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(Editors’ note: Alain Raynaud is the founder of FairSoftware. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)

If you’re an entrepreneur launching a start-up, there are plenty of places online to find advice – some good, some bad. Given this plethora of information, can a book about starting your own web startup still provide value in 2009? If that book is “The Web Startup Success Guide,” the answer is a resounding yes.


Despite all the information scattered around the Internet, Bob Walsh’s new book presents a more coherent story, from start to finish. Paper is still the better approach when you decide it’s time to go past random nuggets of wisdom and get serious about entrepreneurship.

Software developers are the book’s target audience. Walsh, assuming the reader already knows technology, focuses instead on the business and marketing aspects of creating a startup. Its strength is in being up to speed with the current online social media trends, without succumbing to fads. In comparison, most other startup books now read more like dated advice from the times past.

The book does a very good job of walking you through the steps of building a modern startup, reviewing possible motivations for starting your own company and where to get ideas, then forcing you to refine and challenge your original idea. At a minimum, the sidebar “what startups not to pursue” is a must read – because we are all guilty of making those mistakes at least once.

Walsh also covers platforms such as Google App Engine, Amazon and the iPhone in a surprising method. Rather than debating whose cloud is better, he forces the reader to decide based on which customers he or she is targeting, along with the business model and revenue they expect. As an example, Walsh favors B2B2C, meaning that selling to businesses that sell to consumers is the easiest path to a profitable company, rather than selling to consumers directly. Such choices can impact your target platform.

The book also gives a comprehensive look at the current best online tools to build your startup, including GetSatisfaction, UserVoice and 99designs. It’s handy today, but risks obsolescence quicker than other sections. It also sometimes reads more like a collection of descriptions instead of reviews and advice, making it hard to make a decision. For instance, is CrazyEgg better than Google Analytics? It’s never made clear.

Where Walsh really excels is his look at social media. In my experience, many new software or web startups don’t have a clue how to spread the word about their products. The Success Guide does a great job of showing readers why and how to become their own community manager and guides them through the latest tools – including Facebook and Twitter – without succumbing to Twitter-mania.

More traditional forms of publicity are covered just as deftly, with a focus on the right approach for a small company with a handful of developers. Call it “Guerilla Marketing 2009: The Lost Manual.”

There are some minor formatting issues that are frustratingly distracting. Some sidebars span multiple pages. And some interviews are curiously presented as sidebars, while others flow like regular text. The inconsistency draws your attention from the meat of the discussions.

Those minor editing weaknesses do not change the fact that “The Web Startup Success Guide” is an excellent book for all web entrepreneurs, with advice that is not only timely, but also actionable. If you don’t spring into action after reading this book, you should keep your cushy corporate job because entrepreneurship is not in you.


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