David Allen on GTD for Startup Founders

Just posted the interview that Patrick and I did with David Allen, founder of GTD. You’ll find it at startupsuccesspodcast.com.

Speaking of things GTD, I’m now switching back to Things from OmniFocus. I just found myself too distracted by OmniFocus and its intricacies and not focusing on the actual things I want to get done. Now that Things has become Things2 and added cloud synchronization, I’m giving it another try, going with a lightweight approach, and will see how that works out. You might want to do the same.

Putting StartupToDo to sleep; lessons learned.

September 29, 2009 – June 29, 2011

Well, that sucked.

I disconnected StartupToDo.com this afternoon. It was time – past time. If you’ve ever had to put a member of your family who happens to be a cat or dog to sleep, you have a good sense of how I feel right about now. Not that bad, but still.

I emailed the few remaining subscribers, made arrangements for the remains (data) to be interred on another server, and let them in on my new project. Then I sat down to write this post.

The rest of this post is a catharsis of sorts; these are three lessons I paid a very high price for. Heed them.

  • The single biggest mistake I made was not listening to the criticisms of prospective and actual customers. From the private beta on, way too many people said the same thing – good content, but too complicated. If I had let myself hear the doubt in their voices, taken seriously the “I don’t understand” emails, I would not have coded myself into a corner, stuck with a confusing mess of features. It hurts to listen, it’s easy to rationalize your way around listening, but believe me, they are right, you are wrong, because they choose what to spend their time, money and attention, not you.
  • Speaking of money, have enough money in the bank to get you through. For me “through” meant becoming a profitable microISV; for you it might mean landing your first equity investment. Each their own. But trying to make real your software idea while holding down either a day job or fulltime freelancing is a hellish monkey to have on your back.
  • You have to work on your startup every single day, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. Let me explain that one. Having written 5 books, the first and the last were the easiest to actually write because near as I could, I wrote at least a page or two every single day. Working on what you are creating every single day has (at least) 4 huge benefits:
    – You can pick up where you left off in less time, with fewer false starts.
    – There’s less opportunity for Resistance in all its guises to make mischief.
    – You get to market faster.
    – You build momentum.

I made plenty of other mistakes, but those were the big three. I hope you’ll take them heart so you won’t end up having to write you own ‘lessons learned’ post.

B2C, B2B, B2G: what about us B2Developer Startups?

You’ve heard the adage that doctors make the worst patients? Well, software developers can be a hard market to sell software to. That’s why I’m especially pleased to announce a new StartupToDo.com Scholarship just for those startups building and selling the tools we all need to build our products.

Code Complete Software, which markets and sells some of the world’s best development tools, is sponsoring 30 six-month StartupToDo.com Scholarships for startups creating/selling products to developers. To apply for a free scholarship, just email me (bob.walsh@startuptodo.com) with your startup’s URL or a brief non-proprietary description of what your startup will be selling.

Code Complete Software is one of those companies you won’t find mentioned on TechCrunch – they’re in the business of being the sales force for some of the best development tools and packages out there. For example, they’re the exclusive North American distributor for JetBrains (IntelliJ IDEA, RubyMine, and other software tools) since 2002.

If your startup is (or will be selling) to developers, why not grab a Code Complete Software StartupToDo.com Scholarship while supplies last?

We should discuss this.

And now we can at StartupToDo.com. I just put into production Version 2.15, adding Group-centric Discussions to S2D. What’s Group-centric? It’s my stab at keeping Discussions and their Posts on-topic. Over the past 4+ years I’ve been a moderator at Joel on Software Business of Software Forum. Many is the time I’ve wished for some way to organize threads along major topics. At the same time, most PHPBB-like forums go too far, splitting up conversations into way too many topics costing too much time to move up and down their hierarchy.

Basically, I’ve taken the model of the Business of Software (threads with posts arranged by order) and added two things: the ability to see and rank Discussion and their Posts, and the ability to go beyond just plain text.

