Startup/MicroISV Digest for 12/14/2010

Community News:

  • Erin Lang at the Belgrave Trust has a suggestion for strategizing in 2011: get a whiteboard. In fact, get a carbon neutral whiteboard. Belgrave is a two-year-old startup that sells carbon offsets as a subscription service to allow individuals to live carbon neutral.  They’ve recently added four products to their service that come bundled with a carbon offset component – trying to make it a little more tangible to the consumer.
  • Need to lawyer up your startup? Hays Ellisen of New York-based law firm, Shahmoon & Ellisen LLP wants you to know about the Tech Law Project – a pro bono legal service for startups. The Tech Law Project provides free legal advice to new technology companies that are in the early stages of development.
  • Tokyo-based Ryo Shimizu of Ubiquitous Entertainment wrote in to let people know that Toshiaki Yoshida has recently launched a new site, chirpstory.com. Chirpstory’s motto is “Sharing the world’s stories, one Tweet at a time.”

Interesting Answers.Onstartups.com questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

  • Button, button, who’s got the button? Turns out Performable has a very nice button generator at Super Conversion Button. They also have a short “Tips to SuperCharge your Call-to-Action Buttons” pdf as a free download.
  • Alwin Hoogerdijk, founder of Collectorz.com, did an interesting post where he shares some recent market share news and his sales numbers for the Collectorz.com apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. “The average Android owner is an animal that is completely different from the typical iPhone owner, and not nearly as app-hungry,” Alwin says. Good post!
  • Guy Kawasaki has an answer to the question, Facebook fan page or website page? over at his Amex OPEN column: the answer might surprise you and the “reveal tab trick” he highlights is a good one to know.
  • Want a chunk of a million dollars for something you’re probably going to connect your app to anyway? MailChimp has announced a $1 million fund to help foster startup adoption of its double opt-in emailing services. I’ve talked to two startup founders in the last week who have applied, been interviewed and are now waiting to see if they’re API integration projects will get funded. I really like MailChimp in general; then giving back to the startup community only enhances their reputation.
  • Tristan Kromer has launched a Startup wiki at http://SVstartup.com. Tristan had planned to focus this wiki to be a tool focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area, but given the response to the idea, this might go national.

StartupToDo.com, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • What’s new at StartupToDo.com. (StartupToDo.com is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):
    • No new guides this period.
  • New at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • Show #88 [link] [iTunes]. This week Bob and Pat talk again with Jeff Haynie, founder of Appcelerator, an open-source web technology for building native code desktop, mobile and web applications. We interviewed Jeff back in Show #33 about a year ago: How has the past year been for Appcelerator? Well, there are about 6,000 apps in the Apple iPhone/iPad Store that were written using Appcelerator, and they just nailed down $9 million in Series B funding. If you have been flirting with the idea of doing a mobile app, you definitely want to check out Appcelerator.
    • Show #89 [link] [iTunes]. This week Bob and Pat talk with David Cancel, CEO of Performable, a web analytics firm. Web analytics has become a very sophisticated business, with Performable, for example, being able to show you data, revenue, and conversion rates between different social media referrers, track customer lifetime visits, conversions and revenue, let you “reverse engineer” which pages of your site converted a visitor to a customer and even make specific recommendations on how to improve the process. David explains how a large company, or a startup, can effectively use web analytics, avoid the creepiness factor, and produce actionable information form their web data.
    • Show #90 [link] [iTunes]. In this show, Pat solos while interviewing Mark Stephens of IDR Solutions – founder of a six-person U.K. micro software company specializing in Java-based PDF tools licensed to the likes of Adobe. Pat and Mark came back from speaking at and attending this year’s Business of Software Conference changed men – and in this insightful conversation they share not only what made this conference transformative, but key insights about the realities of how small software firms can and should succeed.
  • Tired of being stuck in neutral in your startup? Why not do a MicroConsult with Bob Walsh? Instead of hypotheticals and too much information, Bob will work with you for an hour via Skype developing 8 to 10 specific todos that will get your startup in gear. Here’s what one recent client had to say:

    “The Microconsult with Bob was excellent. Our particular problem was lack of sales. Bob analysed our website in detail and made specific suggestions for improvements, which would make it more likely for customers to buy our service. He is very patient and offers great value for money. The phone call in the Microconsult offer is for one hour, but our session lasted more than 2 hours! Bob is a true mentor. We are very excited and optimistic about making the relevant changes to our website.” — (Name withheld)

    Details at 47hats.com.

