Enriching the SaaS community at #SaaSBooMi 2019
What went into making Asia’s largest SaaS conference — the behind-the-scenes story
Over the span of my career, I have been involved in organizing umpteen startup conferences and have thoroughly enjoyed doing it every time.
That said, the latest of them, #SaaSBooMi, was a different experience altogether.
This time, I organised it purely as an individual volunteer — unlike past conferences, where I was a part of an organisation that put together or supported the event.
This post chronicles how we built SaaSBooMi from concept to reality in less than 48 days and what made it an unforgettable conference and a platform with an NPS score of above 80.
“Hands down the best event related to SaaS business in the country. Truly for founders, by founders. The organising team has done an amazing job to invite all the relevant people who kept the talks and workshops as authentic as they can get. Loved the event, can’t wait to visit next year.”
- Vinit Agrawal, Co-founder, Tars
The idea of doing a pure-play SaaS conference had been dwelling in my mind for a while now. After parting ways with iSPIRT, I realised that there was no dedicated platform for SaaS founders in India to come together and learn from each other. We did have SaaSx but over the course of time, it took a different direction and wasn’t able to bring the SaaS community together.
And even though there are multiple SaaS conferences being organised all across the country today, only a handful of them are curated and truly add value to the participants.
The need for a platform that brought members of the Asian SaaS ecosystem together to fraternize, to share their honest stories and experiences, and to learn from each other led to the inception of SaaSBooMi.
Right from the beginning, the core team — which included Girish Mathrubootham, Suresh Sambandam, Manav Garg, Krish, Vinod, and Shankar — was clear that they wanted to create a platform which was focused on an inherently valuable to SaaS founders. Zero fluff and exclusive anecdotal stories and experiences shared by their peers who have treaded these waters before them and crossed the chasm so to speak.
Starting from that mindset, here are some of the key aspects that made SaaSBooMi a one-of-a-kind conference:
Curating the founders
I firmly believe that the core of the conference or any event is the kind of people that you would get to meet in it — it makes all the difference.
The byline of the conference was “For the Founders, By the Founders,” and we ensured that we stuck by it through and through. We wanted to create a niche community specifically for SaaS founders and SaaS founders only, and strictly avoided non-SaaS founders or wannabe entrepreneurs.
It was a nightmare to screen through 800+ applications for Krish (Chargebee) and Ankit (AdPushup), who curated the applications. While the target was to have 300+ SaaS founders, we managed to get around 320 SaaS founders for both days of the event. That’s 320 participants for you, apart from the investors, speakers, volunteers, etc.
The only challenge in this process, however, was that we were unable to find a good tech platform which simplified the entire curation process and allowed us to collect payments easily for the founder + the co-founder who participated in the event.
And all these uncompromising efforts did pay off — in their feedback, an overwhelming majority of the participants appreciated the opportunity to meet, connect, learn and network with and from fellow founders who were operating at a similar scale and had gone beyond.
“#SaaSBoomi is hands down the best conference I have attended as an entrepreneur. The humility and honesty projected by the organising founders were simply outstanding. Their willingness to give and their dream for a product nation was very much the fillip this nascent community needs. Founder journeys are lonely and just being able to congregate in one place and to exchange notes was invaluable.”
- Hari Balaji, Co-Founder, Egregore Labs
Setting the agenda
The core team put a lot of thought into setting the agenda, specifically keeping the audience in mind — we had a majority of founders in the $100K-1M ARR range and hence we decided to have the workshop focussed around them.
The initial plan was to only allow 30 people in each track (SMB-Global, SMB-India & Enterprise) to participate in the workshop, but it turned out that all the participants were keen to take part in the workshop and we couldn’t let them in, given their eagerness to make it.
We were very clear right from the beginning that we will not be giving speaking slots to the event sponsors, and we’re truly grateful to the sponsors for not demanding the same from the team.
For each session, we proactive defined the key takeaways and the corresponding audience. Apart from those details, the speakers were given guidelines for keeping the sessions on time and on track, and for making them as meaningful for the audience as possible.
While we managed to accommodate enough breaks for networking in between the sessions on Day 1, in hindsight we could have done better on Day 2.
Communicating with the stakeholders
In terms of the outreach, we did not send any outbound emails and only posted a few updates on social media. We relied solely on word of mouth, where one founder recommended the conference to another founder, and it worked brilliantly.
We were in constant touch with the event’s delegates, updating them on the progress with the agenda, the speakers who will be leading the sessions, and the fellow delegates whom they would be meeting at the conference.
We also got our existing delegates to recommend other founders to participate in SaaSBooMi and if those founders qualified, we short-circuited the empanelment process — not requiring them to fill the application form unlike the other recommendations, and instead given access to the conference directly.
Creating city-specific communities
We put together a community for all founders travelling from Bangalore and organised a bus service to take them from Bangalore to Chennai and back.
The ultimate goal was to create similar communities for participants from Hyderabad, Mumbai-Pune, and NCR, but we could only manage to get those founders to travel together. We’re hoping that we would get this ball rolling from the next edition onwards.
The way forward for SaaSBooMi
I believe that one of the biggest strengths of SaaSBooMi is the SaaS founders’ willingness to step forth, share their stories with the community, and help the next-gen founders.
There are few platforms in India where you witness founders themselves come together to curate a conference right from day one and honestly share not just their experiences but also their mistakes and hard-earned lessons with the rest of their peers.
Kudos to Girish, Manav, Suresh, Krish, Aneesh, and several others who never once shied away from opening up to the fellow founders about their playbooks.
“This is a fantastic initiative for upcoming founders from the founders who have already made it or making it towards success. Its so fulfilling to hear the success stories and knowing that even the big companies have gone through the same struggle and tough path in their early stages, which strengthens my confidence level further. I wish and hope this community becomes really active outside of the conference too. Happy to be a drop in the ocean of the next emerging valley.”
- Bojarajan Pasupathy, Founder, Softborne Technology Solutions.
Following are the future plans we have in mind, to further grow and nurture the SaaSBooMi community in the coming years:
- Creating a virtual community for all SaaS founders. This is something that we are currently working on and hopefully, we will create a SaaSTribe for all founders who attended SaaSBooMi.
- Putting together roundtable conferences that revolve around specific focused topics and getting people to conduct them in different cities. One of the feedback points that we received was that employees of startups weren’t able to be a part of SaaSbooMi, so this platform will be enabling employees along with their founders to participate.
- Putting more effort towards building the SaaSBooMi brand.
- Creating an open database for all SaaS companies from India.
- Setting up a platform which allows early-stage founders to find mentors and to actively receive guidance from people who have been there and done that.
“‘Dream in installments’ — SaaSBoomi will give you the perspective on what those installments should be :)”
- Shruti Kapoor, Co-founder and CEO, String.ai
Finally, a BIG Thanks to all the volunteers who put great effort into pulling this together. As for me, I will continue to do my bit to make India a Product Nation. 🙂
Note: We’ve been receiving a lot of requests to volunteer for SaaSBooMi. For those who’re keen on becoming a part of the volunteer team, please send us a write-up on why you think you should be a part of the team and how you could contribute. This way, it’ll be easier for us to get the conversation started.