One of the best things about the Business of Software forum is how little if any spam gets in front of readers. Part of that is FogBugz’s automatic Bayesian filter and part of that is the ongoing efforts of the moderators. Keeping spam out of a forum, and if necessary banning trolls and the like, is a top priority for any good forum. At StartupToDo.com, first you need to be a member and secondly, there’s a “report spam” button available on every Discussion and Post.

In fact, if you are a regular at the Joel on Software Business of Software Forum,  the Association of Software Professionals Forum, the SoftwareCEO Forum or another software startup forum, sign up for free 30 day trial at StartupToDo.com, email me, and for the the asking and your participation, I’ll be happy to comp you a six-month StartupToDo.com membership.

Just to be crystal clear here, I’m not trying to woo you away from any of these forums. I’m hoping you’ll find additional value for your time and participation at StartupToDo.com and this is a small way to pay back all the help and good advice I’ve gotten at BOS and elsewhere.

Coming soon will be two more features I think will make for even more value: Discussion reputations will be accessible to all members as they browse and participate in Discussions and the ability to not just add a Post but add a Post with an embedded Resource, Tip or Event. So often, people are looking for answers when they participate in a forum: by making it really easy to create Resources, Tips and Events within Discussions, I hope to increase the value of everyone’s participation to all of us.

Announcing the UserTesting.com StartupToDo.com Scholarship

It’s easy when you are a small startup to become 150% wrapped up in it; after all, you’re building your dream. That’s why it’s very cool when a startup takes time out from what they are doing to help other startups. Today we are announcing the start of the UserTesting.com StartupToDo.com Scholarship.

Here’s how Aimee Williamson, UserTesting.com‘s Director of Customer Support put it:

“At UserTesting.com, we support the entrepreneurial spirit!  We are a startup — as are many of our customers — so live the challenges daily.  One of the greatest resources out there for companies like us is StartupToDo.com.  StartupToDo.com is a startup by Bob Walsh, author of The Web Startup Success Guide, Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality, Clear Blogging, and two ebooks: MicroISV Sites that Sell! and The Twitter Survival Guide.  This productivity application offers: guides, site reviews, resources, events, groups, and much more!”

“To “pay it forward”, UserTesting.com is sponsoring 2 six-month scholarships to StartupToDo.com.  The lucky winners will also each receive a free test with 3 users from UserTesting.com (a $117 value).  Good luck!”

So how do apply? Run don’t walk to your favorite Twitter client and tweet to @usertesting “I want a StartupToDo.com scholarship”. Be sure to mention @usertesting so we see your tweet. We will be in touch with the lucky winners. Thanks again, UserTesting.com!

StartupToDo.com: why all the scholarships?

I’d don’t know about you, but if I hadn’t gotten a couple of small, key scholarships, I would not have gone to college. It wasn’t just the money – it was having someone real tell me that, yes, I should be in college that made a huge difference. When you’re doing something new, different and scary, getting that kind of validation matters.

That’s why I’m very pleased to say there’s not 1, or 2 but 3 different scholarship programs running right now at StartupToDo.com. Like scholarships in the academic world, each of the sponsors decide eligibility, but they all share a real desire to see more startups succeed.

OnStartups.com – (See this post at OnStartups.com for details). Dharmesh Shah and Jason Cohen – the cofounders of Answers.Onstartups.com – are giving away 20 six-month scholarships to StartupToDo.com. Dharmesh’s day job just happens to be creating and running HubSpot.com, a startup that has raised $33.5 million in VC money in the past year and a half. Jason, of the A Smart Bear blog and founder of Smart Bear Software, is known for his insightful posts on many startup topics. They guys have plenty on their plate. But it matters to them your startup succeeds.

Atomic Object – (see this page at Atomic Object). It’s easy for people in California in general and Silicon Valley in particular to scoff at the IT/startup communities in “flyover” country like Grand Rapids, Michigan. Easy and oh so wrong.

