Start Small, Stay Small – A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup

As developers we tend to think that a product has to be technically perfect, right? Don’t release until the last bug has been resolved and the complete set of features has been implemented. Only if the software will scale infinitely you have really accomplished your goals, the goals of a good software engineer. Software development heaven will be waiting one day….

source code

Perceived importance of technical sophistication

Now, you expect people (esp. customers) to notice what you’ve beautifully crafted. You suppose customers will rush to your website, reading everything you put up there, fiddling for their credit cards to start buying loads of the stuff or services you sell, clicking on the advertising and giving your business exponential growth, right?

After all, the internet is (still) seen as the holy grail for most businesses (except maybe the music and movie industry). Just get your business or application online and you are set. Everything else is autopilot…

Importance of a market

If you nodded all the way down here, fasten your seat belts. I will have to tell you know that the assumptions I made so far (and in which I believed for a long period of time) are OUTRIGHT WRONG!!! It’s all about finding solutions to satisfy a specific market, have good esthetics and offer some decent chuck of functionality.

Face it, technical goodness is only the least important part of your product.
Market and marketing are first and second. Esthetics third.

Why do simple farting apps, background wallpapers, online stores, a specific social network etc. take such a large chunk of the users in their respective markets? They offer something people want. Most of those business started technically simple. Don’t get me wrong, great technology helps a lot when you are in business (Google search algorithm anyone?) but it is not essential at the start!

Boy, for me this lesson was much to take! I have been playing / working with technology for the most part of my entire life. So I thought getting it technically „right“ is super important…… How dare you put out a website which is not W3C compliant?…. But as I made my first baby steps to get some products out into the web (like I found only few people were using them. Not because they were badly engineered or technically incomplete but because nobody even knows they exist when they need these tools the most.

Power is nothing without control. Perfectly engineered systems are nothing without 1st) a market 2nd) marketing and 3) esthetics. „So, that’s what his opinion is!“ I hear you thinking. If you want proof, read on….

Simple things work

Maybe I wouldn’t even believe this is the way things work myself. If I haven’t been able to experience it myself:

A good friend of mine, Chris, is running a highly successfully business online. He has created a website where you can measure your typing speed:

10 fast fingers

In the last 30 days, he had more than 1.1 million visitors and more than 10 million page views. Users have have taken nearly 46 million tests up to this point (see most recent stats at his page at the bottom). Each test takes 60 seconds. That’s more than 31944 days or 87,5 years spent on his site. Impressive numbers right?

Until October 2011 the only thing you could basically do was type some words for 60 seconds and get your word count per minute. A very simple technical solution and a very simple application for all of his visitors… but so addictive!

So it became evident to me that somehow even technical simple things must work.

A few months ago, Chris suggested a book to me written by Rob Walling „Start Small, Stay Small – A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup“. He told me this is a very inspiring book to him and I should have a look at it. I began to read a couple of weeks later…. and was thrilled!

Start Small,

Stay Small to the rescue

I got on a one week holiday a few days after and read the whole book. This was good stuff! Then, I read it again, grabbing pen and paper trying to grasp every thought and information from it, scribbling notes everywhere….

I wanted to create a cheat sheet containing all the essentials in a highly compressed form condensed down to a few pages so I could look up everything, anytime.

That is exactly what I created! I asked the author of „Start Small, Stay Small“, Rob Walling ( and I am very happy that I can share the cheat sheets (one for every chapter) with you today!

Cheat Sheets:

start small stay small cheat sheets ebook 3d

Cheat Sheet Complete - Start Small Stay Small PDF Cheat Sheet Complete – Start Small Stay Small Chapters 1 – 7

You can download the cheat sheets for FREE (just enter 0€) or make a small donation. It’s totally up to you :)

I think the sheets will provide added value for some people (like me) which have read the book and want keep a quick „refresh“ handy. I hope these pages will:

– keep you on track
– keeps you motivated
– keeps you focused
– help you to look up important steps
– provide recipes for what to do next

Thank you, Rob, for your feedback while putting these pages together and letting me share them with the public.

If you are a software developer wanting to build and grow a product on order to gain more financial freedom then I highly recommend reading Rob’s complete book.

If your found my cheat sheets useful and if you are thinking of getting the „Start Small, Stay Small“ book you might want to buy it through these Amazon affiliate links. I don’t want to trick you in any way! Let me say clearly that I get a commission if you do so using the Amazon links below. I got requests for another cheat sheet I once made for buying a used mac where people wanted to give something back (mainly after they found their new machine and checked it thoroughly with the help of the list) where I was not able to provide this easy way of saying „Thank You„. ;)

If, for some reason, you want to buy this book directly from Rob that is perfectly fine with me! Just visit his website at


Im eager to get feedback for everything. This post, the cheat sheets, your opinion of what I said here. Really everything :) Thank you!



