My 6 Takeaways (+10 quotes) from Business of Software Europe 2018

I’ve just come back from this awesome conference in London. Being a web-developer, it’s quite hard for me to grow my own bootstrapped business, it’s a total shift of mindset. This event gave me huge insights from people who have actually done it. I want to share my main takeaways — how to succeed in a business of software products.

1. Software is about people. So is business.

Although topic of the event was how to grow an IT-related business, huge amount of talks were about communication. Both within your team, with your employees, with your customers and investors. I’m a big fan of a philosophy that there’s no B2B/B2C, it’s still H2H (Human-to-Human), and speakers proved this point massively.

There were a few talks specifically about managing people. Wade Foster from Zapier described their hiring and onboarding processes, while Alison Coward from Bracket shared her vision on how to build high-performing teams.

Same with investors or partners. Tim Barker from DataSift was talking about reaching Facebook as strategic partner, and there were multiple layers of people connections that allowed them to actually make a deal.

Attendees of the conference is also a good proof of human connections — networking between the talks was incredibly active, friendly and productive. I’ve met a lot of new people personally (some of them I’ve been following previously online).

2. Communication is the key. Whatever tool you use.

Almost the same topic as above, but from different angle. There were a lot of talks about effective communication in a team. Everyone needs to feel as they are part of the business, transparency helps a lot.

Many speakers delivered a similar message, rephrased in these words: “It’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate”.

What is fascinating, different people use different tools on their teams — Slack was mentioned the most often, but then there are different project management tools on top, some of attendees admitted they created their own tools to suit their needs.

So, at the end of the day, it’s not about the tools, it’s how you want to communicate, and only then you should search for the tool that fits your needs.

3. No Silver Bullet. So many ways to grow a business.

Most of the speakers were people with 5+ years of experience as founders or managers. Their stories are really different, and everyone has their own path. Some raised a lot of money (and some wasted them), some went totally bootstrapped way, some were juggling a few businesses at the same time.

The message here is that there’s no one path. Whenever you hear some advice “You need to do X in business to be successful”, call BS. Everyone chooses their own way to reach the success. Even the definition of success is different for everyone.

As a founder of small bootstrapped business, I loved the message by Laura Roeder, founder of Meet Edgar, who was surprised why term “Lifestyle business” became some kind of an insult among startups and VCs.

“Lifestyle business is a business that allows me to have lifestyle that I want. Isn’t that the reason why we start the business in the first place?”
Laura Roeder, Business of Software EU 2018

4. As you grow, challenges grow with you.

During coffee break, I had a nice conversation with Wade Foster from Zapier about his actual everyday routine in a 160-person growing company.

He shared a well-known secret: “as your company grows, you get away from every day challenges… to bigger challenges”. As a CEO, you’re called only in case of strategic difficult decisions, dealing with tricky situations, and responsibility level rises with it.

Same could be said by other speakers like Tim Barker who told a story how they went almost out of business, when their strategic partner bought their biggest competitor. When you have a big team but only 9 months worth of cash in the bank, then it’s time for real entrepreneurship spirit to shine.

5. You have to be 10x better.

Of course, you need to be above competition — deliver product/service faster, better, and potentially cheaper. But to really stand out in the market, you have to be waaaay better, your customer should feel “wow” factor and tell their friends about your existence.

That’s what happened to TransferWise. Their VP of Growth Nilan Peiris told their story how they transparently published the numbers of difference, transferring money through them VS the banks, and then people started believing their mission, and realized how much money they were saving. As a result, they now feel almost viral growth.

6. Business is a jigsaw puzzle with no picture.

As a summary, I want to quote magnificent thought by Tendayi Viki, who said:

Business is like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces.
The tricky part is that there’s no picture.
What makes it even more difficult, it has some pieces which are totally unrelated to your business.
And, even worse, as soon as you connect some piece, other pieces change their positions.

I totally resonate with that. Every story told by speakers was full of uncertainty along the way, challenges rising daily, pivot paths they need to choose to survive.

On the other hand, entrepreneurship is a risk, and we choose our own battles. In 21st century, specifically software business gives us amazing opportunities to create something meaningful, make a worldwide impact and create a lifestyle we want. And “Business of Software” conference gathers those who are doing it with passion.

BONUS: Quote(s) of the Day(s)

As a final note, just a few random quotes from the event. Won’t mention the authors, cause some thoughts were actually them quoting someone else.

  • Work hard to increase the chances of something lucky happening for you.
  • Raising money too soon is bad, it would have stopped us from being creative.
  • 90% of businesses fail, and the rest succeed usually with different idea than their original one.
  • If you don’t find customers who LOVE your product, you need to spend a lot of money on marketing.
  • The hardest thing about technology is people.
  • Your product marketing should focus on making people look awesome not making your product look awesome.
  • If you don’t define your company culture/values, it will be defined for you automatically by the worst behavior you will tolerate.
  • If you’re seeing ads for a product on TV, chances are they are running out of ways to grow their sales.

You can find more brilliant thoughts and slides by Twitter hashtag #BoS2018

Question: Will I attend next year? 
Answer: Are they already selling super blind early bird? Let me know then.