psychological self-justifications for not making the leap, not pulling the trigger.

Something dies inside yourself when fear gets the better of your dreams. That’s why I want that time machine – so I can go back, force into their hands a book that goes on sale today: “Escape from Cubicle Nation” by Pamela Slim (Amazon, non-affiliate link).

Pam has created the SERE guide for all those trapped in other people’s companies who yearn to get out, but need practical, insightful advice on how to do it. This isn’t a compilation of her great blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation: it’s an detailed, comprehensive plan/study guide/manual for successfully making one the biggest transitions in your life.

One of Pam’s great gifts is her gentle wit and results-orientated approach to helping you see there’s a good, workable, doable answer to every one of the “buts” that have kept you chained to your job.

Of the four sections of the book, (Opening Up to Opportunities, The Reality of Entrepreneurship, Making the Money Work, Making the Leap), I especially like the material covered in the second section. Pam gets into the nitty-gritty of the people side of becoming an entrepreneur and offers sage advice on dealing with mitigating the disruption that happens to those relationships. I especially liked Chapter 7, “Recruit Your Tribe” that lays out just how to build the network of supporters, advisers, mentors and constructive critics every startup or microISV needs to succeed.

Some may argue that quitting your job to start a new, untested, company in the midst of a global recession/depression is suicidal. It certainly is if you do it before reading this book and before working through the steps you need that Pam lays out in detail.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or my other writings, and you’ve not moved forward towards that dream inside you to be your own boss, please, spend a few bucks and get this book: it’s that good.

A quick reminder…

Doing anything special Wednesday, April 29, at Noon Eastern (5pm UK time)? If you already sell a software app, why not avail yourself of some great free advice by attending a free webinar Sharon Housley of NotePage, Inc. and Dave Collins of SharewarePromotions will be doing?

Sharon and Dave have for years conducted web critiquing sessions at various software conferences. They’re good at helping you see what your customers see, and provide really great specific advice on how to improve your site.

To sign up for the webinar, visit this page.

The MicroISV Digest

sharewarepromotionsThe MicroISV Digest for the week ending April 27th, 2009.

(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at bob.walsh@47hats.com with the word digest in the subject.)

News and Announcements

  • Safari Software, (my company), has completed sale of MasterList Professional to Shohn Trojacek of SixTree for an undisclosed sum and to better focus on my new startup, StartupToDo.com. MLP’s new home is http://masterlistpro.com.
  • Want some free help with your microISV site? Sharon Housley of NotePage, Inc. and Dave Collins of SharewarePromotions will be doing a live website critique webinar Wednesday April 29th at 5:00 PM UK time (12:00 Eastern, 11:00 Central). Sign up here.
    r their many years of experience to dissect, criticize and sometimes rip apart a website’s appearance and setup.
  • “UWF”, is looking for help on their site for WorkWolf, a robust Windows timer application. First bit of advice: people prefer to give their credit card info to a site that shares either a personal or business identity. Or both. (via BOS.)
  • Andrey K, CloudBerry Lab, is looking for beta testers for their product, CloudBerry Online Backup.
  • Mike Morris, PrimalBits Software, has released his new product: SQL Sets. SQL Sets lets you take and manage snapshots of SQL Server relational data and share that snapshot with others using a free reader app.
  • In show #23 of the Startup Success Podcast Bob and Pat talk with Mandi Leman (CEO) and Veronica Jorden (Communications Manager) of Blellow – a microblog community for self-employed, stay-at-home freelancers, developers and professionals.

Relevant Blog Posts, Videos and Articles

  • Scott Carpenter Invoice Place, spotted a post that gets right to the heart of it: Quit Your Job. Why? Because you’re living someone else’s dream.

Further (mostly relevant) Reading

  • Looking for a high quality read about what to do and not do when it comes times to use CSS? Check out Why Programmers Suck at CSS Design at Stefano Mazzocchi’s blog: clear, concise and really, really good.

Sold microISV; on to startuptodo.com.

It took a while to get to done, but I’ve now sold my first microISV product – MasterList Professional – to Shohn Trojacek of SixTree for an undisclosed sum. Its new home is http://masterlistpro.com.

The two reasons I sold MLP were a) I’ve done a lousy job of updating it and wanted to pass MLP on to someone who could and would make a clean start of it and b) I’m cleaning house to free up time and mental energy so I can get Project X (StartupToDo.com) complete enough for a private beta, finish the rest of it with that feedback and launch before June 1st.

(The backstory here: I wrote MasterList to break free of contract programming for a living, wrote Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality because I had no idea how to sell it and needed answers, and my professional career  – perhaps my calling in life – has gone in a certain direction from there.)

