- MicroConf 2012
- Pictures from MicroConf
- Montabe (provided the picture slideshow app)
- WildBit (sponsored Monday night’s party)
- WP Engine (Jason Cohen’s Company)
- Balsamiq (Peldi’s Company)
- Software Promotions (Dave Collins’ Company)
- Woothemes (Adii’s Company)
- Eliza Brock Software (sponsored the little red notebooks)
[00:00] Mike: This is Startups for the Rest of Us: Episode 80.
[00:10] Mike: Welcome to Startups for the Rest of Us, the podcast that helps entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
[00:18] Rob: And I’m Rob.
[00:19] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How are you doing this week, Rob? Are you getting sleep?
[00:24] Rob: I am getting so much sleep now that MicroConf is done. It feels good. I had a really tough time sleeping the night before and the two nights of even the night after, you know, you and I were up till probably 3 in the morning with that band of what, maybe 20, 20 folks you stock around that late. I went upstairs and I was thinking “Oh, I’m going to sleep till noon. No kids, no flight till 4 pm and sure enough I’d woke up like, kind of like anxiety where in that like 8 in the morning.
[00:48] Mike: Yeah. When I got there Saturday night, the next day I slept I got nine hours of sleep I think and then for the next three nights I got around 4 and half to 5 hours of sleep each night. [Laughter]
[00:59] Rob: Totally worth it, man. I had a blast.
[01:02] Mike: Yeah. What was your favorite part?
[01:03] Rob: I really enjoyed connecting again with people who we’ve seen last year as well as meeting a bunch of people who I’ve already met through the Micropreneur Academy who have called and e-mailed us through the podcast, comment on the blog, bought the book and e-mailed me. I mean, there’s all these ways that I meet people virtually and then finally meet them face to face, it’s really cool. This is like the original reason I think we started talking about putting MicroConf on period is that we have this kind of network around the world of people we wanted to connect with and there was really no event where we can all get together and so our excuse for doing that is getting really good speakers and putting us all in a room for three days.
[01:41] And so my favorite parts were, you know, the breaks and hanging out in the evening and just hearing what people are up to, giving feedback, getting advice, I mean I, you know, pitch some ideas to a bunch of people just to get thoughts on, on how I should move forward and I think my biggest takeaway is I’ve come back way more motivated like I had just had been attacking my list specifically a lot of stuff on HitTail because I got some comments and feedback and thoughts and both from speakers, you know, Jason Cohen and Hiten Shah and those guys as well as just, you know, all the attendees. There were a lot of really knowledgeable attendees this year. That was cool. How about you? What was your favorite part?
[02:15] Mike: I really like just talking to everyone who was there. I mean, there were a lot of people there who had just never been there. I mean, what do we have? Probably 50 people or so from last year but because we grew the conference by so much, it was a much smaller percentage of the people that were there but yeah, just talking with everybody, getting ideas, feedback from things that I’m working on and talking to them about things that they’re working on.
[02:38] I sat one night, I think it was the last night we were there and Patrick Foley and I just sat there and hashed out what the problems would like he has this idea for our products and I walked him through it and talked to him a lot about it and I was like that doesn’t really solve our problem from me and I didn’t get it for a long time and then suddenly things started to click for us and I was like “Well, that could solve this problem that I have, you know, could just kind of organized in the conference everything.” And he, you know, one of the things it was talked about was, you know, marry the problem not the solution so he was kind of thinking a lot about the thing he wanted to build versus the problems that it would be solving for people and I’m like, well, you know, this is the problem I have and he said “Yeah, I can do that.”
[03:18] It was really great to talk to people about the problems that you’re having and then frame them for them or help them out in any way that we could. I mean, I connected on so many people like somebody said “Oh, I’m having a problem with this.” I’m like “You should talk to so and so …” It was just in all these conversations that I had with people. I was just connecting people left and right. That was really cool.
[03:37] Rob: Yeah. I have to admit I enjoyed that. It’s kind of like having your whole network or at least like the best of the best of your network there in person. But it really was, all right? Like people would ask you questions. It’s like I don’t know the answer but this guy totally does like he’s also doing mobile apps right now. Have you met Patrick from Inkstone Software, you know, it’s just that great feeling of like knowing enough people that we could really help them out [0:04:00] as well as being help to ourselves like I ask a lot of folks about their thoughts on a bunch of… on a whole slew of topics and it was cool.
[04:06] Experts, man. I mean, seriously there were — I didn’t even realized there were attendees there who were founders of, like the guy from YouNeedABudget.com, there were like 17 person, 20 person software startup and he was just an attendee and I had no idea and he introduced himself, that was awesome. I mean, there were – and there’s a guy named Sameer from ProProfs.com –
[04:24] Mike: Yup.