====
(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.)

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Bob WalshStartup/MicroISV Digest for 12/14/2010
IzendiaVideo.jpg

A good problem to have…

A "to-the-point" video

One of my consulting clients, Izenda Reports, hit a home run today.

They combined a “looks like a plain email” MailChimp newsletter campaign linking to a blog post containing this this video. It got nearly 500 clicks this morning from customers and prospects who have chosen to get the newsletter, forcing Izenda to purchase more bandwidth at screencasts.com.

The moral of this little story is customers like it when you go the extra distance to provide them with usable, useful and interesting information about your product, delivered in an easily shared permissioned format.

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Bob WalshA good problem to have…
gotomeeting.png

Using GoToMeeting with a MicroConsulting client

One nice way of helping your startup customers is to use GoToMeeting.com. But if you do, there’s three things you want to keep in mind:

  • Your screen sizes will differ. That means your customers – unless they are also developers – will probably have a smaller screen. Sometimes a very much smaller screen. Be sure at the very start they can easily read your screen by either increasing the size of what you are showing, or magnifying the entire screen. Be sure they can see both the right and left sides and the top and bottom.
  • Your mileage will definitely differ. Unless both of you are on fast broadband, there will be a persistent lag. Worse, sometimes it’s a short lag, but the bigger the object on your screen changed, the longer it will take for their screen to refresh. Periodically ask your customer if they are seeing exactly what you are doing at that moment.
  • Keep it simple! While you can do voice over IP or a conference call within GoToMeeting.com, the former will eat bandwidth and the latter introduces its own set of complexities. It’s best simply to call them(via Skype to their land line).
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Bob WalshUsing GoToMeeting with a MicroConsulting client

MicroISV Digest 11/3/2010

Community News:

  • Charles O’Dale, Senomix Software Inc., has released a networked time tracking application for BlackBerry which ties directly in to a company’s (or sole freelancer’s) Windows or Mac OS X server computer. Senomix Timesheets links directly over the Internet to the server program and, once time tracking information is saved from a BlackBerry, it is then available to assist in billing and project management from any desktop computer without any need for cables, e-mail or other manual synchronization.

Interesting Answers.Onstartups.com questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

StartupToDo.com, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • What’s new at StartupToDo.com. (StartupToDo.com is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):
    • No new guides this period.
  • New at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • No show this week – we had planned to make next week the no show week, what with me in Seattle Monday to do the keynote for Deploy2010, but it turned out to make more sense to make this week the no show week. We do plan to have a great show for you out Monday.
    • One other bit of news: I’m newswriting again, this time at SiliconANGLE.com. Got news? Send it my way.
  • Tired of being stuck in neutral in your startup? Why not do a MicroConsult with Bob Walsh? Instead of hypotheticals and too much information, Bob will work with you for an hour via Skype developing 8 to 10 specific todos that will get your startup in gear. Here’s what one recent client had to say:

    “The Microconsult with Bob was excellent. Our particular problem was lack of sales. Bob analysed our website in detail and made specific suggestions for improvements, which would make it more likely for customers to buy our service. He is very patient and offers great value for money. The phone call in the Microconsult offer is for one hour, but our session lasted more than 2 hours! Bob is a true mentor. We are very excited and optimistic about making the relevant changes to our website.” — (Name withheld)

    Details at 47hats.com.

====
(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.)

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Bob WalshMicroISV Digest 11/3/2010

Politics, and you.

[Danger – rant against politicians and non-voting “net citizens” ahead. Skip if you are easily offended.]

I used to care a great deal about how people voted. In fact, at various times in my life I’ve worked on local, congressional and national campaigns. I can cite you chapter and verse, argument and counter-argument on just about every domestic and foreign policy issue out there – for the past 30 years.

I’ve stopped caring. Not because between gutless Democrats and whacko Republican/Tea Party types (interjection: how dare they equate Obama with Hitler?) both make me sick. And not because Everything Is Just Fine. it’s not.

I’ve stopped caring because between the professional political aristocracy we’ve developed over my lifetime and professed willful ignorance of so many people who can tell you the names of every American Idol contestant, but can’t name their congressperson, senator, state capitol or how many states there even are in these United States, I’m tired of running face first into a wall of indifference.

