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

Over on 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.

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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 – “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!

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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.
  • 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

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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 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?

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Bob WalshGreeting Cards I wish I could buy…

Two detailed reviews…

FYI, Alain Raynaud, CEO of (which you should check out) just posted a very nice review of The Web Startup Success Guide at his blog: Book Review: The Web Startup Success Guide.

Also, Pietro Polsinelli wrote an awesomely detailed review of the Guide here:
A review of “The Web Startup Success Guide”. Pietro is working full-time on the Teamwork project management software, which has become a quite successful project, adopted all over the world, and used daily by more than 2000 people to manage their work.

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Bob WalshTwo detailed reviews…

The MicroISV Digest

The MicroISV Digest for the week ending September 28st, 2009.

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

News and Announcements

  • Edwin Yip,, has released a new Microsoft Word add-in: Writing Outliner. This add-in supports writers working on book-length projects in a variety of ways: multiple document projects, mind map-style brainstorming and research material management. Where was this when I needed it?! :) (via email)
  • Steven Cholerton, ArtenScience, is looking for feedback on his new CRM application that he releasing soon. (via email)
  • Jay Cincotta, Gibraltar Software, has integrated with PostSharp to enable post-compile instrumentation injection – logging and application monitoring without having to write any extra code. (via email)
  • Bob Walsh, 47Hats, has launched (a training/productivity community for startups and microISVs). is all about helping you succeed faster by providing specific and detailed Guides that save you time and frustration, Site Reviews that make the process easy and valuable to both reviewers and review requesters, and connecting you with other startups and microISV who share your values and interests.
  • Ian Hunter has released his new Windows photo cropping and printing application, PicCrop, and is looking for feedback (via BOS)
  • Liam McLennan, Eclipse Web Solutions, is looking for feedback on his new web app, (via BOS)
  • No show this week, as we mentioned in last week’s show #39 of the Startup Success Podcast. We will be posting a mercifully short interview with me re Regular shows commence again next Monday.

Relevant Blog Posts, Podcasts, Videos and Articles

  • nothing worth noting.


  • Thanks to the over 100 people who helped me better execute the 1.0 version of!
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Bob WalshThe MicroISV Digest

Announcing (Project X)

I’ve got something new for you. Something that will take a lot of the pain, delay, frustration and wasted time out of bootstrapping your startup, microISV, mISV, indie game house or microlight:

I created to solve a couple of huge challenges I’ve seen literally hundreds of skilled developers struggle with over the years:

  • You can spend as much time trying to figure out what you have to do and researching what’s the best way to do it as doing it. Put another way, half the time you carve out of the rest of your life to work on your startup gets wasted.
  • So say you spend 3 hours researching how to do some marketing, or operations or development or business thing, do it, only to find the information you relied on was out of date, overtaken by new tools on the web.
  • Or, you’re about to launch, but you know your startup’s web site needs improvement. Up to now your options have been a) As for help at forums like Joel on Software Business of Software (lots of good feedback, but uneven and can be seen by a prospective customer if they Google you) or b) read books and ebooks on the subject – helpful, but not specific to you, or c) Hire an expensive consultant (like me!)

Now there’s a better way, and it will cost you less than a dollar a day.


  • There are Guides that walk you through doing something you need to do, step by step. Guides are rated by the community and commented on. You can request Guides, and that request is rated by your peers.
  • You can request Site Reviews – and other members can do a Site Review quickly, providing you with meaningful quantitative data, useful suggestions, and likes/dislikes. Why should they bother? Because the more Site Reviews you do, the higher your Request is in the listing. Think of it as enlightened self interest.
  • Tips, Resources and Events for and by startups help you with information you can actually use.

The image for this post is a capture of which you can visit right now (as to why a page of a subscription-only site is public, see this post here for the gory details). These are some of the locations of the first 35 members with public profiles (you can stay stealth to avoid your boss): it’s fascinating to see the variety out there in the Startup World.

