To Partner or not to Partner, that is the question.

istock_000007229880xsmallCorey Maass, the creator of DubFiler, sent me an email he’s allowing me to share with you:

If you have a minute, here’s a quick question I’m putting to the start-up people I know. I’m going this alone. I’ve asked a few people to get involved but haven’t found the right fit. I’m wondering if you agree with everything I’m reading that says, ‘under no circumstances go it alone!’.

It’s been a question on my mind a great deal lately, it’s getting kicked around a lot at the Business of Software forum (here and here) and it came up a great deal as I was writing The Web Startup Success Guide.

Six years ago when I started writing my first commercial app, it was a no-brainer: I’d heard story after story how this partner had caused the company to implode, how that partner was lazy, how another partner had screwed they guy who came up with the idea if the first place. No way I wanted any part of that.

Now I’m not so sure.

Neither human nature or contract law has changed in six years. But the workload it takes to build a successful software business, how much two people (or more) can get done online and some of the prevailing attitudes have.

First the workload: six years ago a developer could write a good desktop app, tap the new huge eyeball magnet called Google AdWords, support their customers and life would be good. Or at least three times better – in terms of fulfillment, happiness and paycheck – than being a code monkey in corporate captivity.

Six years on, every business entity uses AdWords, the competition for prospective customer’s attention has gotten greater, and social media (Twitter, blogs and all the rest) is fast becoming the way you get that attention. It takes more work, more than most people are capable of, let alone capable of year after year.

That ever growing impossible workload and the inability to execute it are the single leading reason microISVs and startups  fail and big reason I’ve been writing StartupToDo.com (formerly Project X). I’ve come up with a way to save every startup/microISV founder that subscribes to StartupToDo about 40% of the time they spend doing what they need to do, at least the first time. (The money will be very nice too! :))

Secondly, two partners or three founders working together toward a common cause using the wealth of online collaboration tools now out there can be far more productive than in years past. It’s a lot easier and more effective to collaborate as partners than to do the traditional hierarchical business thing of managers and managed people. Put another way, two partners working online doing all of the things that need to be done for a startup is much more effective and valuable than one “CEO” and one “employee”. Collaboration goes with instead of against the Internet – something that will be having profound repercussions for decades

Third, the attitude thing is an age thing – people my age (I’ll be 52 in July) – grew up in a pre-Internet, post-Watergate/Vietnam War era. I think we find it harder to trust others than people in their 20s and 30’s; I know it’s harder to gut-understand this whole Internet-connected world. And while I’m not ready for the Old Programmers Home yet, most people in this business are significantly younger, and there attitudes about trust are noticibly more open.

In some ways, the one man microISV has always been a myth: Tina, my partner in love and life, and her steady paycheck made “microISVism” work for me; nearly every successful microISV I’ve talked to over the years has some form on spouse helping them.

As for startups, if you’re not part of a two or better person team of founders, forget it. No funding; not taken seriously.

So my advice to Corey is yes, even if you want to create a successful microISV, get a partner.

How do you find one, what do you look for, how do you make it work? All good questions which I will take a stab at next week. In the meantime, I’ve got a big push of StartupToDo.com coding to do and by the way, yes, I’m looking for a partner.

Eastern Europe start-up makes it to the top of Amazon S3 freeware tools

(Note: I asked Andy K to write up a post about his Eastern European microISV because while there’s some excellent microISVs based in that part of the world, they seldom get the attention U.S.-based businesses do. Andy wrote this up as a post about his partner, Pavel Bondarchuck, and it’s a bit “markety” for my tastes, but has some useful points. And since Andy is working for someone else still, he has not shared his last name with me, or anyone else online.)

===

By Andy K
CloudBerry Explorer for Amazon S3

image003After managing software development teams for computer multinationals for 8 years, Pavel decided to switch gears and do a start-up of his own. Now – 6 months later – his head is “in the clouds”, his micro-ISV – CloudBerry Lab is quickly gaining traction, their first tool – CloudBerry Explorer for Amazon S3 – is among the most popular freeware tools for Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3), and they are quickly expanding their product set with more Amazon and Twitter products and services.

Going into Clouds

Just a year ago Pavel was managing a regular programmers’ team at a big software vendor, and then things changed.
“For a long time I felt that everything in the database world was already invented ,” – he recalls – “Then, all of a sudden heard about cloud storage promising resources on demand, unlimited scalability and pay-as-you-go model, no installation, no configuration…  Just start using it when you need it and pay for as much as you use it. This sounded like a new promising technology for me and I set out to start a new adventure.”

What’s in a Name?

Picking a company name is not easy these days. One can spend hours doing WHOIS searches only to find that .com domains for any words and acronyms coming to mind are already taken. To make things even more difficult, Pavel and his team wanted to have a meaningful and properly spelled (!) name, ideally starting with the word “cloud” – that’s how CloudBerry Lab came into being. And although Pavel still has to dismiss RIM’s Blackberry-related questions every now and then, CloudBerry Lab brand is starting to get some visibility of its own.