[04:25] Rob: … who again, I had never met, hadn’t heard of and he, I mean, their company’s doing really well. He’s explaining to me how many millions of visits they get a month. I mean, there were some, you know, really cool attendees and there were some, you know, really high end people in attendance as well as all the people, I mean, so many people we know from the academy, the academy who have like awesome businesses that you know, totally support them and, you know, they’ve left their jobs because of. And I’ve actually realized that’s something we don’t do enough and I think we might want to start on the podcast or either bringing them on or at least mentioning them.
[04:54] I had forgotten how many people in the academy have actually, I mean, I basically lost track and as I start to meet them I was like “Oh yeah. Antonin Hildebrand from TotalFinder.com. I totally [Laughter] – I remember you but I kind of forgotten that.” It’s success story like he did never product when he join the academy and then he launched it and he totally quit his job and he’s like travelling the world now.
[05:15] And there’s a lot of those people and so I think that it was a reminder of like yeah, you know, we need to be better about kind of bringing, bringing those stories to light because I think they’re inspirational.
[05:25] Mike: Yeah. I was surprised that a sheer number of people from the academy that were there. I brought one of those little stamps and I had the guys at the – who were working at the front desk every time somebody would come up to register just asking if they were an academy member, we stamped in their name tags so that you and I could identify who the academy members were but also say can identify each other. Kind of connect people together to some degree and I was just oddly shock in the number of people who were there who are also in the academy.
[05:55] Rob: I agree. By the way, that was genius [Laughter] to do that because I was keeping my eye at the whole time but yeah, how many, I mean, there were 164, 165 people including speakers, sponsors, attendees, I mean the whole deal. My guess is there were 30 to 40 Micropreneur Academy members —
[06:12] Mike: Probably.
[06:13] Rob: You think there were that many?
[06:14] Mike: I —
[06:14] Rob: Yeah. I mean, I saw a lot of, lot of the smiley face stickers.
[06:20] Rob: So today we are going to be covering basically going through MicroConf 2012. We’re going to talk about some of our favorite moments, favorite speakers, just, you know, different stories that came out of it. Do you have anything else you want to cover before we dive in?
[06:33] Mike: I probably talk about AuditShark a little bit. I talked about AuditShark to a bunch of people who were there and kind of got some good feedback on future directions for it, so …
[06:42] Rob: But I thought it was cool because A, you were doing customer development basically on the spot, right? You were asking some folks and then B, at the very end of the conference as it was closing before their kind of last party you basically said like if anyone’s interested in the service that does this like come up and talk to me and you said like I’m thinking about pivoting AuditShark to this but I want to hear about it.
[07:02] So, that was – that’s like the perfect example of what you should come to the conference with. It’s something like that, right? Because you’re going to get a ton of value at a very quickly and that’s something that’s hard to do virtually or harder to do virtually than it was to just do in person.
[07:14] Mike: Yup. And I actually got commitments from people to have pay for it.
[07:17] Rob: That’s cool. So wait, we’ll cover that —
[07:19] Mike: Next time. [Laughter]
[07:20] Rob: … in Episode 81, yup. We’re talking about 2013 although of course as usual I haven’t decided that I’m actually going to do at 2013 conference. We – we already have 156 people on the e-mail list, the early bird list for next year which —
[07:33] Mike: That’s the crew and squad if you say no and then get —
[07:35] Rob: Yeah, I know.
[07:36] Mike: I’ll tweet out the address. [Laughter]
[07:38] Rob: I’m going to get hurt. Yeah. So, but last year we only had I think 250 e-mails throughout the whole year and now, we now already have 150 and it’s only a couple of weeks after, so it was obviously, obviously doing something right. I think the Twitter stream was a lot – lot hotter this year as well, seemed like if we’re picking in on it.
[07:55] Mike: That 150 number or 156 number kind of scares me though for next year because it’s like what do we do to —
[08:02] Rob: I know.
[08:03] Mike: … maintain the quality, I mean, I – I had at least half a dozen of people come up to me in just various times and say “Hey, this is the best conference I’ve ever been to. “ And I’ve been, you know, one guy made a point to say “And I’ve been to a lot.”
[08:16] Rob: Right.
[08:17] Mike: And somebody else said he’s been, you know, 25, 30 conferences and he said that the MicroConf is by far the best. In a way it’s kind of scary because it’s like okay, we’ll now … How do we tap this next year or can we tap it or, you know, —
[08:28] Rob: Right.
[08:29] Mike: … can we at least meet expectations.
[08:31] Rob: Right. I think, well I think there’s a couple of things that are going on in my head. I think one thing is that we take what we learn from this year because we changed a bunch of things from last year, right? We had two more tear downs, we had shorter talks, we had longer breaks and I felt like all that went well and then moving forward. I think next year we may want to have one or two panels, shorter panels that are done well. I think we may want to consider having fewer speakers and longer breaks. I think we may want to have let the audience do some short talks, like do some 15-minute talks, 10 or 15-minute talks because there were a lot of very knowledgeable people who I think could lend inside but who may, you know, who aren’t like tap your big names speakers or whatever they know but they have a lot of knowledge in there, in their domain.
