Notes & Highlights from Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup

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I just finished reading Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup by Rob Walling, which gave me some good tips while trying to launch Monkey Finger. Here are some highlights and notes:

  • hours and dollars no longer correlated.
  • Accountability – “…those who sent weekly progress reports to their friend accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals…”
  • what is a good short-term goal for your startup?
  • Such it is with salaried employment and consulting. When the day is done you own nothing.
  • Once you launch a product, you are instantly building equity.
  • Roadblock #3: Lack of Goals
  • Want to spend more time with your family
  • define your goals and write them down.
  • The hard part is that it sure feels productive to spend 4 hours doing research and it’s fun, to boot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get you closer to launching.
  • information diet.
  • drip outsourcing; outsourcing small tasks as I perform my daily work.
  • “dollarize”
  • your price is less expensive than your competition due to the amount of money they will save in the long run.
  • Putting a value on your time is a foundational step in becoming an entrepreneur, and it’s one many entrepreneurs never take.
  • Work hard and play hard, but never do both at once.
  • When reading blogs or books or listening to podcasts or audio books, take action notes.
  • The entrepreneur is the dreamer, the visionary, and the creative mind. The manager is the person who thinks about return on investment (ROI), near-term success, and productivity. The technician gets the work done. She follows the manager’s guidance and is concerned about today’s success.
  • Realization #2: Market Comes First, Marketing Second, Aesthetic Third, and Functionality a Distant Fourth
  • You Will Never Be Done
  • With processes in place it’s much easier to sell your product if/when you want to make an exit.
  • why not work on a project you enjoy right now?
  • find a market that is willing to pay them money for something.
  • finding a group of people who need your something more than they need the money you’re charging for it.
  • Word of mouth
  • website, forum, blog, or magazine.
  • since niche markets are small they have less competition, and less competition means you are able to charge more for your product, resulting in higher margins.
  • if a market has a magazine devoted to it, it’s large enough to provide enough customers and if a full-page ad is less than $5,000, the market is small enough that you’ll be able to effectively market to it.
  • Small industries tend to have a handful of thought leaders.
  • find the thought leaders and convince them to adopt your product, you will receive massive exposure in a short period of time
  • consumer products $19/month.
  • small businesses $99/month
  • What would we pay? What numbers feel right?
  • Determine your product’s value.
  • Use three tiers.
  • Use the low end of your range as your lowest tier price. Multiply by 2 for your middle tier, and multiply your middle tier by 2 for the top tier.
  • End in 7, 8 or 9.
  • Determine the benefits of each tier.
  • Hosted Web Applications
  • your product is going to solve their problem for the right price, and they must make the purchase.
  • Your number one goal, even beyond selling your product, is turning browsers into prospects.
  • The best rewards are: a contest, a relevant four- or five- day email course, a relevant white paper, or a webinar.
  • understand what your ideal customer wants to find on your website, what they want to find in your product, and what triggers will make them buy.
  • What are their top three daily frustrations?
  • Initially you want them to provide their email address.
  • every page needs a call to action.
  • The Core Pages • Home • Tour • Testimonials • Contact Us • Pricing & Purchase
  • The #1 goal of your home page is to convince your visitors to click 1 link.
  • If you choose to have an image for your home page, choose one that shows the result of your product.
  • Your hook is your four-second sales pitch and it should be the headline of your home page.
  • 5-7 word summaries of your product.
  • one-minute screencast
  • screen shots to be smaller with the ability to zoom in using the Highslide JS library, and include a clickable image of the video.
  • one of the most important pages on your site. Do not launch without testimonials.
  • Monitor mentions of your product using Google Alerts and add choice quotes and backlinks to this page.
  • shows people that you will link to them if they write about your product.
  • provide both a contact form in the browser and a separate email address.
  • always provide a toll-free number, even if you let it go to voice mail and return the calls. Many customers are turned away when they see you don’t provide a phone number.
  • including a physical address will inspire confidence for some visitors.
  • Pricing & Purchase For SaaS applications this would be Pricing & Sign-up.
  • put this as the link on the far right of your top navigation and add subtle highlighting either by bolding the text or changing the color.
  • One of the best examples of a well-designed Pricing and Purchase page is at
  • 30-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee.
  • Give Something Away
  • I recommend shooting for a PDF report from 5-15 pages.
  • Offer an Email Course It sounds a bit hokey, but offering a free, five-day email course can be an exceptional draw.
  • more technical or web-savvy audiences prefer a longer report or white paper, while more non-technical users prefer email courses.
