Book Review – Web Startup Success Guide

I just bought a copy of The Web Startup Success Guide by Bob Walsh. It was an impulse purchase – I was actually looking for a book on PHP and MySQL and the cover caught my eye. I never heard of Bob Walsh, but I had heard of the guy who wrote the foreword – Joel Spolsky, CEO of Fog Creek Software, and author of the blog Joel on Software, among other things.

The book, according to its back cover, claimed to provide all the answers to build a successful web startup. Joel Spolsky, in his foreword, claimed he learned something new on every page (there are over 400 pages in the book, which works out to about 5 cents per lesson. Considering I’m in the middle of developing two ideas into potential businesses, I figured this was the book for me.

I’m now reaching the end of the first quarter of the book, and already I’ve learned enough to write a review. The book was worth the money spent, even were I to read no further. So far, I’ve learned something about the history of creating software companies, the various ways there are to start a company, and what the pros and cons of each are. I’ve learned some questions to ask myself when looking at a potential idea. I’ve learned to be critical of my own initiatives, and to separate emotion from keeping ideas alive long after they should have died.

Bob mixes his lessons with interviews with various people. Don Dodge, Director of Business Development at Microsoft, discusses the differences between starting a company now versus starting one ten or twenty years ago. Rick Chapman of Softletter discusses the business model of Software as a Service and various billing systems used. These are just a few of the many (I counted 36, but I might be off by a few) interviews and e-mail exchanges recounted throughout the book.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, each of which focuses on another idea crucial to the success of a web startup. The first chapter looks at the history, which has shaped how such companies are built today. The next chapter focuses on the ideas that build your company – filling a need (and where those needs come from), having a new way to solve an old problem. The third chapter looks at platforms, and the various places you can put your idea (SaaS, PaaS, Mobile, and so on).

The fourth chapter discusses support groups and tools for founders. The fifth looks at money and financing. The sixth looks at how social media impacts your business (and it does, whether you realize it or not). The seventh chapter discusses the importance of clarity in your business. Chapter eight is about how to get all the pieces in place, and how to turn an idea into a business.

Chapter nine suggests several people you should listen to, who provide advice that can be invaluable to a new business. Chapter ten is all about where to go from here, now that you’ve read the book.

I’m not done the book, as I pointed out above. But Bob manages to deliver his points about starting a business in simple language, with relevant examples scattered throughout the book.

If you are thinking about starting a company, or already have, which has as its business model the sale or distribution of software, whether you’re a site that facilitates the use of a service, or selling desktop software directly, this book is for you.

Oh, and I did find a book on PHP – it was called PHP, MySQL, and JavaScript by Robin Nixon, and seems to be quite a good book as well. So now I’m two for two on Friday’s book purchases.