The new generation of kick-ass web apps

Mint vs Google Analytics

How could a small product costing $30 possibly stand up to a free all-singing-and-all-dancing app from Google?

Shaun Inman, founder of Mint, an extensible, self-hosted website analytics program, would be happy to explain. He hasn't revealed his 2009 revenue figures yet, but we know he's doing well enough to ditch his day job and go full-time on Mint.


Based on rough figures he blogged about in September 2008, he was making over $100,000 a year. And he only spends about one hour per day answering support emails. (To find out more, check out our exclusive interview with Shaun).

Here's what you can learn from Mint: if you build a kick-ass product and focus on a narrow niche, you can definitely succeed. Even against insanely big competitors like Google.

Remember The Milk vs Outlook

I'm a bit fanatical when it comes to the Getting Things Done mantra. If you haven't come across David Allen and subsequently joined his cult, I'd suggest borrowing or buying his book Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity, which is essentially all about managing your overflowing to-do list.

With that in mind, I've tried quite a few to-do applications, including the mighty Outlook. But hands down, the task-and time management web app Remember The Milk kicks everyone's ass.

The crazy thing is that it was built by just two people who live in Australia. But they get it – and that's why they're succeeding. So what can we learn from RTM? I believe it's succeeding because of the following reasons:

  • It's web-based so you can access it anytime, anywhere, on any platform
  • They've built it so it works offline, using
  • They've built an amazing iPhone app, which syncs wirelessly with the web app
  • They've released an API so developers can build tools on top of their app

The best thing about the RTM guys is that they're constantly innovating. They've rolled out an insane number of cool features such as SMS reminders, support for Gmail and Twitter, Blackberry sync and Windows Mobile sync.

Remember the milk

Just do it

I hope these examples have inspired you because it's never been cheaper or easier to build a really great app, focused on a niche audience.

So if you build something that truly kicks ass, and you focus 100 per cent on supporting your customers, there's no reason you can't join the proud ranks of web entrepreneurs. Mount up!


First published in .net Issue 195

Liked this? Then check out our interview: The brains behind the Mint web stats app

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