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Last update: October 2019

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OpenBack Visits SaaStock 2019 at the RDS in Dublin

This year, OpenBack was privileged to be able to attend SaaStock, an annual summit for SaaS (software as a service) companies, as a representative of Startup Sesame.

It was an eye-opening few days, where we got to sit in on panel discussions, fireside chats, podcasts, and seminars. There was also plenty of time for networking with the other attendees and we learned about a ton of great software companies out there.

Here are a few of our top takeaways.

OpenBack SaaStock
The OpenBack team’s SaaStock photoshoot!

SaaStock’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

Yes, software development and tech in general is known to be a male-dominated industry. But it was great to see SaaStock taking proactive steps to change that. Not only were there women in high-profile roles at the conference as speakers, judges, and company representatives, but there were many events that spoke to women and minorities in the software industry.

A few of these included in-depth panels themed around working in the tech industry as a woman, as a black person, or taking on a leadership role as a single mother.

Not only did SaaStock focus on making an inviting environment to bring more diverse talent into the software industry. There were also many events themed around expanding beyond the Western market. There were panel discussions across the two days offering insights on tactics and strategies for companies looking to break into the markets in China, India, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

Celebrating Failure and Mental Health

When you go to a SaaS conference, it is expected that you will attend discussions on software design, B2B, sales, marketing, etc.

But SaaStock offered a look at the human side of the industry, showing that success is more than just dollars and cents. Jennifer Lin, product manager at Google, gave an inspiring talk, “Celebrating the Failures It Takes To Succeed.” In it, she described success as a complicated journey – an experience, rather than a static end goal. Failures are all part of the learning curve as you work your way towards more positive results.

This was backed up by Google’s head of cloud engineering, Brian Lynch, who added that a company with a zero percentage failure rate means they’re not pushing themselves. Therefore, they’re not growing.

SaaStock also gave attention to a key issue in today’s world: mental health. In the panel “How to address tech’s ongoing mental health catastrophe,” Amy Lewin, senior reporter for Sifted; Joe Krancki, venture partner for Frog Capital; and Nicola McClafferty of Investme gave their thoughts on what needs to change.

Especially in such a fast-paced industry as tech, there can be incredible pressure to perform at the expense of your own well-being. The three panelists looked into the dangers of toxic work culture, and how, if you are a leader at your company, to promote your colleagues’ mental health. Not only does a company with healthy, motivated employees function better in the long run, but it is important for an industry looking to provide innovative services that make customers’ lives easier to practice what it preaches.

Soft Power and Competing With Clickbait

Patrick Campbell, CEO and founder of ProfitWell, interviewed Nathan Latka, a prolific podcaster and author of a book about how he raised $2.5 million in capital. Latka gave a very informative and entertaining talk on how to build a SaaS company and get ahead in the attention economy. To widen your marketing funnel, he says, you need to “compete with clickbait headlines… earn your right to educate” by entertaining first.

Latka’s strategy for driving sales was founded on his getting affiliate partners through hosting webinars and podcasts. In many cases, engaging content can be the line that draws in buyers for a SaaS product. That exposure can result in a strong connection with more founders.

Latka talked about the value of  also talked about the value of sparking controversy, which can drum up a lot of free exposure. When compared to other, more traditional forms of marketing, he says: “It’s way cheaper to get people to hate you, and haters still buy.”

Interoperability of Departments and Taking Feedback

At the Growth Stage, a panel discussion, “Interoperability of different departments will supercharge your PLG strategy” included Jesper Frederiksen, VP and GM of EMEA; Chloé Giard, Investment Director of Idinvest Partners; Conor O’Loughlin, CEO of Glofox; and Nazma Qurban, Chief Revenue Office of Cognism.

Together, this panel talked about the basic principles of product feedback. First, it is key to ascertain your basic strategy and goals, and make sure all your departments are cooperating towards that goal. When you collect customer feedback, don’t collect opinions – collect facts. And as your company grows, always share information to match customers’ needs.

When taking customer feedback, of course, always take it with a grain of salt. To build a business that’s scalable, it is crucial align your growth with the company vision, rather than with the needs of a single customer. Always look at the data and facts, rather than one person’s emotional response. Take a step back and say, “This is what’s scalable and this is what we really need to achieve.”

Overall, the OpenBack team had a great time at SaaStock. It was a highly educational experience, and we made some valuable connection with other movers and shakers in the industry.

Take a look at our article for Startup Sesame to see a few of our other takeaways.

We can’t wait to see what SaaStock 2020 has in store!

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