A new forum for startup questions: Answers OnStartups

By: Jason Cohen
Founder, Smart Bear Software
A Smart Bear

If you’re like me…

I hate that phrase. What if I’m not like you? What if I don’t want to be like you? What if I’m exactly like you but with a better haircut?

So forget whether you’re like me, but see if any of the following could be used to describe you:

  1. You run a startup.
  2. You’re a fan of StackOverflow.
  3. You like talking about, arguing about, learning about, and thinking about startups.
  4. You have useful things to say about startups but you have only 37 RSS subscribers and half of those are RSS directories and one of those is your Mom, and you’d like become just a little more famous waxing philosophical while also getting interesting new perspectives from other people.

In short: You want StackOverflow, for startups.

Well it’s here! It’s called Answers OnStartups, and it’s a Q&A site for any topic about startups and entrepreneurship, using the same technology as StackOverflow.

But wait, doesn’t this compete with our own Bob Walsh’s StartupToDo.com, what with the “community building” and all?

The fact that Bob has graciously hosted this guest-post proves it’s not a conflict, but let me give you a better reason: StartupToDo (besides having a lot more than just forums!) helps you with every operational detail of your startup. The encouragement to “critique other folks’ stuff” is direct and specific, and therefore invaluable.

Answers OnStartups is more general, but not less useful. Some recent questions include:

Answers OnStartups is the latest addition to Dharmesh Shah’s OnStartups.com destination for startups. Once again, the idea isn’t “competition” with sites like 47hats! Your RSS reader has room for more than one feed, right?

I have the privilege of co-moderating Answers with Dharmesh, which basically means I get to correct typos and add tags to questions. Well OK, also so far I’ve maintained the #1 spot on the site (based on up- and down-votes from other members), but I’ve noticed Alex Papadimoulis (below) is gaining fast…

So who else is actually active on the site? Some folks you might know (linked to their user profiles, so you can see that they’re actually active):

Notice something? Everyone listed here — including Dharmesh and myself — are self-made technology geeks-turned-founders. This isn’t run by MBAs. This isn’t run by VPs of Big Title at Souless Corp. We’re coders who learned business through experience and necessity.

You know, like you. That’s why this is so awesome.

Of course the best part is meeting all the folks I didn’t know before who aren’t “famous” but have useful, interesting, new things to say.

Are you the next person I’m going to love meeting? Check out Answers and join this new, intelligent community of startup founders!

read more
Bob WalshA new forum for startup questions: Answers OnStartups

MicroISV Digest returns next week

Hi all – I’m attending the Business of Software Conference in San Francisco – meeting some great people and listening to speakers who are offering some really good ideas and advice I’ll be posting about here for the next month easily. But it’s pretty all consuming, so the MicroISV Digest will be back next week. The [blurry] photo is of Heidi Roizen – she’s an entrepreneur, corporate executive, corporate director and venture capitalist – and gave a killer presentation on what startups look like from the VC point of view.

read more
Bob WalshMicroISV Digest returns next week

A tale of disappointment, betrayal and ultimate vindication.

I was going to hold this for the next MicroISV Digest, but it’s too good to let sit. It’s an engrossing story of how one man on a nearly impossible quest, betrayed by feckless promises made by huge companies, fights through adversity, never giving up, and ultimately succeeds.

No, I’m not talking about the latest cookiecutter novel turned out by one of the mega-authors. I’m talking about Ash Maurya’s post today, “From Minimum Viable Product to Landing Pages.” If you’re a microISV you’re going to want to go to this post, print it, and start turning pages – because unlike the $9.99 potboiler novels, this read is going to show you how to make Honest-to-God Real Money.

[Speaking of real, will all the 13 year-old ankle-biting script-kiddies sending fawning emails to me to sponsor them in Microsoft BizSpark with fake names, throwaway email addresses and startup descriptions made by slapping techno mush buzzwords together in the hopes of scoring free software they can sell on eBay kindly cease and desist? I am Not Amused. Neither is Microsoft – which as you read this is tracking each and every one of you down with the remorselessness of The Terminator and will make you wish you’d done something safe instead – like eating lead paint chips. Thank you.]

With that off my chest I can return to the subject at hand – Ash’s excellent post detailing how he created – and tested, and iterated – a Unique Value Proposition (UVP) for his photo and video sharing application, CloudFire. Ash lays out each twist and turn as he evolved his UVP – and how when it came time to drive traffic through his a/b testing StumbleUpon, Facebook and Google AdWords completely failed to work.