[09:11] And so I think there’s, there’s ways that we can continue to kind of keep it varied hopefully without diluting it, right? Because you don’t want to go so far work just like all panels, all workshops and it just kind of not – it’s not as valuable. I think the other thing is we need to be pretty consistent about — if you attended this year, we kind of need to let you know first and let you in first because I do, I mean, it sold out in two and a half weeks this year. My guess is since we’re talking about not growing it, not making it larger that we’re going to sell out in that time or shorter next year. And so I do think that previous attendee should kind of get some priority.
[09:46] I mean, I talked to a lot of people about whether we should grow the conference another 40 or 50 people or whether we should raise the price a hundred bucks and there’s a bunch of things we can do like we want to make the conference better but we need a coordinator to do that. We need – we should need more resources to do it and [0:10:00] moving to the Hard Rock this year was a lot more expensive than it was last year and so, you know, if we raised the price to hundred bucks which basically became the just of what everyone who I talked to one-on-one told me, that they would prefer to just pay a little more and keep the conference small and keep the quality of the — of the attendees high was a big concern.
[10:17] Mike: One person e-mailed me and said that they’d be okay with adding another 40 or 50 people so long as it was, you know, the same type of crowd.
[10:27] Rob: Yeah. And that’s – I just don’t know how can you guarantee that. We get a certain number of thousand bucks, 1500 bucks and then it’s like that were a bunch of enterprise people start coming in and you’re going to start getting, you know, C level folks from Oracle and Microsoft not that that’s bad but it just not what we would, that’s not the conference we want to throw.
[10:42] Mike: Right.
[10:43] Rob: So hey, let’s pop in to day one and just look at maybe your favorite speaker or two, what you took away and that kind of stuff to give listeners an idea. Day 1 was – it was Jason Cohen from A Smart Bear, Hiten Shah who found the KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg. And then we did some website tear downs and then I spoke and Peldi did an “Ask me anything” and then you spoke and then the last was Dan Martell who a lot of people may not have heard of but probably one of the most inspirational if not the most inspirational talk in my opinion. So of those folks what – who do you like best? What did you takeaway?
[11:21] Mike: Well, I’ve heard Jason Cohen talk about – he talks about honesty and I heard that talk at the Business of Software and I liked it again, I mean, it’s not like a lot of stuff changed from, you know, when he gave it there. But it still resonates. I mean, it’s still a great talk and it’s still great and great topic. The other one I liked was – I like Peldi’s just because it was very free form. It was very different than a lot of them and Peldi is just entertaining, I mean, he’s great to listen to, great to talk to and has a way of portraying things or putting things at in a ways off-the-cuff but it seems like he’s thought it through in his head. I don’t know how he comes up with some of the stuff that he does but it’s – it always seems like he’s thought it through and maybe he hasn’t. Maybe he just thrown it out there as ideas but I really like his as well.
[12:05] Rob: And for the listeners, Peldi did “Ask me anything” so he had 45 minutes and it was purely Q&A. He didn’t do a presentation. He put up some topics and people got to ask him anything about it. So, he’s businesses, I mean, it’s growing. He’s with eleven people now and so he has a lot of experience going from basically a single founder all the way up, up to where he is now, multi-million dollars in revenue.
[12:24] Mike: Yup.
[12:25] Rob: Well cool. Yeah, I really enjoy it. So I’m very pleased we had Jason Cohen go first. I think he kicked off the conference. I just don’t know if there could have been a better speaker in that slot, you know, he kicked it off with the honesty thing and it really kind of resonated through all the talks I thought and a lot of people who I talked to said he has was one of the most compelling talk. It wasn’t a ton of takeaways. It wasn’t like here’s how to market your business but it was just a way of thinking about kind of running your business and being really honest with kind of with everything you say and that that’s actually better for your bottom line. He tries to prove it through a series of a stories and stats and all that stuff, definitely enjoyed it again.
[13:03] And that’s why we had asked him to come there, right? I mean, we had seen his talk and wanted him to come and share with the gang at MicroConf. I really like Hiten’s. I was like I like what he has to say but —
[13:13] Mike: Yeah. That was the – that was the other one that I really like as well was Hiten’s.
[13:15] Rob: And he of course had a bunch of stuff, I mean, he’s grown KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg. One was venture founded, one is bootstrapped and he’s just done, you know, really well with both of them and so tons of knowledge. We did have videos taken of all the talks and our current plan is to release them inside the Micropreneur Academy to Micropreneur Academy members, so it’ll be – we’ll probably release like one a month as they come out. And then, you know, we don’t have plans beyond that at this point.
