Last week I attended the MicroConf Europe 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal and spent two days and three evenings listening to interesting talks and having inspiring conversations. MicroConf is a conference targeted at small, self-funded software companies. The audience consists of people at different stages of founding and running a company: some are looking for an idea, some are just starting out and others have a company they want to grow. MicroConf is hosted by Rob Walling and Mike Taber, which you might know from the Startups For the Rest of Us podcast. I just listened to the latest episode of the podcast where Mike Mike and Benedikt Deicke looked back on the conference, so I decided to write a small recap myself.
I always joke that people only remember two things from a conference: the food and the Wifi. At Microconf, both were excellent. The food was tasty and the Wifi was rock-solid throughout the conference.
Now that we have the logistics covered, let’s cut to the chase: the talks. They covered a wide range of topics, e.g. sales, SEO, UX, Facebook ads, ops. I want to share some ideas that stood out for me:
Craig Hewitt on Hiring: assess the skills of candidates by giving them real, paid work (that can be redone if necessary). Be intentionally vague to figure out if they are problem solvers, which is especially important if you work remotely and in different time zone.
Paul Kenny on Sales: the fastest way to improve your sales is to record your sales calls (and to listen to them afterward).
Mike Taber on Customer Validation: an MVP is more than the product itself, it must include a strategy and process to sell to actual customers
Mojca Žove on Facebook Ads: don’t sell to strangers, create a relationship by offering value for free. Then retarget.
Dave Collins on SEO: look in Google Webmaster Tools for low-hanging fruits. Can you push a page from position 11 to the first page?
Jane Austin on Hiring a Designer: try to get all research and insight leading up to the point where you decided to hire a designer into their head.
Andrus Purde on marketing: find early, uncrowded marketplaces where your product stands out.
Thomas Smale on selling a business: everybody is going to leave their business one day, either by selling it or shutting it down.
Peldi Guilizzioni on Ops: your infrastructure and ops should grow with your company. You can’t keep editing files on the server forever, but there is also no point in setting up a Kubernetes cluster for your landing page.
Please note that these are just single condensed take-aways, not literal quotes and not intended to describe the whole talk. As expected from a single track conference, not every talk had actionable insights for me personally. But the talks are only one part of MicroConf, the other part is the “hallway track” in between talks and at the evening events.
The crowd at MicroConf is really special: most people are fairly technical, but technology is never an end in itself and everyone also has a business perspective. You can geek out about your latest adventure in hunting down a weird SSL bug in production, but you can also openly talk about your goals for your business without being considered a greedy capitalist. Everyone is down to earth, approachable and helpful. While it can be awkward to strike up a conversation at a tech conference, you might be actively drawn into a group of people at MicroConf.
If you are now eager to experience this crowd yourself, you have three opportunities coming up:
- MicroConf Europe 2018 in Lisbon/Portugal, no date announced yet
- MicroConf 2018 in Las Vegas/USA, April 29th to 3rd
- FemtoConf 2018 in Darmstadt/Germany, March 2nd to 4th
FemtoConf is organized by Benedikt Deicke and Christoph Engelhard. It targets the same audience as MicroConf, but does so at a much smaller scale (and also a much smaller price tag). They are aiming at 40 people including speakers, so you will probably know everyone by name at the end of the weekend. I attended this year, and it didn’t really feel like a conference and more like a weekend of hanging out with like-minded people. If that sounds like fun to you, hurry up: the early bird pricing ends today and there are only three tickets left anyway!
Fun fact: the header image of this post depicts “Ascensor da Glória“, a funicular railway in Lisbon, and actually came with the WordPress theme this site currently uses.