I won’t spoil the ending by telling you how he found a way to realistically test his evolving UVP: you should go read his post. You will profit from it. And if you’re too busy to read it now, bookmark it in the folder in your browser labeled “how to do it right” – this one is a keeper.

read more
Bob WalshA tale of disappointment, betrayal and ultimate vindication.

The MicroISV Digest

The MicroISV Digest for the week ending November 2nd, 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

  • Nick Koranda, MeMo, is looking for feedback on their redesigned web site for their text message reminder service. (via BOS.)
  • Dmitriy Gorbachev, Accio Intellectum LLC, is looking for feedback on their web site and their just-released product, IMAlerts for SharePoint. (via BOS.)
  • Show #43 of The Startup Success Podcast is up. Pat and Bob interview Renn Vara, co-founder of SNP Communications about the challenges and opportunities startup founders now face when it comes to dealing with the media and communicating their message. On iTunes.

Relevant Blog Posts, Podcasts, Videos and Articles

  • Nothing stands out this past week, but I’ve started reading Matthew Cornell’s “Where the !@#% did my day go?” ebook. While I was an early beta tester, I’m really impressed with how professional, useful and thought-provoking the finished ebook is. I plan to review it soon here, in the meantime

And…

  • This week’s microISV Digest is sponsored by StartupToDo.com: Focused action and discussion save you precious bootstrapping hours. Be Successful Faster with StartupToDo.com.
read more
Bob WalshThe MicroISV Digest

The MicroISV Digest

The MicroISV Digest for the [several weeks] ending October 26th, 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

  • Apologies are in order. My apologies for not getting the last 3 issues of the Digest out. My new startup, StartupToDo.com, suffered a near-fatal financial blockage requiring an immediate transplant of its payment processor (replacing PayPal and Spreedly.com with Amazon Simple Pay Subscriptions). Happily, the operation was a success, the patient (see image) is alive and kicking and I can get back to putting out the Digest.
  • Steven Cholerton, Arten Science, have just released a new freeware application – ooSooM – a cross platform task management and secure digital filing application. ooSooM does not attempt to force a predetermined ‘methodology’ on you, rather it’s very free format and open allowing you to use it however you like, but with enough structure to ensure that once logged, information can retrieved easily and readily. (via email)
  • Cathy Tullysmith, opscotch.com, has come up with a neat, fun way of getting her bootstrapped SaaS customer management application some well-deserved attention: Tech eCards — e-Cards for people who work in tech. We finally have greeting cards for those special moments in our lives. (via email)
  • Scott Gerold, Elms Software,  has released ELMS Advantage Online.  ELMS Advantage is a management system for remodelers, contractors, and the service trades.  ELMS Advantage is an end-to-end management system starting with tracking sales leads, creating estimates, generating contracts, processing change orders, and project scheduling. (via email)
  • Tom Markiewicz is looking for additional beta testers and feedback for his new application, StatsMix. A web stats aggregator, StatsMix provides a daily overview of all your web stats. From Google Analytics to Twitter to FeedBurner, monitor all your sites in a single view. This sounds like something I need! (via email)
  • Three new episodes of The Startup Success Podcast since the last Digest:
    • Show #40: Derek Sivers, CDBaby and MuckWork. Derek tells all and tells why he built CDBaby into an key element of the independent music world, how he saved several million dollars in taxes when he exited and what he’s working on next.
    • Show #41: Windows 7 on the Startup Grill. In this episode I put my co-host and Microsoft Evangelist Pat Foley on the hot seat about what, if anything, Windows 7 means to startups and microISVs.
    • And posted today, Show #42: Rob Walling and Mike Taber, the Micropreneur Academy. Rob, Mike, Pat and I discuss this new, exciting and valuable resource for developers ready to cast off their chains and become startups.

    As always, you’ll find the Startup Success Podcast at http://startuppodcast.wordpress.com or on iTunes where we really need your comments!

Relevant Blog Posts, Podcasts, Videos and Articles

And…

  • This week’s microISV Digest is sponsored by StartupToDo.com: Focused action and discussion save you precious bootstrapping hours. Be Successful Faster with StartupToDo.com.
read more
Bob WalshThe MicroISV Digest

You don’t sell to an industry, you sell to people.

Over on answers.onstartups.com today someone posted an interesting question:

what happens when you made a product for an industry that doesn’t exist? i mean it sells, it makes revenue but the industry cannot be defined ?

is this a bad sign or a good sign ?

When you start looking at who is buying or subscribing to your software, you might start asking yourself this same question. Don’t. Because it misses what I think is a key reality of Internet-disrupted economics: What we used to call industries don’t exist anymore.

Once upon a time….