[13:43] My other favorite talk and the one I heard a lot about when I ask people was Dan Martell’s. And his is about again, not a ton of actionable stuff but it was really, it was inspirational –
[13:53] Mike: Yeah.
[13:53] Rob: He had this anecdote about his brother who was basically going bankrupt, trying to be a homebuilder. It was customer development as what it was with [0:14:00] homebuilding. He realized that like women typically make the decision when buying a home. If a couple is buying a home, the woman typically makes a decision and so he got a bunch of women, got them together and took them out to all these homes and asked them “What do you like best about it?” And basically the designed the best home based on the opinions of these women and just has it amazing homebuilding business now because of this customer development approach.
[14:25] Mike: Yeah, I mean, one of the examples that he threw out was his brother. He went in to go see his brother and his brother’s house was virtually empty and he went in, you know, there’s no couch, no carpets, no lamps, no, nothing. And he goes in and asked his brother if he got robbed and his brother said “Well, these houses, I was told that these houses display better if they are furnished and I don’t want to go buy furniture so I took all of my furniture out of my house and put in, you know, just the display house” which is getting things done that need to get done in whatever way you possibly can.
[14:56] Rob: Hey, so how did you feel during your talk and after? Did you get any feedback? What are your thoughts? How did you feel overall?
[15:02] Mike: My talk?
[15:04] Rob: Uh huh. Yeah.
[15:05] Mike: It resonated for some people. I don’t know. I didn’t get a huge amount of feedback. I have seen a couple of people who have tweeted out things here and there. One of the conference goers put out a blog article and have us written through it. It was really funny. He said that Mike had what was surely the best “I’m an entrepreneur but I’m also a computer science geek” moment of the conference. [Laughter]
[15:27] Rob: Nice. Yeah. You had the coolest Scott Adams quote. It was –
[15:31] Mike: Losers –
[15:32] Rob: Losers have goals, winners have systems.
[15:34] Mike: Yup.
[15:34] Rob: Is that right?
[15:34] Mike: Uh huh.
[15:34] Rob: Yeah. That was a good quote. I saw that on Twitter several times after you talked.
[15:39: Mike: Yeah, so that was the legist of my talk and for the people who weren’t there, I mean, I basically talked about being able to pipeline the processes that are in your business and relating it to how a processor does things and being able to pipeline that stuff so you can get more things done faster and not lose work that you’ve done and the idea that you really have to position yourself as a builder of processes in your business not necessarily the person who is executing them.
[16:07] And honestly like when you’re building a software product, it’s the exact same thing. You’re building a process and you’re letting something else to execute it and not something else as the computer.
[16:15] Rob: So, I thought the tear downs went pretty well like we had thrown them together kind of last minute last year and it felt like a nice break to me. For the listeners tear down is basically the audience just starts calling out website so you’ll just call out your website and whoever’s up there, the first day it was Jason Cohen from A Smart Bear and the second day it was Dave Collins from Software Promotions and Patrick McKenzie from Bingo Card Creator and his blog and they just basically look at it and they give their advice on things you should test basically it’s like your button should be bigger, the copy is off and I don’t understand what that saying. Here’s maybe you could rewrite it like this, they kind of click through it and it’s just as really interesting. Public, evaluation of your site and, you know, people call out their URL and they just sit there and just scribble down notes like crazy.
[17:00] And I even saw people approaching like Jason Cohen after his talk and after the conference saying, “Hey, could you do a quick tear down of mine?” And then he would run through theirs in two or three minutes, you know, just one-on-one.
[17:10] Mike: Yeah. I think those tear downs are definitely a must have at the conference from now on. They are nice changer pace and they definitely break up the day. What did you think about your talk? Did you get any feedback on it?
[17:22] Rob: You know, I didn’t get much feedback which tells me it was probably one of the last memorable talks of the conference. I think we had such – we had such an amazing group of speakers and I’m not just saying that because we put the conference together but it really was the conference that you and I wanted to attend, right? That’s what we’re building here, is every conference I have felt like “Oh, you know, this speaker or that or that part of the schedule just didn’t work or whatever.” And we’re trying to do it exactly how we want and obviously that’s resonating, you know, within a people that it’s working but I think I’m a pretty good writer now. I think you and I do a good podcast. I think I’m a good entrepreneur. I think my public speaking is actually maybe one of my lesser abilities.
[18:02] Mike: Your speaking is pretty good. [Laughter] I would say it’s better than mine.
[18:05] Rob: Oh, well, thanks. I appreciate that.
[18:07] Mike: I think what you’re probably seeing is that I got this a little bit as well, people didn’t necessarily want to come up and talk to me too much about my talk or other things that were going on. They just didn’t want to bug me because they could probably see that I was busy and there were lots of stuff going on, I mean, we got a conference to manage.