60 percent of the people who could have voted in today’s elections won’t. They’ve either been suckered by the professional political class into thinking it doesn’t matter (tip of the hat to Seth Godin for laying it on the line), or can’t see an inch past their own nose and prefer being whiny victims instead of a responsible citizens.

And, you know who the worst offenders are? You are. That’s right – people like you in the IT world who are at the front end of every economic, social-economic, intelligence curve out there. You will spend hours trash talking online one OS or another, oohing and aahing over the latest leaked bit of news about the next iPhone or Droid, but you won’t vote. “All politicians are crooks, nothing they say matters, it’s all a pack of lies” goes the chant while you cover your ears and squeeze your eyes shut.

Well, here’s a little startup advice for free. Denying reality, denying your responsibility, denying you have anything to do with the god awful mess politics has become in this country just because you won’t vote won’t fly. Closing your eyes and ears to what’s going on doesn’t bestow upon you some sort of get out of jail free card from all those things shaped, or mis-shaped in the political arena. Quite the opposite.

So how about holding your nose, go find your polling place and getting into the game? Do you really think that it would be politics as usual if instead of most of us not voting most of us did vote? Not a chance.

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Bob WalshPolitics, and you.

MicroISV Digest 10/27/2010

Community News:

  • Steven Cholerton, Arten Science, just keeps cranking away: not only has he a major new release of ContaxCRM 2.0, his cross platform CRM app, but he’s scored a big win by getting it and another of his products into Amazon. How did he pull this off? “I was approached by an agent in Feb. who has secured a UK/European distribution deal for a boxed version of some of my products and then he secured a US deal. Hopefully the Apple stores will take the boxed product as well,” Steve emailed.
  • Are you a doing a .NET microISV? Nicolas Cadilhac’s Shopmvc may make a lot of your business admin pains stop hurting so much. It’s still in alpha, but Nic is looking for a few alpha testers who will help him debug and shape the product. Email Nic your story, needs and why ShopMvc could fit the bill for you, and you could win a lifetime free license.
  • Bryan Lee, Pandali, has released a new version of Pandali Folder Master for Outlook, which makes it very easy to file an email in multiple folders, manage multiple folders and more. Pandali Folder Master for Outlook costs $29 with a 30-day free trial and is available for download from http://pandali.com/pfm.html.

Interesting Answers.Onstartups.com questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

  • Here’s an utterly awesome video – not just because of the content, but because of the form. And by the way, RSA like TED, have their lectures online and mobile.
  • Want to know if the Business of Software is really as awesome as so many people have said? Check out the definitive post by Patrick McKenzie: Lessons Learned At Business of Software 2010. (I’m going next year if I have to walk.)
  • I really agree: what we need is a martial art for and about online life. Here’s a start: Xinfu: The Martial Art of emailing. From Breakfast 2.0.
  • And finally, who’s this handsome devil and how did he get into such a great interface? (I’m green with envy Andy!)

StartupToDo.com, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • What’s new at StartupToDo.com. (StartupToDo.com is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):
    • No new guides this period.
  • New at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • Show #87 [link] [iTunes]. This week Bob and Pat talk with Lisa Gansky, serial startup founder and author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing. There’s a trend, perhaps even a movement, decoupling access to services and products from ownership, and we talk with Lisa about the startup opportunities that the Mesh economic model makes possible. Software is now firmly established as a service – what happens when physical objects plus cloud infrastructure equals a better experience at a lower cost than actually owning everything we sometimes need?
  • Tired of being stuck in neutral in your startup? Why not do a MicroConsult with Bob Walsh? Instead of hypotheticals and too much information, Bob will work with you for an hour via Skype developing 8 to 10 specific todos that will get your startup in gear. Here’s what one recent client had to say:

    “I was flabbergasted at how far my product strategy progressed during a single consulting session. Bob gained a thorough understanding of my market and its potential within a few minutes and was then was able to define and refine the core steps I need to follow. They should put me well on my way to achieving my business goals.” — Gareth Hayter, Slyce.com

    Details at 47hats.com.

====
(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.)

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Bob WalshMicroISV Digest 10/27/2010
oldlondonmap.png

We don’t get lost anymore. Or do we?

Pat and I were interviewing Jeff Haynie, founder of Appcelerator yesterday and something he said in passing stuck in my mind: “We don’t get lost anymore.”

It’s true – between maps on our phones, GPS, everyone a cellphone call away, when’s the last time you relied on a published printed map to move spatially from point A to point B?

