Entries Tagged 'Cool News, Links & Reviews' ↓

Paid Customer Acquisition for SaaS, Simple Diagrams, the True Cost of Commuting, and more…

When Does Paid Acquisition Work for SaaS Startups? – The right question to ask, with a solid analysis.

Simple Diagrams – If you need to create simple diagrams quickly, Simple Diagrams is supremely cool. Love the UI.

The True Cost of Commuting – “You Could Buy a House Priced $15,900 More for Each Mile You Move Closer to Work.” Ouch.

Full Service Kindle Publishing for $50 – I wish this was out when I paid $300 to have my book converted to Kindle.

Read Entrepreneur Magazine for Free – On your iOS device. Yes, magazines are old school, but Entrepreneur has decent stuff from time to time.

And finally, Derek Sivers, The Startup Daily and HN-Books review Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup

How to Talk to Your Kids About Star Wars, Roll Your Own Linkbait Headline, I’m Speaking in Vancouver, and more…

How to Talk to Your Kids About Star Wars – A must see if you have kids and like The Trilogy. “Jar Jar only kicks the puppies he doesn’t eat, Junior!”

Roll Your Own Linkbait Tech Headline – I never tire of these phrase generators. Some of my favorites from this one include:

  • 5-Year-Old Makes 110K On an Annual Holiday With Clever E-Trade Hack
  • Linus Torvalds Goes Missing For 20 Days
  • Torrent of all Zynga Passwords

Let’s Hang in Vancouver – I’m speaking at the Lean Startup Conference in Vancouver, B.C. May 5th and 6th along with Ash Maurya and the authors of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development for Tech Startups.

Learn How Google Works in Gory Detail – Quite an infographic on how Google generates north of $20B per year.

Why Startups Fail: An Analysis of Post-Mortems – The top 20 causes of startup failure based on 32 post-mortems.

Top Startup Blogs, All Traffic Does Not Convert the Same, Time Tracking Without Timers, and more…

Top Startup Blogs – A real-time blog ranking tool by Dharmesh Shah based on his blog grader. I must have made a wrong-turn at some point because I think I’m the only blogger in the top 20 who isn’t a millionaire.

All Traffic Does Not Convert the Same – Along the lines of my post Nine Levels of Traffic Quality (though he ranks traffic sources in a different order), this is an in-depth look at one marketer’s experience looking at conversion rates from various sources (press release, social bookmarking, SEO, PPC and direct), as well as A/B testing landing pages for huge improvements.

Time Tracking Without Timers – Runs on your Mac and “figures out” what you’re working on so there’s no need for timers or manual entry. Launched this week from Micropreneur John Gallagher.

Skorks (An Underrated Developer Blog) – Good topics. Good writing. Check it out if you’re into the craft of software.

Finding Joy in the Terror of Starting Something New – Good advice from Pamela Slim on how to get over your terror and make things happen.

An Excellent WordPress Shopping Cart – I used PHPurchase on a recent site and it’s fantastic. Highly recommended if you need to sell physical or digital goods using WordPress.

Book Review: Never Eat Alone

While on paternity leave this week I read seven books. I haven’t had that much spare time, but I’ve been following my “if I’m not taking notes, toss it” methodology, and wound up skimming through the better part of five of them.

Never Eat Alone

Never Eat Alone was not one of the skimmers.

The author has walked the walk – he has a network of over 5,000 people whom he has used throughout his career to achieve some pretty hefty accomplishments, including becoming the CMO of Deloitte Consulting, and CEO of YaYa Media. While his use of examples from his experience gets tiring (I did skim those parts), it’s obvious by the first chapter that he knows his stuff.

I have a list of around 20 bullet points I took away from this book, which is a solid task list for me to mull over in the coming months. The gyst of the book is to network, but to be genuine about it, to build relationships before you need them, and the biggest takeaway: try to help others without expecting anything in return.

While none of this is groundbreaking, the author’s examples help lend perspective to what he means specifically by “help people” (mostly it’s about connecting two people within  your network who can help each other).

He also provides something of a process for maintaining your network. Not trite advice like “Everyone enjoys the sound of their own name,” but things like “Make a list of all the people you know and want to know, organize them into categories, and ping those in category 1 once a month, category 2 once a quarter, etc…”

It sounds rigid, but this is the kind of process I need to put in place or else I find myself never lifting my fingers from the keyboard to have lunch with someone.

Frankly, Never Eat Alone delivered on the promise of How to Win Friends and Influence People; a book I’ve attempted to read three times and have never made it past the first chapter. It’s painfully bad.

So while Never Eat Alone is not revolutionary, it is an expert’s take on how to network in a way that allows you to keep your self-respect. I recommend it.

Two Days Left for a Discount on the Business of Software Conference

The early bird registration discount for this year’s Business of Software in Boston expires on Friday. If you are planning to go, sign up now to save $400 off the full price.

In addition to speakers like Seth Godin, Joel Spolsky, Dharmesh Shah and Eric Sink, there are excellent networking opportunities with the other 300 attendees (a lot of self-funded software companies in the audience). I’ll also have the pleasure of connecting with you, as I’m honored to be one of the speakers this year.