[18:23] Rob: You know, Mike, I hope that’s the case. I didn’t really think about it. I just — normally when I speak afterwards like a lot of people approach me and we talk about the stuff and then for the rest of the conference I went up talking to people about the contents of the talk and that didn’t happened a single time of MicroConf and so maybe you’re right. Maybe it was just the people were giving us, you know, leeway so to speak or more concerned about giving us feedback on the conference rather than the actual talks that we were giving.
[18:48] Mike: Yeah. I mean, some of the feedback that I got was more – I don’t want to say it was in passing but it was like the hallway thing like “Hey, I really like your talk. It resonated with me and, you know, I really –
[18:57] Rob: Got it.
[18:58] Mike: … like this and that.” I didn’t get a lot of feedback right away but then at the very end of the conference, I mean, somebody went – I think you were up there asking what people had gotten out of it, you know, the first two things that were called out were both from my talk. It was –
[19:11] Rob: Yup.
[19:11] Mike: … marketing Monday concept and then the other one was building processes instead of setting goals.
[19:16] Rob: Yup.
[19:17] Mike: But –
[19:17] Rob: No, I thought that was really cool.
[19:18] Mike: I didn’t get a lot of feedback during the conference. I really think it’s just because people wanted us to focus on having a great conference as oppose to talking with — specifically what our talk was but I can totally see how, you know, you might be a little concern about it because I mean, I even have my concerns about getting up there and talking because you’ve got all these great speakers and it’s a little intimidating, I mean, I was looking at the conference, you know, the line up of the speakers and I’m like, you know, usually you want to go just after somebody who might or might not be so good or, you know, kind of average and I’m looking at the speaker line up saying “Man, there’s no good place to go.” [Laughter]
[19:53] Rob: Yeah. Yeah. I was before Peldi and basically after Hiten Shah and you’re after Peldi and before Dan Martell.
[19:59] Mike: Right.
[20:00] Rob: Like that’s brutal.
[20:01] Mike: Uh huh.
[20:02] Mike: But I’m –
[20:02] Rob: Yeah.
[20:02] Mike: … there from other speakers too though, you know, like —
[20:04] Rob: Yeah.
[20:04] Mike: … I’d say probably we close to half of the speakers. Basically said it’s an intimidating line up to speak in because everyone, you know, they all look up to each other. So …
[20:14] Rob: Right. That was the cool part is like at the speakers dinner. So we have the speakers dinner Sunday night and you get these people together and they — they either all know each other or they know of each other and they really wanted to meet one another.
[20:24] Mike: Right.
[20:25] Rob: And so you’re basically getting this really talented group of folks together and the conversations are just riveting. And that’s actually, oh next year, I think we want to do a — we only did a 2-hour speaker dinner. I think we want to do a 3-hour speaker dinner because I felt like I had to bail too early and that we — that we can sat there for another hour easily.
[20:42] Mike: Uh huh.
[20:43] Rob: What did you think — we get on the day two in a second but I wanted to get your thoughts on like our giveaways. We had a couple of candles, we had a candle fire and then we had a couple lifetime memberships to the academy, we had software from sponsors. In general, how do you feel like all that went?
[20:57] Mike: It went smoother than I thought it would to be perfectly honest. And I think a lot of that had to do with switching from — last year, I just drew numbers and had everybody — I had a number put on the back of everybody’s badge. So everybody had to look at it. And this year, I just drew names out of a box and that —
[21:15] Rob: That was better.
[21:15] Mike: … was so much easier. I was surprised at how well the Swingline stapler went over. [Laughter]
[21:20] Rob: Yes, you had a red Swingline, right?
[21:22] Mike: Yeah.
[21:22] Rob: From Office Space?
[21:24] Mike: Yup.
[21:24] Rob: People were so — that was the runner-up prize that you — the last thing given out was the XBox with connect, the XBox 360 with connect. Then the runner-up prize was the red Swingline. That was really cool.
[21:33] Mike: Yup. People loved that. So hey, what do you think about the party over at Rumor on Monday night?
[21:40] Rob: Definitely, yeah. WildBit sponsor this party, definitely higher class than we’ve ever done, you know, our MicroConf stuff is a — it’s always good and solid but we typically are like, “All right, come to a bar and have some drinks.” But they had orders. It was out on a patio. It was really a nice, nice venue. I was happy that we were there. And in fact, if we stay at Hard Rock, if we do it at the Hard Rock again next year, I would want to inquire and find out about the venue again because I just — it was nice through its outdoors.
[22:06] Mike: Uh huh.
[22:06] Rob: Yeah, it was 8 degrees until 10 at night which was nice. And it was just good to be outside for a while, right and not be inside casinos the whole time —
[22:14] Mike: Yeah, it was definitely — it was definitely nice to not hear the cha-ching from [Laughter] from the slot machines —
[22:20] Rob: Yup.
