The Best Software/SaaS Event I have Attended for Five Years

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GUEST BLOG POST: Jon Markwell. CoverageBook

Last week I attended the best conference I’ve attended for 5 years. And the conference I attended five years ago was the same one! It’s called Business of Software and yes, for businesses like yours, it is even better than the conference I used to run. [Guest blog post from second time attendee Jonathan Markwell at CoverageBook. |Thank you for sharing, giving us ideas and some inspiration for next time].

People Like Us

It’s the only conference I’ve been to where it feels like most of the audience are in the same place as you and me but with similar ambitions. They’re helping to run software businesses with annual revenues between £500k and £5 million. And most aren’t interested in taking on external funding. They’re focused more on creating better places to work than they are on making as much money as possible.

Business of Software Conference Europe 2019

Intimate

It’s small enough (less than 300 people I think) that there’s plenty of opportunity to really get to know other attendees and dig into the details of how their businesses work.

Business of Software Conference Europe 2019

Content and People

The talks and the speakers are great but the real value for me is in everything in between.

  • It’s hosted in a Cambridge University college with most attendees staying on site. That means you can spend as much time as you like getting to know people over meals, drinks and strolls around the grounds.
  • The stories you’ll hear will inspire you while also helping you crush thoughts of imposter syndrome.
  • The environment encourages openness so you’ll hear about how people are living the dream as well as the horror stories of their early days (and even their last week).

I’ve come away with better, more refined ideas than I came with. And much more confidence that we’re heading in the right direction with our business. I’m feeling far more relaxed as a result.

Business of Software Conference Europe 2019

Participants businesses aren’t exclusively like our businesses and that’s a good thing.

It’s good to hear different perspectives on the world of software businesses and to have an opportunity to help others. I had particularly rewarding conversations with people who are still in the process of switching from a consulting business to a product business. And also with some folks that have created a software education programme for prisoners.

There were even (surprisingly! :)) a few insights I felt useful from the handful of VCs and VC backed founders who were present.

The Missing Pieces

What makes Business of Software so much better than other conferences is that it’s not filled with any of the following that are all too common at other conferences:

  • Teams of people from companies with over 100 employees who only talk to each other.
  • Wantrepreneurs and investors who seem to talk more about other people’s startups than they do spending time building real businesses of their own.
  • Sales people from big software vendors who are only interested in selling stuff to you.

The difference

And what makes Business of Software really special is that it’s run by a family of wonderful people. Mark, Jo (and their kids!), Paddy, Ed and the rest of the team really care about creating a wonderful experience for every single participant. They don’t put on a front pretending to be something they aren’t. They speak their minds, acknowledge their weaknesses and (seemingly effortlessly) put everyone at ease. I can’t imagine anyone else being able to create an environment where people are comfortable sharing so much about their businesses with a room full of strangers.

Business of Software Conference Europe 2019

I really hope you can make it to the next one. I’ll absolutely be there at Cambridge next year and I’m seriously considering getting on a plane to attend the US edition in Boston in September.

Best wishes,

J

PS If you do go please be a better participant than me. Make sure you don’t take any external distractions with you or have to leave in a hurry at the end of the event. Be present for as much as you can – from the welcome drinks the evening before the first day to the leaving drinks on the last day. It’s worth every minute of your attention for at least 48 hours! :)

[Thank you Jon for such a great write up. Was very helpful to us in thinking about the experience that attendees have and makes us think it is worth doing it!]