Where we do get lost – hopelessly, totally, don’t-know-where-the-hell-I-am kind of lost – is navigating all the opportunities, data, services, communities, news, and noise on the web. A couple of examples: do you know what you’re going to read or watch or listen to online next? At least in the real ocean when you surf there’s a beach.

Here’s another example closer to home: how many programming tools have you found online which could have significantly improved your skills and abilities, but instead got lost in your daily info avalanche? Over a year ago Jeff told me (and you if you listen to our podcast) about Appcelerator. Now there’s over 6,000 apps in the iPhone App Store built with it. That’s 6,000 more apps than I ever found my way to writing with Objective C. How about you?

And not so incidentally, Jeff announced today $9 million in series B funding for Appcelerator, and a new serious partnership with PayPal to build out and scale the first real ubiquitous cross-mobile commerce platform. Kudos to Jeff for drawing his map and sticking to it.

===

Photo by mikeyashworth.

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Bob WalshWe don’t get lost anymore. Or do we?

Smartytask might be my new GTD love object

Having written a GTD-centric app for Windows, interviewed David Allen more than a few times and being more than a little, well, obsessed, with productivity, I’m trying something new out this weekend, and it’s looking very, very good: http://www.smartytask.com.

I’ve been using Things from Cultured Code on my Mac, iPad and iPhone for while, but have become increasingly dissatisfied with it. It’s great software, but it’s a size 10 handcrafted shoe and I take a size 11. It treats all tasks as equal, but some tasks are more equal than others.

At the tail end of the first decade of the twenty first century, here’s what I need from my productivity systems:

  • Support for, and a deep understanding of, David Allen’s Getting Things Done. GTD is the single best productivity methodology I’ve seen in 30 years. If you find something radically better, let me know. For now this is what the lawyers called settled law.
  • Love my screens, respect my screens. During the course of a day I switch between my iMac, iPad, and iPhone depending on what I’m doing. Whatever productivity system has to do the same. And it has to do it right.
  • “I am not a number, I am a free man!” (-Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner, RIP) In a world overrun with systems to sell to you, market to you, let you what to do and how to do it, capture your attention and monetize you, and generally run you like a numbered cog, any system I choose to cohabitate with has to be one that treats me like a person. That means, there’s more to life than processing a never ending succession of tasks, that sometimes I’m tired, energized, in a foul mood, open to the universe and a million other things that define the reality of being human from the theory of being a productivity robot.
  • It needs to be a solution, not a problem. Too many productivity systems simply can’t scale to give me the command and control over all my commitments, projects, tasks I want. They become a problem, then the problem, then dysfunctional, then anti-productive.

So how does Smartytask shape up?

  • GTD-specific – with contexts that work, next action lists and more.
  • Browser interface – first thing I checked when I signed up for an account ($9.99 month/ $99 year) was how well did it play on my iPad and iPhone. It plays remarkably well for an app that was launched just 5 months ago. (LucidChart.com, my other new toy, still has a way to go, but I’m pretty sure they will get there.)
  • Three features I really like – Time and Effort fields, Smart Contexts, and email reminders – give me control over my tasks, not the other way around.
  • Scales – Like Things, there’s zero excess information, keystrokes and hoops to jump through to get things out my head, into a system I can trust and then back in my face when I want them to be there.

I’ve just started this afternoon building out my SmartyTask – but I like what I see so far and I’m more than willing – in fact eager – to put it to the test. Will let you know how it goes; in the meantime, here’s the video that got me to get my wallet out:

Smartytask for GTD (Smartytask.com) from Smarty Task on Vimeo.

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Bob WalshSmartytask might be my new GTD love object

Words can’t hurt you. Lack of words can.

Louis Grey had a great post Thursday – Information Streams Accelerating the Attention Crisis – on something a growing number of people I respect are worrying about, like Tom Foremsky, and Hutch Carpenter.

This isn’t the old run-of-the-mill “information overload” issue people have been whinging about since Gutenberg started printing books, or since big honking “mini-computers” started spewing reams of paper reports back in the last century. It’s worse than that, much worse.

We all – or at least most of us – have made the transition from a world where you knew about most of the stuff you had to deal with on a day-to-day basis to a world where you don’t, you just know how to find it online. Hopefully.

And we all have our filter tricks in place – from only paying attention to certain people in Twitter, to using PostRank to filter down the raw flow of posts, to using Flipboard to see what people in our “social graph” consider noteworthy.