[22:20] Mike: … all night along.
[22:21] Rob: Now at the Hard Rock actually, I never heard it because of the music. It was kind of cool to have a soundtrack playing of, well, just good music from the last 30 years.
[0:22:28] Mike: Uh huh.
[22:28] Rob: Did you notice that? Like it was — they have the slot machines from way, way down and the music was turned off because that’s their vibe, you know?
[22:35] Mike: I didn’t notice.
[22:37] Rob: Yup.
[22:37] Mike: I was too busy, you know, doing other things. I did —
[22:39] Rob: I was too busy putting on a call.
[22:40] Mike: [Laughter] What were you doing?
[22:43] Rob: I think overwhelmingly people were like, yes, better venue, right? We did the Riviera last year which was an older hotel. Hard Rock’s newer or hipper. It’s just — it was nicer. Do you think in terms of about the feedback you got and your impression of what we want to do next year, do we want to — do you think you — would you go back to the Hard Rock? Would you look at a similar hotel, you know, in Vegas about the same level? Or do you think we should move up? What do you think?
[23:03] Mike: I would say the same level is fine. I would have, you know, definitely, consider going back to the Hard Rock and the fact that Rumor was right across the street was definitely a plus. I got some feedback from people that they said that it was — they liked that it was off the strip a little bit.
[23:17] Rob: How interesting, okay.
[23:18] Mike: Uh huh. So —
[23:20] Rob: I think for some folks, some folks had never been to Vegas and they want a block in to the strip because they obviously, you know, you need to see it if you never been but I had not thought about that though because we were secluded and that’s probably a good thing —
[23:30] Mike: Uh huh.
[23:30] Rob: … because people didn’t tend to wander off, right? We did tend to stay close and kind of stay as a group and do a lot of chatting. Is that — was that the implication that people were saying since it was off the strip, it was less distracting?
[23:40] Mike: Yeah, that was part of it I think. I think it was just the fact that it wasn’t — because on the strip things tend to be a little bit, I’ll say over the top, I guess. And it didn’t seem like that at the Hard Rock at all. So I will definitely —
[23:51] Rob: Right.
[23:52] Mike: … go back there. I think the only downside that I saw was getting across the street to Rumor was actually a little bit of a pain in the neck. [Laughter]
[0:24:00] Rob: It was like a game of Frogger.
[24:01] Mike: It was. It was something —
[24:02] Rob: Right? [Laughter]
[24:02] Mike: … like Frogger.
[24:04] Rob: I did like that it’s like a $12 cab ride from the airport instead of a $25 cab ride like the north end of the strip is.
[24:09] Mike: Or a $40 if, you know, if they ask you if you want to take the highway and you say yes and they get off the south side and then all the way around. [Laughter]
[24:15] Rob: Awesome. That’s a trick question. Let’s talk about day two of the conference. So it was the WildBit sponsor the party at Rumor which is just — it was a boutique hotel across the street. So then day two, who were your favorites and most memorable?
[24:29] Mike: I mean I like them all. Patrick’s got a way with words, I mean way with his stories and you know, it’s hard to discount any of those. I mean because they’re both entertaining and educational at the same time. I mean everybody had great things to say. I learned a lot from listening to Dave talked about Google AdWords.
[24:46] Rob: Right. So that’s Dave Collins from Software Promotions. He’s been doing Pay Per Click stuff for ten years I think he said. Yeah, it’s a long —
[24:52] Mike: Something like that. He added up the hours on screen and amounted out to something like 11,000 hours —
[24:59] Rob: That’s right.
[24:59] Mike: … that he spent working in Google AdWords. And he had some really interesting insights that I guess I hadn’t considered before and honestly, it makes me think that, oh, maybe I’ll go back and give AdWords a try because I’ve honestly, you know, avoided going in to Google AdWords just because it’s not that I don’t understand it really, it’s more that I don’t have the time to dedicate to it. It’s not like I can sit there on top of the campaigns that I’m running and manage them and pay attention to them a lot and part of it is just not knowing how everything all fits together but the other side of it is I just don’t have the time and I wonder if using some of the techniques and things that he talked about would make it a little bit easier for me.
[25:39] Rob: Right. Well, that was the other thing he said that you should spend one to one and a half hours, maybe it’s one to two hours a week managing your AdWords and I had never done even if when I was working from it and spend not much time. So that’s an interesting, kind of an interesting mind set shift that if I want to run a successful campaign these days, that’s probably where you need to be.
[25:57] Mike: Uh huh.