Software development companies like Atomic Object roll up their sleeves and get the job done right for global companies, and in the process move their communities from light-industrial to heavyweight post-industrial and a great place to live. Carl Erickson, President of Atomic Object, isn’t just thinking about getting the job done for AO’s many clients, he’s thinking about how to grow and nurture the west Michigan IT/Startup hub. That’s one of the reasons AO is sponsoring 20 Michigan-based startup founders to be part of StartupToDo.com.

Microsoft WebsiteSpark – (see this page for details) Speaking of scoffing at, let me just come out and say that all too many people in our industry profile Microsoft as the big, bad corporate wolf. Bull. Like every other company and organization, Microsoft is the net effort of the people who work there now, not what it was in the past.

That’s why Jacob Mullins, who runs WebsiteSpark in the U.S. anted up 130 six-month free StartupToDo.com scholarships for budding startup founders who’s day job is building web sites for clients. And it’s people like Midori Lawler, Ludovic Ulrich (and before him, Julien Codorniou) and Tom Halabi who are the reason Microsoft BizSpark exists and why I’ve volunteered my time to help 392 startups to date join BizSpark in the last 18 months.

As you read this, whether you’re the CEO of a software company with 10,000 employees or you are it, I’d encourage you to find a way to help other IT startups get off the ground. Whether that’s sponsoring scholarships at StartupToDo.com, bringing on a summer intern (I’ve got someone for you if you’re interested), being a sponsor of a startup event in your geographic area, you can make a huge difference. And if you’re not making a difference in this world, what are you doing?

Announcing StartupToDo.com Version 2

It’s been a long haul, but StartupToDo.com Version 2 is officially out today!

Four times faster loading each and every page. Supports all current browser versions. With a new layout throughout thats easier to read, easier to work with and just plain more attractive. And now with an industry-standard 30 day free trial period before you need to pay for it.

And to get the ball rolling again, 3 new Guides (clicking the title of the Guide will take you there if you’re logged in:

Improving your copywriting (http://startuptodo.com/guides/63) by Pietro Polsinelli. Pietro’s Guide will help you write better blog posts, copy for your web site and even tweets.

Recording audio guidelines for videos, podcasts or Skype
(http://startuptodo.com/guides/64) by Corey Maass. This Guide will get you started with improving your computer-captured audio for videos, podcasts or Skype – however you communicate.

Managing your testimonials with Propadoo.com
(http://startuptodo.com/guides/61) by colospeedskierboy. Testimonials boost sales, but can be a pain to manage. With Prooadoo.com, that pain goes away.

So what can StartupToDo.com do for you?

Guides – 49 today and a firm plan for creating at least 3 a week. Guides take 3.5 hour tasks and turn them back into 30 minute tasks. Rated and commented on, Guides are the wheels for your startup you don’t have to research to reuse. What happens when instead of spending hours bouncing between google, blog posts, and out of date pages you can take a Guide, make it your Project, work through it and get it done? You save time, frustration and energy – and build more of your startup faster.
Site Reviews - Instead of asking at public forums (where your customers can see it) for feedback on your site, create a Site Review Request at StartupToDo.com and let your peers provide you with targeted quantitative and qualitative feedback. And by reviewing other member sites, you’ll develop the skills you need to explain your product or service, connect with your intended market and facilitiate the sale.

Track your progress, build your momentum. Whether it’s completing projects, reviewing member sites (or asking for Site Reviews) or just recording your development time and business decisions, everything you do in StartupToDo.com earns you points. And points let you compare your progress this week to last week, to what your StartupToDo.com friends are getting done, and to an average of everyone.

Tips, Resources, Events, Groups, StartupToDo.com Friends and more.

Why not try StartupToDo.com today – free 30 day trial before you have to pay, costs between $30 and $15 a month. Be Successful Faster.

New: 130 Microsoft WebsiteSpark StartupToDo.com Scholarships.

Microsoft WebsiteSpark is sponsoring 130 six-month full scholarships to StartupToDo.com for professional web developers and designers.

Here’s how it works: if you’re a web designer/developer delivering sites to customers and you have less than 10 employees, I can now sponsor you for the Microsoft WebsiteSpark program. And if you live in the U.S., Microsoft is sponsoring as of today those 130 six-month scholarships to StartupToDo.com (regular price: $105 for a six month subscription).

