By Bob Walsh
There’s a great post over at EarlyStageVC by Peter Rip about the Writely acquisition: There’s more to being a successful micro-ISV than whipping together some code: you need to dig deep into a particular problem domain. Peter tells the back story of how Sam Schillace, Steve Newman and Claudia Carpenter formed Upstartle in 2004 to bring to market a web based product dealing with their passion, document management.
Sam, Steve and Claudia have been in the business of writing software for many years; among their credits is the cross-platform WYSIWYG HTML editor they sold to Claris (Claris Home Page). They have been digging into word processing in general and managing word processing documents for years.
Document management is an ugly market; many, many companies have burned through their VC money trying to somehow climb this particular greased pole. Peter tells the tale of how Sam and Steve focused down on a web word processor, how to employ AJAX and their solid programming expertise to build an alpha within a month and release Writely as a beta that started to take off.
For other micro-ISVs thinking about getting on the Web 2.0 bandwagon, the Writely tale is both a beacon of what could happen and a blinking warning light: coding expertise is not enough, you need to find a narrow problem real people have and solve it with that coding expertise to create real value.

1 Comment

  1. It’s easy to read too much into this.
    The thing about acquisitions is that they are always one-off’s. At this particular time (March 2006) with this particular company (Writely) with this particular acquirer (Google), a deal was made. That doesn’t “prove” that Writely is a good commercial idea or that it was generally a good idea in the first place or that the founders had some sort of secret sauce that made it a foregone (or even likely) conclusion that this would all work out. While we always need to give the nod to people who seemed genuine, worked hard and “really deserved it”, let’s see it for what it is: applause, not a business lesson.
    If you’ve drawn conclusions from the Writely acquisition, your conclusions are based on sparse evidence. There’s no evidence that Writely found a narrow problem real people have or solved it to create real value. Perhaps the technology will do that, in the future. But, for right now, the only thing that Writely has done is … made something that Google saw potential in.

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