[25:58] Rob: It just occurred to me we have not mentioned MicroConfPics.com. If people go there, there’s a picture slideshow and it was basically any picture that was tweeted with a hash tag MicroConf is added to that slideshow. And that was provided for us by Chris at Montabe, montabe.com and he’s a Micropreneur Academy member and he has this product called Montabe that allows you to have people basically just submit photos in to the stream. And it’s pretty cool. It’s — I don’t know if you sipped it through but I was watching it while I was waiting for my flight and there’s a lot of good stuff, just speakers and there’s some other random stuff for like people, you know, saying “On my way out of MicroConf” and so it’s a picture of, you know, the gas station or something but there are some good ones in there.
[26:38] Mike: I’m looking at it now. It’s pretty awesome seeing all that stuff —
[26:41] Rob: Yeah.
[26:41] Mike: … on there.
[26:42] Rob: Won’t leave it up till I think till next year, you know.
[26:44] Mike: Yeah.
[26:44] Rob: There’s a longer URL. It’s like montabe.com/ you know, whatever but we just have MicroConfPics.com directing there.
[26:50] Mike: Right.
[26:51] Rob: When I talk to people about what they thought was the most inspirational talk because I guess you should back up and say like one of the first things that I said when the conference open was you should get — I want you to get at least one piece of inspiration and three actionable takeaways from the conference. So do that, write them down and then at the end, I’m going to ask people about it. And so then at the very end we got, you know, hands raised and people are calling out all these things that they were going to do next week based on what they’ve learned at the conference whether from the speakers, side conversation or whatever.
[27:16] And so in asking about the inspirational stuff, a lot of people mentioned Adii. Adii is the founder of WooThemes. A lot of folks use it. We use it in the academy. And he had flown in from South Africa. It was like 31 hours of travel each way. And he had a great story just of really bootstrapping and starting small and then getting big very quickly. He had a big growth curve and even like the week before MicroConf, they basically got hacked. Someone deleted everything from their servers including all their backups and he almost didn’t come in to MicroConf but he did and he adjusted his talks so that it included some stuff about his hack. It turns out they move to WP engine because, you know, they’ve been hacked so they moved over there and then they got DDOS at on WP Engine so it took some of their servers down.
[28:00] So we had basically speakers because Jason Cohen, you know, is the founder of WP Engine and two speakers who had basically had sites down within the day or two before MicroConf and I told them both, you know, you and I both told them like “You guys don’t need to be here if you need to go take care business.” But they had their teams on it. That was a cool story to hear. And neat to see that they were able to come in and I felt like they were enjoying themselves and weren’t too hung up on that. And obviously, you know, everyone is back up now. And to summarize like Adii’s — the title of his talk was “How I went from zero to seven figures in 13 months”. So that’s pretty, pretty impressive.
[28:34] Originally talked with, it was like two years but then when he looked, he said, oh it was only 13 months. And there were a couple of volunteers I really wanted to thank. Robert Graham, he’s an academy member. He volunteered to help out with the AV stuff. Just hope to getting people miked up in with the sound. And then Dave Rodenbaugh who was the photographer last year also an academy member and listener of the podcast and such, he helped out. He took all of the official pictures and I don’t think those are on MicroConfPics yet but once I get them from him, I will submit them because that will be — he took like the speaker group photo and you know, bunch of stuff on stage and really had the run of the place.
[29:12] And so we had no plans. We had a welcome reception Sunday night. WildBit sponsored something Monday night. And then we knew that we would throw something together Tuesday night but it was like two hours beforehand and we walked in to this sports bar and basically said, “Can we come in here in two hours throw down an American Express and get a 120 people in here?” and they told us yes. So we round up going in there, having some drinks, chatting and just kind of wrapping up the conference and exchanging ideas and thoughts and such. What was your favorite part of that, that part of the evening?
[29:40] Mike: I would say that it was near the end of the tab that we put together where I got an itemized bill for everything that if I look around, I’m sure that I still have it but it was probably about three or four feet long and there’s — there’s actually a picture of it they got tweeted out and it’s on that on the Montabe site at MicroConfPics.com. But it shows me just holding it up and it’s, I don’t know, down to like my waist easy. [Laughter]
[30:06] Rob: Yeah, I like that. Eliza Brock that one —
[30:08] Mike: Yeah, I think so. Speaking of Eliza, she also — she made this really, really cool little notebooks. She had those made and sent them over to the hotel to hand out to everybody. And it’s this tiny red notebooks and they say “Think Small” on them.
[30:23] Rob: Yup. And there are like nice leather bound. She got in touch with us in advance and asked if she could basically sponsor the conference in that way and she put, you know, business card in there. She’s a Ruby developer I’m thinking. We got more positive feedback about that than probably any other giveaway I thought. I mean people are really taking them. My wife is still has hers and is using it as a notebook. She really liked it.
[30:42] Mike: Yeah, I used it for throughout the conference just because I needed something to, you know, write down all of — all the different giveaways and things like that so that, you know, I wouldn’t forget them when we were up on stage and everything else. And you know, she made various notes about different things I want to make sure we covered.
