It took me a little while, but I launched yesterday. The site's launch was a long time coming and was really the culmination of talking to a lot of different people about my vision for rykorp, as well as some research into a lot of existing companies. 

What was interesting about the approach I took to this website was to start first with the content. Normally I work backwards - I have the website look & feel in my head, build the logo to reflect that, and then build out the copy at the end. 

But with the logo being done weeks ago by the incredibly talented Miguel Vega, I decided that the website design would be as minimalist as possible, so I focused on writing all the content first. 

In case you haven't read the site, my long-term vision is to serve small businesses (<$25 million in revenue, cash flow positive) as their product and engineering arms. These customers do not have technical backgrounds (or even perhaps more than a vague understand of how the Internet can serve their needs). 

This is an incredibly tough problem: these are customers who are fragmented across different industries, and oftentimes need to be educated about their needs. A salesperson's worst nightmare. But it's not a situation that I'm unfamiliar with - MT also faced (and continues to face) the same problems. 

While customer acquisition is tough (to be honest, I don't have a strong strategy for repeatable, scalable customer acquisition right now), the upside is that once a good relationship is made, the revenue is very consistent and the margins are higher. 

After going through a consulting phase in college, I have absolutely no interest in serving the low-end of the market: the one-and-done website projects. I only will take those on if they're part of a broader strategy of the company, or if I feel they'll be a foot in the door for long-term application development. 

So why small businesses? Honestly, I think the market for them will be huge in the next two years. Growing up in the Internet age, the trends and models that are "disruptive" (cloud, social) are all very natural to me - Facebook is merely a reflection of our cultural mindsets. These models are being brought to the enterprise (which is what MT is all about) at a blisteringly slow pace. I do think there will be some maturity in that market - at least two social enterprise companies will IPO by the end of the 2010 and that market will get crowded incredibly fast. I have no interest in getting back into that space right now. 

The consumer market is basically owned by Facebook, and any continued innovation will be on top of the FB platform, or in conjunction with it. 

Governments - well, they're even slower than enterprises, and I frankly don't have the connections to play there. 

That leaves the hardest market to target: small businesses. 

The seminal moment when I realized this is where I wanted to focus my efforts in this space was watching the success of GroupOn. GroupOn is known by everybody, and is the (arguably) most successful tech company of the past five years (FB excluded, and yes, I'm including Twitter in that list). 

And they have NO technology differentiation. None. This is clear by the low barrier to entry and everybody trying to get in on the "Deal of the Day" market. (And of course, the next wave are the deal aggregators). 

I realized that technology and the methodologies for developing software had become commoditized. Forget even the development being outsourced - the whole process is now commoditized. And guess what? Most small businesses don't need revolutionary software - all the pieces they need are already available as open source libraries. 

What you need is the product background to assemble these open source tools and be able to communicate them to a distributed team to build out. 

The cost of developing a customized web-based applications (that don't get too crazy) is probably around $20,000. That is insane. And the costs are coming down aggressively. 

I am betting that within the next year or two, as more companies come online, bricks-and-mortars businesses will realize that they NEED customized software to compete and to become more efficient. And when they do, they'll look for a business like rykorp to build out their technical arm. 

And the cost is reasonable. An in-house US developer will cost you at least $50,000, and that's WITHOUT oversight. If you want an experienced developer who can also handle project management - you're looking at $85,000. And that's taking a risk that the developer can put together UIs and understand market needs. (My business model utilizes these numbers and assumes that recurring business per client will average around $6,500/month)

Currently, there are two types of companies that serve this market: interactive agencies that "do web development" and outsourced teams via,, etc.

Interactive agencies will do a great job of hiring an outsourced team to cobble together something, but do they have the enterprise software development background to ensure high-quality code development? Or are they designers who are simply putting lipstick on a pig? 

Outsourced teams have another set of problem: requirements gathering and execution. Using an outsourced team requires constant communication and some level of technical understanding on the clients' part. Now, a good outsourced team will have solid technical project manager who can speak three languages: the clients', the technology, and the product (perceived outbound perception by users). These types of companies are few and far in-between. 

That's where rykorp fits in. I bring enterprise software development background (development, project management, market understanding) with the "product management" experience - the secret sauce that rykorp brings to differentiate itself from the outsourced firms. (The ambiguity of "product management" at the SMB and consumer level will probably not be commoditized for some time)

I feel I'm ahead of the market on this one (like I had been with Tabulas/Audiomatch/Lightbox7). (To a large degree, I think MT was a few years ahead of its time, and had it been more patient on certain roadmap directions, things would be very different). This time, I have the experience and patience to wait until the market matures more. 

But we'll see how it goes. 

Posted by roy on February 27, 2011 at 02:20 PM in rykorp, Web Development | 23 Comments

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Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Whoa! You people, here and on Neowin, are harsh. I think it's a fine business page, frankly. It's not supposed to be a designer's website or content-oriented, it has to get straight to the point in the most explicit manner.

I had some quips about the bar too but what matters, in my opinion, is that it's something people have never seen before. Even if it may seem gimmicky, it's cool, original, it stands out and people will remember it. That's what you want from your visitors: that they remember you.
Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 03:15 PM
well put. but i'm always down for criticism. and i think the fact that people keep commenting on it is a good thing (whether positive or negative!)

Paul (guest)

Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 09:19 AM
Friend of Alex Field's here, weighing in from his GReader share of this post: I actually think that the site is fairly sound, given what you're looking to do with it. (This is assuming I understand what you're gunning for.)

