MicroConf 2011 and me

I’m in DIA on my way home from Microconf, the conference  for small software startups that I just attended in Las Vegas.  This was a “first annual” conference, put on by organizers Rob Walling and Mike Taber.  I highly encourage them to do it again next year and beyond.

Close to a hundred attendees heard just under a dozen speakers tell their own startup stories (successes and failures), give advice on where to spend their time (a commodity both more precious and more available to a self-funded startup than money), and how to keep on going through the dark and the busy times.

Most of the speakers were great.  A handful (Sean Ellis, Ramit Sethi, Patrick McKenzie, and Hiten Shah) stood out for me personally, both for the quality of their presentation and because they spoke to where I happen to be with my own startup right now.

I’m not going to waste my own time or anyone else’s trying to summarize the individual sessions.  Almost all the speakers are bloggers and big chunks of their ideas are available in their own words online or in books they have published. (*)  I’m just going to share what I’m personally taking away: four themes and one slightly more specific bit of actionable advice. Continue Reading →

Pivot MVP

We’re in the midst of pivoting the company direction away from B2C phone apps targeting specific professions (nurses, truck drivers, first responders) and towards B2B apps for all sorts of businesses (although certainly those that employ the same professions).  I owe this topic a longer post but today just need to put a stake in the ground and announce the publication of the Minimum Viable Product that makes tangible progress for us in this new direction.

SnapToMe appeared in the Android Marketplace yesterday evening.

Hokan has, once again, put his head down and carved reality out of one of my hand-waving product ideas.   Continue Reading →

Facebook ads: Heartbreakingly close to useful

A few weeks ago, I set myself the task of learning how to use Facebook ads. I poked around on the Facebook site, which seemed remarkably unhelpful. The main advice there is, “Create an ad and see how it works.” I downloaded a bunch of different e-books and listened to couple of webinars. As a whole, they were helpful about where and how to use Facebook advertising in one’s marketing mix, but they weren’t very specific about the process of creating and then targeting the actual ad-lets.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so crazy as to think that, if I am selling phone apps for prices ranging from free to $3.99, I can use either Facebook or Google advertising as a primary way to drive sales. But I do buy the advice I’ve read in a couple of places, that while you are waiting for your SEO and blogging efforts to ramp up and pay off, it can be useful to use either Facebook or Google advertising as a way to validate target markets and/or marketing messages. It is relatively easy to split-test images and messages and very easy to turn individual ads and campaigns on and off.  I don’t have time to make 100 phone calls to do my own market research.  I can afford to spend $100 to see if I’m striking a nerve, or not, online.

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Why write software for nurses rather than doctors or ‘the healthcare market’

One of the cool things about the modern software industry is that you don’t have to limit your choice of gurus by location or age.  Patrick McKenzie is one of mine.

If you get a chance, check out this 7-minute video; it explains a lot about why I’m writing software for nurses and is also just generally good marketing advice for geeks.

(As a bit of background, the presentation is as rushed as it is because Patrick won a free registration to the Business of Software conference by agreeing to give  a ‘flash’ presentation.  He had 7 minutes to go through 15 slides that changed automatically every 30 seconds.  Weird format but he pretty much pulls it off.)

http://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/03/26/software-for-underserved-markets/

Android app revenue recognition

Update 30 April 2011:  Conventional wisdom is that you should try to write blog content that is time insensitive. But, in this case, I am very happy to report that the content of my original post here is essentially obsolete.

I just noted a new post on the Android blog announcing the new Merchant Sales Report available on the Android developers  console.  This downloadable csv-format report makes all of the machinations described below unnecessary. I was just able to download the report, upload it into a Google Docs spreadsheet, change the sort order to separate out my sales by product, and voilà!, I could produce the sales by product numbers that I need for revenue recognition.

Thank you Google!

***

I really like the Android App Marketplace back office tools as compared to the Apple iTunesConnect Marketplace. Android sales reports are clean and readable and Google just plinks money down into my bank account as I earn it. No incomprehensible trend reports (‘only an estimate . . . Actual amount may vary’) and no waiting for monthly accumulated earnings.

