About 2 hours ago Martin Kleppmann announced that Red Gate Software is acquiring his startup, Go Test It, for an undisclosed amount. Go Test It is an automated cross browser functional testing service. Here’s the details of the acquisition and Martin’s good-to-read reflection on it.
It’s always good to see someone in the startup/microISV world succeed; it’s even better when you can learn 12 Lessons from how they succeeded. (Skip down to Lesson #7 for the juicy part.)
I first got to know Martin in August when he sent me a very nice email regarding my latest book, this post that inadvertently included him in this image, and to briefly pitch his startup for my podcast. (Lesson 1: Reach out and Pitch Somebody Everyday.)
While Martin participated in StartupToDo.com’s private beta, I very much doubt that had anything to do with his well-earned success, but it certainly was something I noticed. (Lesson 2: Help others in the Startup Community.)
At the Business of Software Conference this month, Martin sought me out, (Lesson 3: Go to conferences to get known, use social tools to connect.), helping me locate another conferee, despite me being in a cranky mood thanks to a pinched back nerve (Lesson 4: When being helpful, their attitude is their problem, not a reflection of you.).
When I interviewed Martin for my podcast, (Lesson 5: Media exposure is good, no matter how small) he was interesting, helpful to people who listened to the podcast and came across as someone very committed to his startup (Lesson 6: Be yourself and be committed.).
Now, none of the above (or me for that matter) had any involvement with Martin’s happy Early Exit, but it goes to show Martin’s approach in general, I think. Let’s look at how he made Go Test It a worth acquiring:

  • Go Test It is definitely one of the nicest and most effective web sites for a startup I’ve seen this year. (Lesson 7: No one shops for ugly.)
  • Offer real value to your Market. Go Test It’s Firefox Recorder extension is really cool, as is the nuanced way results are delivered. Could some other programmer code the same – sure, if they had the right experience, thought about it deeply and spent a great deal of time getting it right.That’s Lesson 8: people are not buying your software. They’re buying the experience you’ve had, the deep thinking you’ve done and all of time you’ve spent finding and executing a good solution, and that happens to be in the form of software.
  • I’m sure that Martin working from Red Gate’s premises made it easy for Neil Davidson and Simon Galbraith to feel good about doing this deal. You might be tempted to think, “Oh, he got lucky that way.” Well, the co-founders of Red Gate are great guys, but they are running a [very successful] software business: they are not going to fork over money just because they know and presumably like Martin. (Lesson 9: You make your own luck.)
  • If your startup (not just your software) is going to be acquired, it’s got to be hard to reproduce. Sure, you probably know a lot about automated web testing – but just how long would it take to duplicate both the software and business and the reputation Martin has created? (Lesson 10: Valuable means hard to reproduce.)
  • Martin made a point to reassure his customers in some detail that he will be working on Go Test It at least until September 2010. (Lesson 11: Reassure your customers – they matter.) Of course, at some point Go Test It is going to be fully integrated into Red Gate’s line of services and software, so this isn’t for always and forever (Lesson 12: Every finish can be the start of something even better.)

Digital entrepreneurs create value as regularly as Moore’s Law works: I’m quite sure this is only the first finish line Martin will cross. Congratulations Martin, well done!

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