It definitely says "enterprise" but that seems right, given that you're targeting small business that - crucially - think they might need some custom code. I think you're absolutely right to think you can't compete with the design firms - why make that case? I've never heard of Mindtouch or seen their website before, but I think yours is ten times better: the Mindtouch one lacks fundamental features like a clear value proposition - what do they do anyway?! - it's got random bits of content scattered everywhere, and it just looks amateurish. Like a company that doesn't do design, trying to fake it.

That said, I do think you could do some work to tame the text, particularly in the process section, where it gets a little conceptual. And perhaps you might consider shortening your value proposition to just "We build web-based software that is custom tailored for each client." No need to seem jargony. More broadly, though, make sure you're thinking about the copy through the lens of your audience - at times you get a bit mired in theory about software and the state of the industry, etc. And they don't necessarily know or care that much.

And FWIW, I do work in this field - if we're construing "field" fairly generally - so I'm not just dude on the street. Bottom line, here's what I would take away from this site as an end user: if I wanted to code, say, a clever, efficient multiuser database for an unusual type of content, I'd come to you. I would not come to you for my new client-facing sales-driven website. It actually turns out that I may have such a database to build at some point, and had no idea who could do it. Perhaps we should talk someday. (:
Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 10:33 AM
Really love your comments, Paul. I do think I need to cut down the text a bit more, and step away from the theoretical.

I'm going to take another pass at it this weekend. I really appreciate your feedback on it!

And yes, let me know if you need anything ;)

The fact you totally understood my market does make me feel better that I'm on the right track.

Anon (guest)

Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 07:52 AM
Well, here's some more unsolicited, honest feedback:

I don't love the pop up menu bar at the top. And I don't love the blocks of text, nor do I particularly love the font. There are many aesthetic improvements that could be made, and they don't have to be flashy (pun!).

I don't know anything about you or your business, and I am sure if you are good at what you do and provide value to your clients, this will hardly matter much. But consider the idea of having the content on your homepage "above the scroll". Then have just one more layer of content past that, where the user can fluidly move between your small handful of pages.

No matter who you cater to, color and pattern encourages and facilitates reading and engagement. There's no need to dumb it down if you have the resources.
Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 10:35 AM
Hmm, thanks for the feedback! I think your comments mirror those below - more visual relief, and not so heavy text.

I will definitely have to consider this. Perhaps I move the heavy text more into blog posts.
Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Anon is right and I forgot to mention it with all my ranting. The font isn't a great font, and when you combine it with a lot of text, it makes it even less pleasing to the eye.
Comment posted on March 1st, 2011 at 03:16 PM
I updated the default text to verdana, and kept the little box fonts as lucida. looks better.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 06:35 PM
I know a lot of people will kiss your ass and tell you what you want to hear, and maybe those people are better than me, maybe those people are nicer than I am, or maybe I'm totally wrong and it's the greatest website ever, but in my opinion I expected more from you, or from something that bears your name.

Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Damn, harsh. Anything in particular bother you about it? The layout? The text? I'm actually really happy with the simplicity of the layout.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 06:58 PM
That's the thing, with all that damn text I wouldn't ever call it simple,
more like plain. With simple being good, think Apple design, minimal, etc, and plain being boring and dull.

If you cater to people that don't know technology, why would you bore them with so much text?

I'm not nuts about the Mindtouch website but it's 100 times better than yours. I can see the non-tech savvy people eating their website up, but not yours.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Hmm, interesting. Stuff to think about - thanks for the feedback.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:04 PM
I might be wrong, or it might not matter, but I try to be honest, and hopefully that's worth something.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:08 PM
I value your honesty! And I think there is some truth to what you're saying.

The text-heaviness (and the messaging) was intentional - while I agree that generally non-techies appeal more to image-heavy sites, the reason I avoided this was because I didn't want to be portrayed in the same light as interactive agencies - they will all kick my butt seven ways to Sunday in terms of being aesthetically pleasing.

I'm hoping by being more text-heavy, I seem more serious and more full of substance.

I'm definitely going to think about this some more.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:12 PM
That's what disappointed me the most, I was expecting to see a mix of those image heavy, glitzy type websites that cater to certain types of customers, and your simple design style. I thought I'd really see something that took the best of both worlds and made something unique and interesting.

Seriously though, I kinda feel like a jerk because I haven't seen anything I could say anything good about. At the same time I've seen a bunch of websites that you designed that have come and gone, think Neopages, and I always liked your style, until now :(
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Btw, the style comment made me laugh. I've worked at an enterprise software co. for six years now - what do you think my style has evolved into? ;)
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Are you blaming this on them? I figured it was because someone else did the design.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:20 PM
No, i'm not blaming. I stand by my design as it stands - we'll see if i feel the need to tweak it in the near future ;)

The design, I am very happy about personally. I still woke up this morning liking it, so it'll be around for a bit.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:26 PM
What shocks me the most is that you could do what you do, for as long as you've been doing and still somehow like that 950X70 image at the top.

The site looks better, although even more plain, without it:
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Well, it's an evolution, right? Perhaps we'll come back to this thread months from now and say, "Look, he was so right!"
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Or maybe not. I totally get what you're saying, and what you're going for, I just think there must be a better way to go about doing it, unfortunately I can't say what is it.

I do like the top bar though, I like how it scrolls to the selected link, but how it comes in is a little strange, but probably makes sense for technical reasons.

Only time will tell.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 06:31 PM
It's so God awful it's not even funny. What makes it worse is that you admit to selling to people that do not have technical backgrounds, these are the types of people that you wow visually, not with blocks and blocks of text.

When I first saw it I thought it was a template filled with lorem ipsum, and that's not a compliment, to anybody.
Comment posted on February 28th, 2011 at 03:06 AM
The website is looking good; clever menu bar and the logo looks better in small size. Working smoothly regardless of the browser, even on my ol' Firefox 2! Well done. :)