helpspot hosting goes to a new level

I was sad to see ValiantHost (the former provider of HelpSpot hosting) acquired a month or so back. I’d been working with Giorgio (the founder) for over a year and had a great business relationship with him. Overall he did a great job with the customers. Near the end there was a few hiccups (part of the reason he sold actually), but overall I was very happy with ValiantHost.

Sometimes though you need to turn setbacks into opportunities. One problem with Valiant is that it was essentially a MicroISV in the hosting business. When it comes to hosting, a one person company may not be the safest bet. Also, as HelpSpot has grown and started to reach larger organizations I’ve seen the need to be able to offer larger scale solutions. Solutions at an enterprise level, like dedicated servers, redundant locations and 24/7 hosting support.

As I was pondering all of this, I was surprised and happy to receive an email from Leslie Camacho, VP of EllisLab. EllisLab is the creator of Expression Engine (A great CMS used to run this blog) and the Code Ignitor PHP framework I use here for all the CRMish and ecommerce apps behind UserScape. Part of the EllisLab ecosystem is Engine Hosting. Leslie wanted to discuss Engine Hosting and how we might work together.

After an initial discussion with Leslie and further communication with Nevin Lyne (CTO of Engine Hosting) we decided to move forward with a hosting relationship. After a few weeks of work the collaboration is now live and you can see the HelpSpot options here:

Engine Hosting actually started out as Pmachine Hosting, back when EllisLab was called Pmachine. Since then they’ve grown out a first rate hosting environment will all the goodies. Up until recently they’ve primarily done Expressine Engine hosting, but recently they’ve started to push their services in all hosting areas.

That’s a major reason to me why Engine Hosting is a beautiful match for HelpSpot. From a hosting perspective HelpSpot is very similar to Expression Engine (also a robust PHP application). Knowing they’ve hosted thousands of expression engine installations over the years gives me a lot of confidence in their service with HelpSpot.

For those of you interested in the business aspects of this, I think it’s going to be a big win all the way around. With their enterprise class service I have a lot of confidence in really pushing the hosting option. Rather than just offering hosting to those who know they want it, I’ll know be actively marketing it including a paragraph on the homepage and notes about hosting in the trial reminder emails.

I think this will really help HelpSpot with customers who are looking for a full on-demand solution. Of course it should also spur growth for Engine Hosting in base level accounts along with more robust and hopefully profitable accounts with the larger organizations HelpSpot is now drawing in.

I can’t believe how quickly this has all came together. I’ve really respected the team at EllisLabs for a long time and to have the opportunity to work together is extremely exciting. I think this is only the beginning of a great partnership and I’m really looking forward to working closely with such a first rate group.

Leslie just posted an interview I did with him here.

no market too small

Over on the BOS forums there’s an interesting thread by a MicroISV who thinks his market is too small and that’s why he’s not selling enough software. In his post, his two theories for why the sales are slow are:

1) The market size is really, really small
2) My marketing skills are not very good (yet)

I’m here to tell you that in the modern software world there is simple no software market that is too small. It doesn’t exist. If you’re selling your software over the interwebs you’re reaching the entire world. At least a billion people have internet access. Those people have infinite needs. If you’re a MicroISV there is NO market too small to make you at least an decent living (say 100K/year).

In this fellows case he says there are competitors, in that case then you know for sure that the market is there. So the correct reason why he can’t make sales is almost certainly #2 plus any execution problems he may have. If his product doesn’t stack up then that will always be a problem, but it’s not a market problem.

This isn’t to imply that all markets are equal and that some won’t be easier than others, but almost any known market (not something you just invented out of the air) will have enough space for a MicroISV given enough skill and determination.

heck with bug trackers

This is an interesting idea. I wonder if you could make money selling a bug tracker that disposed of bugs that were older than X or when you reached more than X bugs. I must admit that I have a huge list of feature requests and there’s no way many of them will ever (or should ever) be built. It would be interesting if these just disappeared and left my work area nice and clean with only more relevant feature requests.

helpspot hosting now available

We’re happy to announce that we’ve formed a new partnership with Engine Hosting to provide HelpSpot hosting on demand. Engine Hosting has tailored a solution specifically for HelpSpot customers which makes it easy and affordable to get started with HelpSpot in an environment guaranteed to be HelpSpot compatible. Engine Hosting will even do the initial HelpSpot installation for free. For a small monthly charge they can also perform HelpSpot updates as they’re released.

Engine Hosting runs a world class facility and is setup to work with HelpSpot customers of all sizes, from single user installations to hundreds of users. If you’re interested in having your HelpSpot installation hosted, please take a look at the HelpSpot hosting page for more details.

case studies

We launched a new case studies section of the UserScape site today. You can check it out here. Our long time customer, Catalyst, was generous enough to volunteer as our first study. You can see the study here:

We tried to keep it short and informative. It’s such a balancing act since there’s so much to day, but I know anything too long will be ignored by potential customers. Feedback/ideas are welcome. Also if you’re currently a HelpSpot customer and would like to be featured in a case study please shot me an email at ian at

helpspot case studies

Today we launched our new case study section of the HelpSpot website. Catalyst Repository Systems is a long time customer and I’m extremely happy that they volunteered to participate in the case study. The study is based on an interview we did with Bruce Kiefer a Vice President at Catalyst. Bruce has been intimately involved with HelpSpot from the very beginning and has been a fantastic partner to work with, contributing numerous feature ideas and catching more than a few bugs.

If you’re interested in learning more about the HelpSpot implementation at Catalyst please read the full case study at the link below.

feature arrogance

Joe has an interesting post about feature arrogance, relating to my post the other day on features. His story is also a good example of poor customer service, especially for a product with a $40,000 price tag. Hey, maybe it’s time to raise my prices….

rohde design process

Mike has done a nice little presentation on how he goes about designing logos and websites. The website is featured.

Update: Mike has just uploaded the audio of his talk. It’s a really interesting talk, especially since it revolves around my website. I think it’s an interesting listen though for anyone involved in web based software.