It was a great event. If you want to learn more about bootstrapping a business or meet people trying to do so, there is no better place to go. Thanks to Mike and Rob. I’ll try to summarize the key ideas that resonated for me after listening to the speakers and chatting with numerous other entrepreneurs at the conference.
Jason Cohen gave the lead off talk and he spoke about how honesty can make you more money. It was a really good exploration of truth in marketing and support. It seemed to spawn a majority of the initial discussions for the rest of the conference. Did he mean complete honesty? Were there exceptions? Who would actually do it? I think he makes a convincing argument for using honesty as an advantage. Especially where it can grant you credibility. Admit something negative to lend credence to your positives.
Customers, Customers, Customers: Who are they?
Hiten Shah was the first to ask this question. Who are your customers? How much do you know about them? What problems do they have? What keeps them up at night? Who do they buy from? What do they pay? Who are their competitors? Who are their customers? Hiten emphasized again this year that speed of customer learning will determine your success.
Where are they?
This came up in a lot of talks. Hiten was first, but Amy Hoy, Patrick McKenzie, and Dan Martell definitely all discussed it. Find them online and off. Learn from them. Build channels to educate and sell to them. Or…
Find “Other People’s Networks” to leverage. YouTube, iTunes, Twitter, Quora, Forums, etc. Discover where your customers hangout and be there.
Actions as Data
Your customer’s actions speak more loudly than their words. Spend time observing their actions with your product, but also with each other. You should absolutely use customer development interviews, but understand that no matter the methodology: people will lie or unknowingly misrepresent answers to these questions as often as not. This is borne out by research. Collect all the hard data you can.
There were moments in quite a few talks where the speakers talked about a failure or riding a roller coaster of emotions on the entrepreneurial trip. It isn’t always fun or fulfilling. You’re never sure about the next move. Each time things don’t work you are reminded of the opportunity to give up. Failure and experience are the best teachers. You can learn to accept failing as part of the process. In this business, your success depends upon frequent failure.
Revenue or Cost
Improve revenue or cut costs for your customer. Build your messaging around the benefits of your product that do this.
Process and Systems
I enjoyed this theme the most. It is best summarized by a quote that Patrick McKenzie shared:
A job is a system that turns time into money. A business is a system that turns systems into money.
Mike Taber spoke about it at length as well. Peldi and Bill Bither both mentioned using the best development talent they had to work on business systems and not the product. Sarah Hatter talked about systems for interacting with customers to deliver great support. Automate things. Improve the experience. Use checklists. Use metrics. Build visual dashboards. Prioritize problems. Document your process. The quality of your systems will distinguish your from your competition.
Patrick McKenzie and Sarah Hatter addressed this directly in their talks. Patrick mentioned a Japanese word that means ‘an awareness of the impermanence of things’ in reference to work and money. He wanted everyone to make sure they spent time on the things in life that bring them meaning and the things that last. There was a running joke for the speakers to include a picture of their kids that connected up strongly here. These people have real lives. Sarah said (paraphrasing) that you shouldn’t take business advice given by people that don’t have a life. I think that is wise.
The talks were all excellent this year. The speakers were extremely accessible and engaging. The attendee quality was very high. The venue improved. I’d say I’ll see you at MicroConf 2013, but I’m concerned it will sell out too fast to guarantee.