  • the one provider I recommend is MailChimp
  • Think of your mailing list as a blog with a new post every 2-4 weeks
  • A powerful tip I’ve used extensively is to use an autoresponder series,
  • Monitor Current Events
  • Take this information and share relevant links with a small amount of commentary. These are the best kinds of posts – easy to write but containing a lot of value for your audience.
  • Idea #2: Q&A
  • questions from customers or prospects. Answer the question in your email to solidify your place as an expert in this niche.
  • Idea #3: Interviews
  • sending a list of questions to someone (once you have their permission) and publishing them in your email. In exchange, the customer/blogger gets exposure for himself.
  • as a general rule, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days, between 7am and 10:30am.
  • Your “From” Name & Address
  • your real name.
  • Have One Goal for Each Email
  • special price available only to those on the list, but that the price will only last for 48 hours.
  • Tell them the day and time they will receive the email.
  • gaining an understanding of your marketing is your first step to building a successful business.
  • Traffic Strategies that Will Sustain a Business 1. A Mailing List 2. A Blog, Podcast or Video Blog 3. Organic Search
  • in technical markets, you’ll be hard-pressed to build a mailing list of developers. Developers tend to stay away from things that clog their inbox, typically opting for RSS feeds instead.
  • the real benefit happens if your content is reprinted elsewhere on the web. At that point, contact the webmaster of that site and offer to write unique content for them. That will provide unique content and a backlink to you.
  • For articles, 500-700 words is best.
  • Offer a Free Academic/Non-profit Version of Your Product in Exchange for a Link
  • Contact companies whose products you use and offer to provide a testimonial if they will include a link to your website.
  • before you launch your product, what are some processes you can avoid automating?
  • As a startup, you’ll have plenty of time before you need to scale, and you may never need to scale if the idea doesn’t work.
  • nearly anything I try to automate is easier to outsource first, and then automate down the line once the volume warrants it.
  • If customers decide to use it, then you can automate it. If not, you can throw what little time you spent on it away. You develop the minimum required functionality to make the bare bones feature work; nothing more.
  • outsourcing provides you with a written process for the task that serves as a blueprint if the time comes later to automate it.
  • Any ongoing work that can be described in a written process can be outsourced to a VA and save incredible amounts of time for the founders.
  • level 1 email support, level 1 sales questions, manning the live chat window on your website,
  • following up on canceled subscriptions, and running month-end reports…getting
  • finding blogs that deal with startups/microISVs and rank in the top 100k in Technorati. The deliverable was a Google spreadsheet containing the blog URL, blogger’s name and blogger’s email.
  • Outsourcing is a learned skill,
  • assign your VA an individual task and give them a deadline and maximum time to spend on the task.
  • I now work almost exclusively with Filipinos. The main exceptions are my audio and video editors in the U.S. and Canada.
  • ODesk under Admin Support -> Personal Assistant or Other.
  • During an email exchange you can be certain that you’re catching a true glimpse of their English abilities.
  • Properly utilizing a VA is a learned skill.
  • assume they are not technically minded. They will have basic computing skills but are nowhere near techies, so you have to prepare instructions for them as if they were your mom or dad
  • indicate they should work for 1 hour and then update you on their progress. In this manner you can both check if they’re doing it right, and see how long it’s taking them.
  • Every time you receive a support request, your first thought should be “how can I make sure I never receive this question again.”
  • a website or domain name typically sells for between 6 and 24 months of net profit.
  • Websites that require a substantial amount of ongoing work can go as low as 2x or 3x monthly profit.
  • startup founders looking for an exit to attempt to automate their startup first, and only when they are unable to do so, consider a sale.
  • increasing your profit will increase your valuation.
  • minimize the ongoing time investment through outsourcing and automation.
  • the more you focus on these “exit strategy” tactics, the more efficient your business becomes.

Some of these may not make sense w/out the full context, but it’s what I highlighted while reading.

Monkey FingerI really enjoyed the beginning of this book, “The Chasm Between Developer and Entrepreneur.” The chapter about Niches didn’t pertain to me much, as I already have my product under development. Other parts are more relevant to my partner, Todd Farmer, such as “Building a Killer Sales Website.” In my opinion, there was too much on SEO & PPC (in the “Startup Marketing” chapter), which should have been left to SEO and PPC books.

I’m sending a few copies of this book out, and looking forward to using this new information to successfully launch Monkey Finger!

  • Matt McWilliams
    Posted January 22, 2013 9:35 am 0Likes

    Dude, this is relevant to anyone, not just developers.

    I’d love a copy 🙂

  • James Seligman
    Posted January 22, 2013 3:22 pm 0Likes

    I agree! Seems like that applies to anyone. I might just have to grab a copy, can also use more knowledge!

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