One of the key factors for any small ISV is to realize you can’t do everything yourself. I was crystal clear on that from the very beginning of UserScape since I knew what I wanted to accomplish was ambitious and that anything which took away from my time working on HelpSpot was a big negative. Over the past few years there’s been a few companies that have really helped my business prosper. I rave about these companies whenever I have the chance and thought it might be useful to name them all in one place.
So here’s 5 companies (in no particular order) that I strongly recommend you take a look at. They’ve been fantastic to me and without them UserScape would not be as successful as it is today.
While the entire MakaluMedia staff seems great, I mostly work with Art Director Mike Rohde. As long time readers will know I’ve been praising Mike’s work forever on this blog, since he created the UserScape and HelpSpot logo’s along with the first and second UserScape.com designs. He’s the best and a pleasure to work with. He’s got a few big projects he’s working on for me though so if you’re in need of a designer please wait a few months to contact him!
I don’t know how these guys don’t get more press. BitRock is a fantastic company that makes installers for web based applications. So, say you sell a web based help desk software product…
And you want your customers to be able to install your product without worrying about if they have the right programming environment, database and all that. BitRock’s installers can install your product and it’s full environment. So it will take care of making sure they have PHP, MySQL, Rails, whatever you need the server to have for your product to run. All configured exactly as you like them.
I currently use their installer for HelpSpot’s Windows Server 2003 installer and I can’t possible rave about it enough. It’s literal saved me hundreds of hours of customer service and created tens of thousands of dollars in sales.
Ah, Engine Hosting. They literally came into UserScape’s life riding a white horse, here to save the day. Some readers may remember that a company called ValiantHosting used to provide hosting and maintenance plans for HelpSpot when we first launched. They were acquired and the new owners decided to no longer offer HelpSpot hosting. Since this was where I sent everyone who wanted a full service HelpSpot hosting solution this was a big problem!
Thankfully Leslie Camacho of EllisLab (see below) was able to hook me up with the wonderful crew over at Engine Hosting. They were able to immediately take over the full service hosting options for HelpSpot customers. Not only that, but they had a lot more to offer with emergency support, years of experience hosting database intensive PHP applications (they’re the official hosting provider for Expression Engine CMS), and a much larger staff than Valiant had.
These guys are absolutely the best. It’s been a pure pleasure working with them. If you need hosting or dedicated servers these are the guys to call.
Finding an effective, efficient, affordable mechanism for communicating with your customers is trickier than you think. The team at Freshview have been critical in making that process a pleasure with their outstanding product, Campaign Monitor.
Campaign Monitor is an easy to use email newsletter system. I use it for all mass customer communication. The reporting is great, it’s flat out cheap, and the design is first rate. In addition, they really know their stuff when it comes to email. The emails get through spam filters properly and they even offer services to ensure your HTML emails will display properly across the full list of email clients.
Besides playing match maker, the team at EllisLab creates darn good software too. This blog is running their terrific Expression Engine CMS (EE). EE makes it easy to manage a series of blogs and perhaps more importantly full websites. I haven’t had a chance yet to port the UserScape site to EE, but I hope to in the future (during my copious free time!).
Beyond EE, EllisLab is also the creators of Code Igniter a PHP framework that I use for all the back end systems at UserScape. My only regret is that they didn’t release Code Igniter a few years ago so I could have used it in HelpSpot itself. It’s far and away the best PHP framework, staying out of your way and making it easy to get things done.