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Before you launch, schedule time to get regular updates out. By schedule, I mean, carve out, commit to, and absolutely do. Getting updates out on a regular basis – something like every 2-3 months – is critical to future sales. Updates prove your software is alive, that you’re committed, that you’re listening. After the first few updates, I was so overwhelmed I could not bring myself to update MLP. The longer I waited, the more guilty I felt, the less I wanted to confront that pain.

2. Desktop microISVs worry way too much about piracy. Because I bought into worrying about piracy, I created a great registration/protection scheme that to my knowledge was never cracked. It also doubled the time I spent on tech support as people switched/reformated PCs and I needed to cut new registration codes for them. Plus, since 4 years ago I knew squat about creating a web app, creating new reg codes was a totally manual operation. Bad idea.

3. The feature you love is the one your customers will care least about. One of the most problematic parts of MLP when my company owned it was a checklist feature very, very few customers cared a whit about. I thought it was totally cool; the market could not care less.

4. Don’t build a new app on moribund programming language. After a decade of building VB6/VBA apps, I built MLP in VB6 instead of the then new .NET. .NET was untested, buggy, didn’t do anything you can’t do in VB6, blah, blah, blah. Whither it’s commercial controls or open source projects/libraries you use to push your language to the limit when doing commercial software, if they dry up, you are going to have an increasingly difficult time of it.

5. Good customer support does turn customers into evangelists. More than a few times, this happened with MLP.

So as I get StartupToDo marching, here’s how I think I should/have applied the -painful- lessons learned above.

1. Focus on the core selling value of your app. When next month StartupToDo goes live, there will be a base feature set that startups and microISVs will I hope open their wallets for, and not much else. See next point.

2. Startuptodo.com is a Rails app with plenty of jQuery goodness. That addresses the whole piracy, moribund language, registration code snafu, but given what it is, it makes total sense as a web app and no sense as a desktop app.

3. Improve regularly, but look to your customers for at least half of your strategic direction. I have a slew of features I’ve thought through/prototyped, but I’m going to take my lead from the community of customers as to what get’s built out. I will – despite all of the marketing I need to be doing – be setting aside non-negotiable time so I can release small regular incremental improvements about every 3 weeks, and will be looking for a talented Rails developer as my first significant expense to keep that going.

4. Don’t assume I know everything I need to know when it comes to building a startup. What worked then doesn’t necessary work now – that’s more than half of the reason I’m writing The Web Startup Success Guide (I’m 8 of 10 chapters done with the first draft). At least this time around, I’ll finish the book before launching the app! :)

Why should you do Twitter?

TwitterA friend of mine, Dave Collins (Shareware Promotions) has been trying to wrap his head around just what value Twitter offers for about the last month.

“I’ve been asking this question so long that my throat’s starting to hurt. So this time I’m going to throw in a reward,” Dave said in this BOS post. “How do I use Twitter for my business?”

He’s even offering a $100 Amazon gift certificate to get an answer to this question.

The long answer is The Twitter Survival Guide – but that’s for everyone and all businesses. Dave’s an expert at what he does which is designing SEO/Google AdWords campaigns that get results for software companies. So here’s what I think Twitter does as of right now for a company that provides services.

1. Establish Authority: “You’re only as good as your last byline” was a saying in the news business: now that a good chunk of the world is online, it applies to just about everyone whose business needs the Internet to exist. With Twitter, you can point to new content you’ve put up on your blog, podcast, uTube channel, forum and do the same for your best old content that people new to you have not seen. If you don’t do writing online, you can create value for other by saving them time by finding things online that are of interest to the people you want to connect to on Twitter. This is the role of the Editor I’ve posted about in the past: I rely on my Twitter network nowadays to let me know what’s going on: not RSS, seldom news (general or IT) sites, never email.

2. Get to know your customers. Like Dave, I have a foot in the service industry. Selling your services takes time and lots of interaction. It’s one thing to sell a $24.95 Windows app and another when you’re talking about thousands of dollars. Twitter lets you have that interaction quickly, efficiently, for both parties.

3. Better than Google. Twitter Search is about what people right now need, care about, are looking for. Google is about what’s out there to find – if they can find the needle in the digital haystack. That means running a set of Twitter searches as background tasks lets you find people you can help when they are actually looking for you or someone like you. Backing that up with a mini-dedicated landing page that has value, summarizes what you do and how you do it, and points to other resources that you can instantly share via a shortened (and trackable) URL might be a good idea. (Don’t know if this will work, but I’m going to try it in the next few days as I get back into things work/online.)

Help Dave out: what do you use Twitter for your business?

A very personal post…

(Please skip if you don’t know me…)


Dear friends,

It is with great sadness we need to let you know that yesterday we had to put Sake to sleep. After 22 years and ten months, he’d come to his time. He will always be in our hearts; please say a short prayer for him today.

-Bob, Tina, Sammy and Squeaky.