You might want to dismiss all this as just ever increasing noise. It’s not. We’re getting a huge growth in “signal” as well – people you want to know, things you need to know and do, stuff that matters to you. And that’s the problem Louis sees:

“Simply put, the total number of personally relevant pieces of content to consume each day is much higher than it was 1 year or 2 years ago, and will likely be 5 to 10 times higher 2 years down the road.

“We need to find ways to handle this deluge.”

Of course, the early adopters – like you and me – are feeling this faster and harder than the rest of the curve. I’ve noticed this year it’s increasingly hard to string together contiguous moments of attention (better known as thinking). That it’s increasingly hard to unplug email, my phone, twitter, IM because I will miss not just stuff I don’t care about, but people I do care about.

One more quote from Louis, because he says it so well:

“For those of us who are digitally connected and active, we are feeling this in acute fashion. Despite improved software tools to help us accomplish tasks, practically all of us feel we are busier than we were last year, and the year prior. We feel there are more tasks that need completing, and that we are actually falling further behind.”

Remember the old story about how Eskimos (Inuits) have 11 words for “snow”? The logic being, since they lived in a place defined by snow, being able to express the subtleties of different kinds of frozen water could make the difference between being safe and being dead.

While that’s an urban legend, the fact is we – early adopters, digital entrepreneurs, whatever you want to call us – don’t have good words to differentiate kinds of online information, tasks, todos, friends. We just keep marching through bigger and bigger drifts of online stuff, trying to get to where we’re going. Meanwhile, something is happening…

So how do you yell “avalanche!” in Inuit? And how are we going to cope with this?

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Bob WalshWords can’t hurt you. Lack of words can.

MicroISV Digest 10/20/2010

Community News:

  • Paul Morey, founder of MiddleClick has just started releasing demos on the Tutorials Page of his Windows app launcher program – one per fortnight for two more months. Paul thereby demonstrates 3 things: How nice snappy videos can sell a good product, how to keep prospective customers coming back to your site and there are still good .com domains can be had.
  • Nico Westerdale has launched a new startup (Bits du Jour is going just fine), called TipFrom.me, a micro-affiliate service that converts your current customers into an active sales force. Cool idea. I think any time you can give a satisfied customer a reason to talk about your product, to add their reputation to your’s, that’s a good thing.
  • Wayne Allen over at devzing.com, a Subversion/Bugzilla/MantisBT hosting service is offering a free copy of Mike Mason’s new ebook Pragmatic Guide to Subversion with your paid subscription.

Interesting Answers.Onstartups.com questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

  • I can see the analogy: Dealing with “Information Overload” at infovegan.com.
  • Ash Maurya has made the first 2 chapters of his forthcoming book, Running Lean, available. I really like Ash’s approach to making Lean Startup methods practical and non-faith-based startup building in general. Even if you decide not to pre-order the book, grab these two chapters.
  • Tech news these days is like ten firehoses hitting you in the face: if you’re looking for a good daily summary, check out Lauren Indvik over on Mashable and her “This Morning’s Top Stories in Tech and Social Media” posts – short, and good stuff. Hopefully Mashable will add a custom RSS feed for this feature, especially if you email them. In the meantime, http://goo.gl/ZWTM will get you there.

StartupToDo.com, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • What’s new at StartupToDo.com. (StartupToDo.com is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):
    • No new guides this period.
  • New at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • Show #86 [link] [iTunes]. This week Bob and Pat talk with Matt Spradley, founder of Impirus Legal Websites.Impirus provides a “WordPress/Basecamp” tailored experience for solo legal practitioners, and Matt talks candidly about the challenges and opportunities of selling to not-early adopters, how and why Impirus is using Windows Azure (“Have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.”) and more.
  • Tired of being stuck in neutral in your startup? Why not do a MicroConsult with Bob Walsh? Instead of hypotheticals and too much information, Bob will work with you for an hour via Skype developing 8 to 10 specific todos that will get your startup in gear.Here’s what one recent client had to say:

    “I’ve been waiting for a long time for Bob to offer consulting. I just had my first MicroConsult with him and I am thrilled. From my jumbled thoughts he helped me form the right questions to ask, bringing depth and focus to my next business hurdles. Then we worked together to build a plan of action I can handle. Equal parts mentor, project manager and therapist, Bob helps you make the next strategic step forward.”
    – Corey Maass, Gelform

    Details at 47hats.com.

====
(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.)

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Bob WalshMicroISV Digest 10/20/2010