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2010 Year In Review

My name is Anne Gunn.  I live in and work from Sheridan, Wyoming, USA.  I’m in the process of starting a very small software company — what’s known in my industry as a ‘microISV’.  I’m going to follow the practice of some of the people I admire in this industry (specifically Patrick McKenzie and Peldi) and write up a review of what we accomplished in the last year.  It’s traditional to compare what you actually did to your goals for the year but since I didn’t publish goals at this time last year, you’ll have to just take my word for it that much of what we did was intentional.

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First Occasional Sheridan Programmers Guild Code-athon

FOSPGC folk

Jared, Hokan, Mark, Anne

Last week, the Wyolution guys, Mark Thoney and Jared Kail, were in our new offices for the First Occasional Sheridan Programmers Guild Code-athon (FOSPGC, pronounced foss-pick, the g is silent ;-)).

Mark and Jared wanted to prototype a couple of possible Android phone apps.  Hokan and I have working, published Android app code we were willing to share as examples.  Hokan’s working on a new app.  And I wanted to add unit testing to another.  So we all pretty much cleared our calendars, Jared came in from Lander, and we coded, traded technical questions and tricks,  and programmer stories and bad jokes for a couple of days.  It was a great good time.

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Gotta love a good rule of thumb

I always love a good rule of thumb especially when it tells me that what I was doing anyway may actually be a good idea.

I’m reading my way through a great little ebook called Start Small Stay Small by Rob Walling.  Now, Staying Small may not be the obvious objective for your startup but you shouldn’t dismiss the idea out of hand.  I was ‘raised’ in the software industry on the theory that you had to grow and keep growing to stay viable.  As with so many other things in our business, this idea no longer applies automatically, all the time.  You’ve got choices.  (See Small Giants by Bo Burlingham for a great read on the topic of why staying small may be a viable strategy in many industries.)

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New experiences, new products, new office, new ideas

Last week, I travelled to Arizona and attended the remarkable Magnet Nursing Conference — 6000 attendees, 5000 of them RNs, and just under 2000 of those were practicing ‘bedside nurses’.  The conference was not everything I had hoped it to be.  I did not strike up a lot of great conversations and I did not get a single opportunity to demo PasswordRN.  The attendees for this particular conference tend to travel in groups, so at meals and between sessions they mostly get back together to trade notes and compare plans.  Not a lot of loners.  And when they were alone, standing in line or just decompressing on a chair, they tended to be on a cell phone practicing the three Ts:  talking, texting, and twittering.

So the good news is that the nurses are really attached to their phones.  And like to buy accessories for them — I saw cell phone covers in every color and with all sorts of decorations.  (I also saw handbags and shoes in a variety of colors and styles such as I had never seen before.  I clearly do not get out often enough.)  The bad news for casual networking is that the phones allow them to stay inside their own bubbles more.

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Marketing, research, publication, marketing, marketing, marketing

Cover of Frog and Toad Together

We’ve had a long, tiring, but remarkable, couple of weeks in our corner of the microISV universe. I feel as if I am buried in ToDo lists, beginning with that perpetual task: update ToDo lists.

Does anyone else have fond memories of reading Frog and Toad Together to your children or, since it’s been around long enough, having it read to you? All the Frog and Toad books were a treat. But Together’s story The List about Frog’s day being totally controlled by his ToDo list also had a sort of resonating bite for me.

Anyway, it’s too easy to get caught up in the un-done and the not-done-quite-well-enough, which will be always with us. I’m here this Friday afternoon, instead, to celebrate real accomplishment. The ToDo lists can wait till tomorrow.

The RNFamily of apps

Yesterday, Hokan and I finally published the Android version of PasswordRN. It had been hung up on little finishing touches: a bit more testing and tweaking, a few screenshots, getting the merchant account set up right so we can receive payments. There was really no reason not to push it out the door. And last night, in the middle of the night, the very first copy was purchased and downloaded. What a thrill. And a responsibility.

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