Wow, where to begin…
I attended the Business of Software conference (BoS2010) in Boston this year for the first time. The Business of Software conference is a yearly event sponsored by Neil Davidson of Red Gate Software and Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software, where entrepreneurs in the software industry get together to discuss the business side of running a software company.
Attending BoS2010 was truly an amazing experience. It was an intense three days of learning from, and networking with, passionate, motivated, driven, and intelligent individuals. It was very inspiring, and I highly recommend you attend next year, if you can afford it (it can easily add up to $5000 if you include airfare, hotel, conference fee, and other miscellaneous expenses).
The speakers included Seth Godin, Dharmesh Shah, Peldi Guilizzoni, Jason Cohen, Eric Ries, and Rob Walling. These are people I admire and look up to, and lil’ ole me actually got to meet and talk to many of these guys! How awesome is that! Probably the most surprising part was how humble, and easy to talk to these rock stars in the startup world are. Everyone I talked to was super nice, and extremely willing to talk to nobodies like myself.
I met lots of people at the conference, all at different stages in their business. Not only did I meet struggling startup founders just like me, I also met startup greats like Jason Cohen and Dharmesh Shah, and everyone in between. I especially enjoyed meeting Ricardo Sanchez and Steve Wilkinson, both of which I had previously interacted with online on OnStartups Answers.
It’s impossible for me to write down every lesson I learned, and every emotion I felt, but I’ll do my best to summarize the presentations.
BoS2010 Presentation Summaries
All of the BoS2010 presentations were really good. My goal is to eventually post a summary of most of them. Unfortunately, that’s going to take me some time, because they all contained lots of good information. Below is a brief description of each presentation, with links to the ones I’ve summarized so far. I’ll post more summaries in the months to come.
Seth Godin: Being a great programmer is no longer sufficient to succeed in the software industry. Creating a piece of software that works is no longer an indicator of success. Times have changed. And in a world where we are bombarded with brands and products, we must create a unique customer experience to succeed. Success in the software industry is now dependent on your ability to create a tribe – a movement, a place of belonging, a community – and lead it.
Dharmesh Shah: To have a successful software business, you need happy customers. It’s simply not enough to just acquire lots of customers – you need to retain them. And to retain your customers, you need to make them happy. You must measure your customers’ happiness level. Come up with your own metrics if you have to, but look at those numbers closely. Determine what makes happy customers, and what doesn’t, and adjust your business model accordingly.
Rob Walling: Most of us think that the number one goal of our website is to sell our products. And in a way it is. However, to best achieve that you must motivate a visitor to return to your website. Rob discusses how we can use permission based email marketing to increase website sales and profits.
Peldi Guilizzoni: As you run your business, you will worry about almost everything, however, not everything is worth worrying about. You should only worry about the important things – the rest will eventually work itself out. Peldi shares some of the issues that concern him, and discusses which ones are worth worrying about, and which ones are not. Peldi also shares some tips to overcome, and deal with, those fears.
Jason Cohen: From Geek to Entrepreneur. As a geek who has started three successful companies, Jason had to move from coder to everything else – salesman, marketer, accountant, and changer of the pellets in the urinals. In the process, he found that some widely accepted advice lead to failure while trusting his inexperienced gut lead to success. He discusses six ways to figure out whether specific advice is right for your situation, and then work those lessons against the 37signals philosophy.
Youngme Moon: If there is one strain of conventional wisdom pervading every company in every industry, it is the importance of competing hard to differentiate yourself from the competition. And yet going head-to-head with the competition—with respect to features, product augmentations, and so on—has the perverse effect of making you just like everyone else. Youngme’s message is simply: Get off the competitive treadmill that’s taking you nowhere. Aspire to offer the world something that is meaningfully different. Different in a manner that is both fundamental and comprehensive.
Paul Kenny: Paul explores how to best get the customer talking about their needs, their concerns, and their aspirations. He discusses how to use our questioning and listening skills to engage the customer in a meaningful dialogue, which will help not only to identify an appropriate solution, but also to enhance the customer experience.
Eric Ries: The Lean Startup is a scientific approach to innovation. Most software projects fail. Most startups fail. Most new products are never used. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Lean Startup is a disciplined approach to imagining, designing, and building new products. By testing assumptions earlier, faster, and with more rigor, you can improve your success rate.
Scott Farquhar: From Bootstrap to $60 million. Atlassian has been a successful software bootstrap, right up until they took $60 million in funding in July 2010. Scott discusses some of what he’s learned about running a successful bootstrapped software company, including how to pick a business model, how to get free marketing, how they hired 32 people in 6 months, and how they built a workplace that has won numerous HR awards.
Joel Spolsky: After ten years of running a slow-growth, bootstrapped software company that was profitable from day 1, Joel found himself running a fast-growth, VC-funded internet company that is actually trying to get unprofitable. Joel reflects on some of the differences and some of what he’s learned from going over to the dark side.
Eric Sink: What Eric learned from selling his company to Microsoft. Over the years, Eric was approached by several parties interested in acquiring his company. He learned a lot from those discussions, even though none of the deals happened. In November 2009, Microsoft acquired the assets of his Teamprise division. In his presentation, Eric shares information that may be of interest to others looking to sell a small software firm to a big company.
Mark Stephens: The software universe has gone mad, and you need to step back and re-evaluate big time. This talk takes a long, cynical look at both the past and the future, gives you some new ideas, and pose lots of those awkward, searching questions you try to avoid.
David Russo: The way a company sets itself up from inception to find, hire, engage, reward, and keep its talent plays a large part in whether a company grows, finds success, rewards investors and incumbents, and even lives or dies.
Dan Bricklin: Dan discusses lessons learned from his experience in developing VisiCalc.
Derek Sivers: Derek shares the story of how his company CD Baby came to be, and why he decided to sell it.
Interested in learning more about the 2010 Business of Software? Here are some additional resources for your reading/viewing pleasure:
- Twitter list of BoS2010 speakers
- Follow Business of Software on Twitter: @bosconference
- Twitter search results for #BoS2010.
- Official BoS2010 Flickr group
- John M. P. Knox’s BoS2010 flickr photostream
- Mark Littlewood’s BoS2010 flickr photostream
Official Business of Software Webpages
- Official BoS website
- BoS online network
- Social networking site for BoS2010
- Videos of previous BoS presentations
BoS2010 Blog Posts From Attendees
- Patrick McKenzie’s excellent summary
- Mark Littlewood’s notes
- Patrick Foley’s summary
- Patrick Foley’s lightning talk summaries
- Steve Wilkinson’s personal take
- Lisa Wells’s concise summary
- Mark Stephens’s day one summary
Registration is now open for the 2011 Business of Software conference, and the first 100 people to register get $900 off the conference fee.
Videos of some of the 2010 presentations have been uploaded on the BoS website. And although watching the videos doesn’t come close to actually being there in person, they are definitely worth watching.
Did you attend the Business of Software conference? If you didn’t, would you like to attend next year? If you did, what were your takeaways? What stood out the most to you? Did you share your thoughts on your own blog? Feel free to share the link with us.