More info at: http://startuptodo.com/websitespark.

Even if you are perfectly content to be a professional web designer and have no intention of building your own software, I think you’ll find the 50 (and growing) Guides at S2D useful, as well as getting quick, useful feedback when you request Site Reviews from the community. And the Marketing Action Plans coming next month after Version 2 launches will work great for you too.

And even if you have no intention of leaving open source (I program in Ruby on Rails nowadays… :)), it’s worth having a (nearly) free toehold in the Microsoft World because:

  • You’ll be able to better work with prospective clients using ASP.NET,
  • You’ve seen the new Microsoft Phone demo, and realize there’s going to be a lot of shall we say graphically-challenged (like me) developers looking for professional help soon. Especially if there’s another explosion of mobile apps as there was/is for the Apple iPhone and Google Android platform. (here’s a Mix10 session from Monday on this: Authoring for windows Phone, Silverlight 4 and WPF with Expression Blend)
  • Speaking of Silverlight, version 4 developer release was just announced. If you haven’t looked at Silverlight in a while, things have changed: It prints. It can interact with the user’s desktop (PC or Mac). It supports Google Chrome. And a bunch of other stuff.

There are limitations on Microsoft WebsiteSpark – for example, you can either be in BizSpark or WebsiteSpark. And you have to reside in the United States to be eligible for the StartupToDo.com scholarships WebsiteSpark is sponsoring. And, there’s 130 scholarships available – when they’re filled, that’s it.

If you’re wondering if I can sponsor you instead for Microsoft BizSpark – I can and will. Just check out the requirements, email me or pick me as your Network Partner when you apply through the BizSpark site. You just might be 377th startup I’ll have sponsored for BizSpark .

That said, I’ve been working pretty hard to making the Microsoft WebsiteSpark StartupToDo.com Scholarships a reality because sometimes, all you need is just a bit of help and someone to believe in you to get your startup off the runway.

And the winner is…

Michael Buckbee. Michael asked the best question during our recent contest with Legal River and its new answerboard. Michael gets an hour of free legal advice/work and a free year’s membership to StartupToDo.com.

“I’m a software developer for The Social Collective (http://www.thesocialcollective.com) we create specialized social network tools for conference, festivals and tradeshows. If you’re going to SXSW this year, we’re the company behind their my.sxsw.com website where you can create your own custom personal schedule on the site, sync it to your iPhone and see where your friends are heading.”

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Also, Patrick and I are interviewing productivity guru David Allen on ways and methods of applying his Getting Things Done methodology to building software companies and working online. If you’ve got a question for David, add a comment now.

10 Oasis Digital StartupToDo.com Scholarships awarded.

All 10 Oasis Digital StartupToDo.com Scholarships recipients have now gotten the good news and accepted.

For the next six months these ten St. Louis startups will enjoy what StartupToDo.com has to offer free, thanks to Oasis Digital.

So what are these startups up to? Have a look:

Jason King, details.at, building a tinyURL like service, only better.
Rob Rose, DealieDo™.  DealieDo is the first desktop application for Windows® PCs to deliver retailer coupons to Facebook members.
Matt Pepple, Noversus LLC, currently developing an application that manages the fundraising lifecycle for organizations.
Aaron Witt, is developing a green wireless home energy networking system.
Mike Menne, a platform for St. Louis businesses to leverage the use of SMS technology.
David Esko, Symytry, a business knowledge and process enabler that handles information, process management, project management, knowledge management.
Nawaz Anwarudeen, Lynxess, hardware neutral software for prescription drug manufacturers to meet ePedigree mandate.
Michael Buchanan, microspaces.com, online nested interface technology.
Clayton Smith, WorldKi, online platform and marketplace for independent game developers.
Ryan BellTwaitter.com, Social media software platform for businesses and government institutions.

While the Oasis Digital StartupToDo.com Scholarship was the first StartupToDo.com scholarship, it by no means will be the last. Stay tuned!