It may sound like a pretty obvious thing to say but the single most important people for a startup is its users. While it is true to say that investment can criticial, and staff help drive a business, a service or product has to have users in order to attract both of those in the first place – with very few exceptions.

All startups are inherently focused on their users to help them grow, but that same focus needs to be maintained when companies are in a less successful position, or perhaps even a downward spiral towards closure.

Two examples from yesterday raised the importance of this issue, and the need to stay engaged with users when a service has ceased to be quite so ‘hot’ – because, after all, these are fans that have stayed with the product through good times and bad, they deserve some respect for that.

Formspring became the latest service to have its users’ passwords hacked yesterday. While I was quick to praise the firm for being upfront with a blog post, a number of users voiced their disappointment with the fact that the email they received from the site — which was once a quick-growing social media darling — asked them to go reset their password for ‘security reasons’, with no specific mention of the hack.

The company actually went into a lot of detail around the matter when we reached out for further information — providing an estimated figure for the number of compromised accounts, and more — yet none of these details had been relayed to its users, who surely deserved the full story.

Then, there’s the curious case of Boxcar.

The company was a hugely influential force for iPhone users in an age when push notification were lacking on apps. Boxcar added real sophistication, allowing users to set up unified channels of communication that could send all manner of social updates to them.

Today, push notifications are the norm and Boxcar is no longer the phenomenon that it once was – yet it still commands a significant number of users, going on the responses to its outage over the last day or so.

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