Please visit today: I think you will be very glad you did. And if you’ve already joined, thank you!, and please tell your startup-minded friends about

<warning: mushy personal note>While I hope to build a profitable business, changing the number of startups that succeed from something around 2 or 3 out of 10 to 6 out of 10 is my real objective with It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done. Come join me in it. </warning: mushy personal note>

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Bob WalshAnnouncing (Project X)

The MicroISV Digest

The MicroISV Digest for the week ending September 21st, 2009.

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

News and Announcements

  • Chris Randall, Devenius, Inc., has launched a new tool for SQL Server DBA’s and developers: SnipStorm. SnipStorm lets users store, share and recommend T-SQL code. (via email)
  • Liam McLennan, Eclipse Web Solutions, is looking for feedback on its mobile routing solution, (via BOS)
  • Justin Vincent has launched Tweetminer, a new Twitter utility, and is looking for feedback on his site and product. (via BOS)
  • Ruben Gamez, is currently in beta with his product Bidsketch (, and has just acquired a complementary product, SixCentral with the goal of combining the two products. (via email)
  • In show #38 of the Startup Success Podcast Bob and Pat talk with Gabriel Torok, founder and president of PreEmptive Solutions, a Java and .Net obfuscator company that’s going in a new direction: instrumenting your software so you can really see how customers use your app without running afoul of privacy concerns. Gabriel has some excellent advice for startups in general; this is one episode not to miss.

Relevant Blog Posts, Podcasts, Videos and Articles

Further (mostly relevant) Reading

  • Three years ago Aaron Patzer had a prototype and an idea that VC after VC turned down flat. A week ago, he sold to Intuit for $170 million. I’m totally not surprised: Aaron was kind enough to let me interview him about how he built Mint for The Web Startup Success Guide. Here’s the short version of the story of how he did it, in his own words.


  • The private beta of (a training/productivity community for startups and microISVs) continues; hopefully between today and the next MicroISV Digest we will launch!
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Bob WalshThe MicroISV Digest

The MicroISV Digest

The MicroISV Digest for the week ending September 14th, 2009.

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

News and Announcements

  • Dan Gravell, elsten software, is looking for feedback on its music management application, bliss. They are also looking for beta testers. (via BOS)
  • Milos Tanasijevic has launched DupeTrasher, that will identify and locate duplicate files on your Windows PC. I’ve got 4 pcs and three networked hard drives I need to run through this! (via BOS)
  • Scott Carpenter, InvoicePlace, found a nifty interactive “expert system” online for (Australian) startups/microISVs who need to broaden their working knowledge of Intellectual Property Laws as they pertain to them. 1Place expert system ( via TechNation Australia.)
  • Atul Godbole, LogicNC Software, has launched Crypto Obfuscator For .Net. Here’s the gist: “Crypto Obfuscator combines powerful techniques such as symbol renaming, control flow obfuscation, resource and assembly encryption and decompiler & disassembler protection to provide the very best protection to your .Net code against reverse-engineering. Additionally its metadata reduction, assembly & resource compression and dependency embedding functionality simplifies and reduces the deployment of your software.” (via email)
  • In show #37 of the Startup Success Podcast Bob and Pat talk with Ginevra Kirkland, Six Apart Community Manager, about how to care for, nurture, advocate for and grow an online social community. Ginevra has been a Community Manager at Six Apart (makers of the TypePad blogging service) for over five years and is way ahead of nearly all of us on the Social Media curve. Note: Ginevra was kind enough to offer a 15% off discount code for TypePad for Startup Success listeners.

Relevant Blog Posts, Podcasts, Videos and Articles

  • Brian Swanson over at Purple Ant pointed out a post over at Rands in Repose: Your People. I gave it a quick read, stopped, and read it a second time with my brain set to ‘record’. Also check out from the same source: Managing Humans. And the Nerd Handbook!

Further (mostly relevant) Reading


  • On a very personal note, after 2+years of working on this idea, the private beta for (a training/productivity community for startups and microISVs) began today. Wish me luck!
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Bob WalshThe MicroISV Digest