I hope to see you in Boston in October.

Excellent Showing at 59 Days of Code Startup Competition

59 Days of Code Badge

I was a judge at last night’s 59 days of code startup competition here in Fresno. Teams had 59 days to create a killer app. One that solves a problem, is marketable, and demos well.

Overall it was an impressive showing of local talent. You can view a list of contestants here.

The Categories
There were two categories: zero-code and in progress. Zero-code meant you had to start with…um, zero code on day 1. In progress meant you could have a partial or complete product, but it needs polish and customers.

We judged based on a number of criteria, which can be seen at the bottom of this page, but they include things like usefulness, demo, UI, and differentiation. Frankly, the ability for a team to describe their idea well had a huge impact on how you perceived their app.

The Winners
The winners received a couple of pretty cool prize packages: an iPad, a chunk of money ($2800 for in-progress and $7200 for zero-code), a lifetime membership to the Micropreneur Academy, a Balsamiq Mock-ups license, and a bunch of other stuff worth around $17k.

  • The winner of the zero-code category was PostEcho, an analytics package for social media
  • The winner of the in-progress category was MyNetworkFactory, an online tool for sharing referrals within referral networks

Congratulations to both winners, and a tip of the hat to all who focused their energy for 59 days. Thanks to Travis, Irma and CVBI for putting everything together.

See you in 2011.

Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)

I recently finished the book Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). It’s a fascinating look at how we perceive pricing, mis-perceive pricing, and are easily fooled by small changes in packaging, presentation and marketing.

Though the book starts slowly with more than hundred pages of background on the study of pricing psychology, if you skip ahead to parts 3 and 4 you get to the meat of the book; the key takeaways that marketers use and abuse everyday in our supermarket, casinos and dollar stores.

More than anything, this book made me realize there are “black hat” tactics in many disciplines. Some of the tactics the author discusses made me want to shower, such as cell phone bills made complex on purpose so people can’t compare apples to apples with the competition.

On the flip side, the idea of ending a price with .99 seems so commonplace that I don’t question it these days. It doesn’t feel black hat to me, but perhaps it should.

An unintended benefit was walking away with a list of things to watch out for as a consumer (e.g., new packaging always means less product). I also walked away with a few pricing ideas to test on my products.

In the end, Priceless is a unique and well-constructed look at the psychology of pricing.

Late Stage Co-Founder Wanted, Screencasting Handbook Released, Triumph of the Nerds on DVD, and more…

Late Stage Co-Founder Wanted[Filled] I’ve been contacted by a colleague who has been working on a SaaS application in a fairly large market. The SaaS (Ruby on Rails) app i complete and needs marketing enhancements in order to launch. You need reasonable graphic design skills, the ability to shoot and edit a screencast, respond to customer feedback, and work on the messaging/marketing. If you are interested drop me a line at rob@softwarebyrob.com and I will send you additional information. No obligation; the current founder will not know who you are unless you decide to contact him.

The Screencasting Handbook – Newly released, this ebook is written by an expert on the subject and is aimed at anyone who is making screencasts. I own it; it’s top notch.

Triumph of the Nerds on DVD – An awesome tech documentary, and I recently discovered it’s on DVD.

What My User Survey Taught Me – Insights from Patrick McKenzie. My favorite quote: “Incidentally, I don’t feel any rancor at folks who believe that everything should be free on the Internet.  I just will not accommodate your preferences.  You’re welcome to use my free competitors if they better fit your needs.”

ABtests.com – Learn more about A/B testing by examining other peoples’ A/B tests, including their take on why one out-performed the other. Many 100%+ improvements.

Ummm…What am I Signing up For? - Seriously, I still can’t figure out the purpose of this site.

iMemories VHS to DVD Conversions

I know this is going to seem like a random post, but I found a killer service and I wanted to mention it here.

I used iMemories last Christmas to transfer a dozen VHS tapes to DVD as gifts for my in-laws and the results were awesome. I also converted about a dozen VHS tapes from my high school and college track and football days. (on

I had intended for years to buy one of those USB VCRs that allows you to convert VHS to digital format, but the setup, time to convert, time to create DVD menus and burn…just never made it on my priority list.

iMemories offers hassle-free conversion of pretty much any analog medium you have (even those old slide wheels and 8mm film) to DVD, and the DVD includes chapters every few minutes, plus a color cover with frames from the video.

You ship the VHS tapes to them, and within a few weeks your video is available through an online portal where you can choose which snippets to include on the finished DVDs. The site uses a custom Flash UI that allows you to navigate and select clips to include.

I realize this is a bit off topic from the typical fare of this blog, but I was so pleased with the service I wanted to help spread the word. If you have VHS tapes in need of a good DVD home, check out iMemories.

Joel on Software is Shutting Down. Long Live the King.

Surely you’ve heard the news by now. Joel Spolsky is going to wrap-up his blog on its 10-year anniversary, just a few days from now.

The memories I have of Joel on Software, especially from 2001-2004, run deep. These were my formative years as a developer, and Joel published some of his best work during this time. Though his blog has been pretty quiet for a few years now, I can still remember the bolts of insight I experienced as I read those early articles; always within minutes of receiving his email announcing it had been published.

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