Once upon a time (say 1800 to 1999) when the logic of industrialism defined developed national economies, everyone (except children, “homemakers” and the unemployed) fitted neatly and firmly in very specific categories. You were in the steel industry because you worked for a company that made steel. You lived in a city, a small town, a suburb or in the country. People and businesses tended to fit in well defined categories that made mass production, mass consumption, mass education, mass culture possible, feasible and desirable. People who didn’t fit the mold were labeled as “bohemians” or “hippies”. Businesses that were neither fish nor fowl – like supermarkets that sold hot coffees or snow tires were thought to be a best “odd” and soon went bankrupt.

But a funny thing happened to all this standardization: it went post-industrial. Almost overnight the rules of the game changed. Cheap to the point of free global communications, computing power equal to everything NASA had to get to the moon can now be found in any mobile phone, and first a generation that did not like being categorized and boxed and now a new generation that looks at standardization and says, “what’s the point?”

This is not a kumbaya moment.

This is not a kumbaya moment brought on by the rise of the internet where we will all join hands, that is those of us who haven’t already got an iPhone glued to one hand. Brave new world = brave new problems and lots of them. Nor am I’m suggesting that there are no more well-defined lines between different industries – just that more and more companies and people happily jaywalk across those lines – and you should too if you want your startup to succeed.

Two statistics I happily swiped from this excellent post sums up the situation:

  • For decades the norm would be that 9 out of 10 new businesses (that means you) would fail in their first few years. Now, at least in the U.S., 74% succeed.
  • The number of zero-employee businesses (that’s you again) rose from about 15 million to over 21 million between 1997 and 2006.

Looking at internet-disrupted industries as the monoliths they once were, or hunting for your One True Market are approaches that hurt rather than help your business. They are maps that no longer reflect the reality of what’s happening out there.

Don’t draw within the lines. It doesn’t work.

Startups and their less-respected but much more numerous siblings microISVs succeed best when they disrupt the most. Want your startup to crater or your microISV to fail? Just do what someone else has already done.

Want to succeed? Profile what your customers have in common, regardless of “industry” or “market” and find more people with the same problems and circumstances. You don’t sell to an industry or market – those are just convenient, and increasingly misleading – labels. You sell to people. Understand how your product or startup will help them in an increasingly de-massified world and your odds of success will improve.

read more
Bob WalshYou don’t sell to an industry, you sell to people.

Run with it!

Back  in this post I lamented a lack of greeting cards for those special moments in the life of startups and microISVs. Like condolences on your crashed hard drive, happy server uptime for six months and the ever popular best wishes for your startup launch.

Now the good people at opscotch – a hosted help desk software company – have taken the idea for fun and run with it at techecards.com – “E-cards for people who work in tech!” They are hilarious and painfully funny, but only your IT friends will really appreciate them. Send one today to that certain someone today!

read more
Bob WalshRun with it!

Come hell or high water…

A short post to let you know that:

  • The MicroISV Digest will return here Monday October 26th.
  • The Startup Success Podcast for this week is being worked on at this moment by our Executive Producer, Francesca Amari. Francesca has been the reason the last 6 or shows have come out like clockwork – The issues with the current show are mine and Pat’s, not Francesca’s. Bottom line: it may be Monday the 26th before the next show airs, unless Francesca can work a miracle.
  • StartupToDo.com is back in action after a major screwup left it launched, but without a working payment processing system. As of last night, we are now integrated with Amazon Simple Pay Subscriptions and will be adding a second payment processor which accepts PayPal as well as credit cards worldwide, soon.
  • Already, three new Guides (on Twitter, Google Analytics and getting into and making sense of Microsoft’s BizSpark, Empower and new WebsiteSpark programs) have been added.

Now that I’ve rebuilt our payment system, I can get back to giving you very good reasons to spend some of your money and more importantly, some of you time, with StartupToDo.com.

read more
Bob WalshCome hell or high water…

Greeting Cards I wish I could buy…

Here’s – in my opinion – a huge unmet need: online greeting cards for IT people. I have all the usual traditional e-cards covered at Jacquie Lawson, but what about those special moments only we IT/Online people have?

For example Marcus M. just informed me that I was successful a couple of nights ago getting http://startuptodo.com to render right in Chrome at the screen resolution he uses. Perfect Hallmark Moment! Here are some other e-cards out there I’d like to see:

  • Our Deepest Sympathies on the loss of your Hard Disk
  • Congratulations on your Startup’s Launch!
  • Happy Your Server has been up a straight 180 days.
  • And of course the ever popular, Twitter will Get Well Soon – Hang In There!

What cards would you like to see? And is anyone going to start this as a microISV so I can pay them money?

read more
Bob WalshGreeting Cards I wish I could buy…