19 Gedanken zu „Start Small, Stay Small – A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup“

  1. This is gold. I did the same thing – read the book once, was blown away by the info, then I immediately read through it a second time, making a load of notes. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yeah! And I wanted to have a really good summary to share it with the world so all you guys can save a lot of time :)

    I’d love to get feedback! Maybe some information is missing or you just notice a spelling mistake. Don’t hesitate to contact me :)

  3. GREAT SUMMARIES!!! Thank you so much :) I keep listening to the audio version again and again. How about paying someone on to record a narration of the summaries? Talk with Rob Walling I might buy it :) Nur

    1. Hey Nur! Thanks for the positive feedback! I really appreciate if I can deliver some value to you guys. As of the recording idea: I’ll talk to Rob about that and let you know. Stay tuned :)

  4. Dein Post kam heute über Robs Email-Verteiler rein, sehr interessant. Jetzt würde mich interessieren, ob du in den letzten 4 Monaten auch etwas von dem Wissen aus dem Buch umsetzen konntest.

  5. == ENGLISH ==

    Hello Apiheld,

    many many things from Start Small, Stay Small is passed into my philosophy. In concrete terms, I was able to put some things and am in the process:
    1) I write to me every week my weekly goals (in the form of Action notes) and share it with a friend. He shares with his and at the end of the week we draw a conclusion. Since then, we almost always create all our goals for the week.
    2) marketing first: I have to develop a project of mine and stopped just to create a marketing concept. Only when this shows that the idea really has traction. Only then is further developed. So I would like to evaluate whether the market needed at all my idea before I put work and money into the development.
    3) Always carry pen and paper: I always have a notebook or Evernote on your smartphone while and am continually notes of my ideas.
    4) I have now or coordinating some VAs. I address all the steps / lessons from the book.
    5) I have completely outsourced the development of a product and pay the developers to code rather than the thing itself.

    ….. these are just the things that come to mind right and based on Rob Walling’s book. I think it’s even more important to understand the philosophy of the book, and by and by his own philosophy of life to some areas that have been tried (see above) to expand and enrich their own experiences. So anyway my opinion :)

    I hope I could give you some insight, and I am always open to feedback.


    == GERMAN ==

    Hallo Apiheld,

    viele viele Dinge aus Start Small, Stay Small sind in meine Philosophie übergegangen. Ganz konkret konnte ich einige Dinge umsetzen bzw. bin gerade dabei:
    1) Schreibe ich mir jede Woche meine Wochenziele (in Form von Action Notes) auf und teile diese einem Freund mit. Er teilt mit seine mit und am Ende der Woche ziehen wir ein Fazit. Wir schaffen seither fast immer alle unsere Ziele für die Woche.
    2) Marketing first: Ich habe die Entwicklung von einem Projekt von mir gestoppt und erstelle gerade dazu ein Marketingkonzept. Erst wenn dieses zeigt, dass die Idee wirklich Traktion hat. Erst dann wird weiter entwickelt. Damit möchte ich evaluieren ob der Markt überhaupt meine Idee benötigt bevor ich weiter Arbeit und Geld in die Entwicklung stecke.
    3) Always carry pen und paper: Ich habe immer einen Notizblock bzw. Evernote auf dem Smartphone dabei und mache mir fortlaufend Notizen von meinen Ideen.
    4) Ich habe bzw. koordiniere mittlerweile einige VAs. Hier wende ich alle Schritte / Lehren aus dem Buch an.
    5) Ich habe die Entwicklung eines Produktes komplett ausgelagert und bezahle die Entwickler anstatt das Ding selbst zu coden.

    ….. das sind gerade die Dinge die mir direkt einfallen und die auf Rob Wallings Buch basieren. Ich glaube, fast noch wichtiger ist es die Philosophie des Buches zu verstehen und nach und nach die eigene Lebensphilosophie um einige Bereiche, die man ausprobiert hat (siehe oben) zu erweitern und mit eigenen Erfahrungen anzureichern. So jedenfalls meine Meinung :)

    Ich hoffe ich konnte dir einen Einblick geben und bin jederzeit für Feedback offen.


  6. Hi Maurice, danke für deine Antworten. Vielleicht hast du ja mal Lust, einen Blog-Post über Punkt 4 zu schreiben. Z. B. welche Art von Aufgaben du delegierst und wo du deine (deutschsprachigen?) VAs herbekommst, wie du deine Aufgaben den VAs beschreibst, also halt den Prozess dahinter. Würde mich sehr interessieren, da ich mit diesem Bereich noch gar nicht experimentiert habe.

    Ich habe die Tendenz, sehr vieles am Ende doch selbst zu machen. Dabei finde ich die VA-Idee ganz gut, aber bisher hatte ich noch keine Idee, was ich auslagern könnte.

  7. Hi Apiheld,

    let’s please stick to English so we don’t exclude the majority of the internet ;)

    Hm, I really think that 4) coordinating VAs is not THAT interesting topic since I don’t do much magic to keep them going. I’ve got some German speaking VAs but most of them are speaking English. I get them from the ordinary places: mostly elance or contacts of people I contacted via elance or by recommendation of friends (which I strongly prefer!).

    YES you have to be careful of what you outsource. I use it the most for REPETITIVE tasks. If you outsource some task for the first time you don’t really save time cause you have to describe the task thoroghly, check the profiles of applicants and constantly monitor the progres…

    But next time you want to outsource a similar or the exact same task you can just contact the person again (or if you do this with another person, you’ve already got the description), then the „time saver effect“ kicks in :)

  8. Hi Maurice – I’m on Chapter 3 of the book right now. I’d be further along but I’ve been writing a cheat sheet on Chapter 3 – validating your niche! So I’m glad I found your post. Rob’s writing a new book called „Start Small, Get Big“ – a more appealing title to me, anyway!

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