Amazon S3

Having a database background, Pavel got quickly attracted to Amazon’s S3 service. The biggest stumbling point he got was the command-line interface as the only option. There had to be a better way to manage your files regardless of where they are – and that’s how CloudBerry Explorer for Amazon S3 freeware was born.

The explorer is a nice two-pane file manager that lets you easily copy or move files between your local hard drive and S3 drives (called “buckets”) out there in the cloud. With all the friction gone, S3 now literally becomes a simple extension to your local storage which anyone can use.
CloudBerry Explorer quickly went up the S3 tools charts, encouraging CloudBerry to further expand their Amazon presence. CloudBerry Online Backup which is currently in beta (worth signing up now by the way, as every tester is promised a free license once the product is out) is built on the same proven technology and makes personal data backup and restore easy and automated.

Twitter

Living on a shoe-string makes one consider grass-root marketing as the number one way to make the business visible – and that’s where Twitter came in handy.
Pavel ‘s partner Andy signed up as @cloudberryman, set up a search for “Amazon S3″ and started reaching out to anyone having trouble with the service which CloudBerry’s tools could solve.
“We notice that if you respond instantly there is a huge chance that people respond immediately and download the product.” –Pavel says – “In fact, we have been able to find some good friends this way who help me to make the product even better.”
This Twitter activity proved to be very successful. These days Twitter is in CloudBerry’s top 5 referrer’s constantly driving traffic to their web site.

Twitter Tools

Engineers see the world as a place which can always be made better. Same thing applied to Twitter. It did not take Pavel and his friends long to realize that there were Twitter tools they wish they had.
They developed a Twitter browser plug-in that helps users post quotes from the websites they visit and together with short URLs to the pages. Select the quote you want to tweet, click the plug-in button – and your tweet goes live – as easy as it can ever get!
One of CloudBerry engineers has developed IE plug-ins in the past and was able to hit the ground running in no time. It took CloudBerry Labs just a week to make the first working alpha version of the plug-in. Another week to straighten things up, to put all graphics in place, and fix a few nasty issues – and the IE add-on was out on the web.

Firefox was a bit more tricky. No one on the team had necessary background so Pavel went to the web and found a freelancer with Firefox extension experience. CloudBerry delivered all the necessary design documents, sketches, graphics, Twitter API calls; freelancer wrapped this into Firefox extension code; and they worked together to test and stabilize the plug-in. This flexible mixed approach was a great way to quickly expand into a new technology area with limited development resources.
Now plug-in is available for both Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Twitte.la – is CloudBerry Labs latest child. The online service allows to quickly and easily see keyword popularity trends on Twitter. Pick either one or two keywords and see how much they were mentioned by the Twitter community lately. A great tool for any company’s marketing department including CloudBerry Labs itself.

What’s Next?

Despite the early success Pavel believes that CloudBerry Lab still has not found its ultimate killer product. However, he truly enjoys the mISV path he has taken after quite and stable global ISV life.
“I feel like a child about to open a box with the gift,” – he jokes – “And, as wise men say, if you never try it you will never be able to say if it works for you or not. “

The MicroISV Digest

iphonecourseThe MicroISV Digest for the week ending May 18th, 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

  • Sharon Housley, NotePage, Inc, reminded me to remind you that this year’s Software Industry Conference is fast approaching, July 16-18 in Boston, MA. I found SIC to be an excellent experience and well worth going when I went a few years back. (via email)
  • One of my clients, Manuel Onate, Momsoft, has just launched Brochures4Software, a custom brochure service for software companies. If you’re interested, entering coupon code FORTYSEVENHATS on the second screen of the purchase process between now and July 1st will save you $50 (via email)
  • Dan Cooperstock, Cooperstock Software, has released HTML MessageBox. It’s an exact replacement for the standard Windows API MessageBox function, that lets you make your Windows application’s message boxes more readable and useable by allowing you to set a larger default font, then use simple HTML to add emphasis such as boldface, italics, underline and mixed fonts to the text of your messages. It includes interfaces for standard Windows API calling, a COM wrapper, and a .NET class wrapper. (via email)
  • In show #25 of the Startup Success Podcast Bob and Pat talk with none other than Andy Brice, founder of the Oryx Digital Ltd and creator of PerfectTablePlan, about what it takes to run a successful microISV, key results of a visit to download to sale survey Andy recently did, and more.

Relevant Blog Posts, Videos and Articles

Further (mostly relevant) Reading

  • CNET News now reports that Stanford University’s free iPhone course has been downloaded over 1 million times. Even if you figure only 1 in 10 of the people who downloaded this multipart non-credit college course from iTunes featuring Apple engineers, that’s another 75,000 apps coming down the pike to join the first 25,000 apps amassed at the iPhone App store in all of nine months. What do you get when you cross a bandwagon and a runaway train?

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
  • ASP.NET MVC
  • 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:

Hello,

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.

image002

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.