Book Review: Start Small, Stay Small

This blog post will be a bit different from previous ones: a book review. Before I went on a two week holiday I got a lot of responses to my previous articles from awesome Hacker News community members. Jim Walker recommended me the book "Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s guide to launching a startup". I immediately bought it on my Kindle (it’s only $11) and started reading in the plane to Romania.

The book is just great. It’s for developers who want to sell their software. It focuses on doing market research, explains how to do marketing and more. The gist of the book is: as developers, we know how to code, the book shows everything else you need to do to be a successful independent software vendor.

This is not about creating startups, but about setting up a lifestyle business. However, a lot of these lessons apply to doing a startup too. For example, the book explains the market-first approach, which is very reminiscent of the Lean Startup approach. It is all about dominating a niche (for example, making invoicing software for landscape architects).

The book is packed with useful tips, and I spent a lot of time marking passages, underlining things and jotting down to-do’s. A lot of the things are straightforward and there are no things that are radically different, but it’s great to see it all summed up and explained nicely. One thing that I didn’t hear before:

Work hard and play hard, but never do both at the same time. Numerous times throughout the day ask yourself: “At this very moment, am I making progress towards crossing off a to-do, -or- am I relaxing and re-energizing?”.

It’s not so much about working harder, but about clearly making a distinction between work and relaxation.

One of my next actions based on the book is to create a great marketing plan for TrackMe: I set up a Twitter account, I’ll add a mailing list, try to get featured on relevant sites (Lifehacker, Quantified Self) and think of a good related whitepaper to write (which will drive traffic to TrackMe’s website).

Please leave your comments in the Hacker News discussion.