[30:56] Rob: Typically you get this big bag and it’s full of a lot of paper and a lot of, I don’t know, t-shirts and other books and stuff and we do all almost all digital aside from that little notebook we did. And we talked about it quite a bit more the first year but I don’t anyone really ask the second year but we just do that because we don’t want to create a bunch of waste, right? We don’t want people throwing the bag away and throwing the t-shirt away and all that stuff.
[31:16] Mike: Yeah, I mean there’s not much point to, you know, conferences generate a lot of waste so there’s not much point to giving people stuff that you know is just going to end up in the garbage. And I see that in other conferences I’ve gone to where I get a bag and you know, some t-shirts or books or things like that and I look at most of it and I’m just like I’m not really crazy about any of the stuff. So, we’d tried to, you know, minimize as much of the impacts as we can. And there’s a couple of different ways we do that and obviously, one, we don’t give away things that are just going to ultimately end up in a trash. And the second thing is that the conference badge holders that we used, they’re actually biodegradable.
[31:53] Rob: That’s right. I brought them back last year and composted them.
[31:56] Mike: Uh huh.
[31:57] Rob: I was just reminded, my wife came just for 24 hours and we left our kids with some friends. And so she came out. She did my intro, right? She introed me before my talk and we got a lot of positive feedback about that. And then [Laughter], people were saying, she’s a psychologist, and they were saying that she should talk next year. And then I saw a thread on Twitter and it started getting retweeted. And it was like, “I want to see Mrs. Rob Walling.” [Laughter] And this was @robwalling, you know, that’s my Twitter name. And someone says, “I want to see Mrs. @robwalling talking next year about the Psychology Entrepreneurship.” And then one was like, “I want to see Mrs. Rob Walling talking next year about the Psychology of Raising a Family and how to do that and you know, be an entrepreneur.” And it was pretty cool. I would actually — and then Hiten actually came up and he was saying like, “You should write a book” and it was kind of fun. Her intro kind of blew me away because I totally did not expect the heartfelt intro she gave.
[32:37] Mike: Uh huh. Yeah and that kind of brings up something else we didn’t, you know, talk about so far is that the conference itself, even among the speakers, it was very family-oriented. That’s not the vibe that you get from most of other conference. I mean honestly from any other conferences I’ve ever been to, it’s just not the vibe you get from them.
[32:37] Rob: That is interesting like because basically, didn’t Jason Cohen have a picture of his daughter? Yes because he talked about one of her toys broke and it fit in to that context of the conversation. And then almost every — every speaker after that had a picture of their child. But MicroConf is not like the YC crowd, the Y Combinator crowd. It is more people 25 to 45, maybe a little older. It’s that range, right? Because of most of us have families, have a mortgage, are not in the position to raise venture capital. I mean that’s why we’re doing it. And so it’s people who are going to be more likely to listen to this podcast rather than, you know, this week in Startups with Jason Calacanis or to apply for YC funding and be able to live on Ramen and then move to Boston for three months.
[33:46] And I think I got several attendees. I had them tell me that they were maybe surprised by that, that they thought they would come and it would be, you know, more of like the Startup funded-type of conference and just the entire attendee-based was different.
[33:59] Mike: A couple of speakers made it a point to mention that, you know, the reason we do this isn’t necessarily to get rich. It’s to, you know, make a living and support our families and you know, so that they can in turn support us. I mean making money is great and all but it’s not necessarily the “and all be all” of why you do what you do. I mean it makes for a nice score card I guess but ultimately, there’s a lot of things in life that are much more important than money.
[34:23] Rob: Right. That comes back to the freedom and the lifestyle, right? And that’s what we — I mean we don’t — we don’t bang on the lifestyle there in too much because it’s kind of cliché these days. But we do, you and I do talk a lot about like putting your, basically putting your life before your business and using your business as a way to support that and they provide the frame for you and you know, your family and just flexibility and the happiness you can get from that without having to go after this huge eight figure pay out or raise, you know, huge amounts of money and put your family through the ring or during — during the course of it.
[34:54] Mike: Yeah, that’s not something I think I could do. I mean I’ve considered in the past going after funding but, you know, looking back on it, I really don’t think that it’s something that I could realistically do.
[35:06] Rob: I try — we tried to raise angel funding. I say we, there’s a couple of a MBAs I met in New Haven. We tried to raise angel funding a couple of times, it didn’t work. And then Y Combinator, I applied and got to the second round. I mean I was in that whole cycle thing, you know, that’s back in 2007. And these days, it would be easier. I bet, you know, I wouldn’t have a hard of a time raising funding but I just don’t — that’s just not the path that I think either of us want to travel these days and obviously, there are a lot of folks that agree with us because MicroConf is the conference for self-funded startups and single founders. It’s not about raising money. It is about building businesses that are profitable and that don’t require that kind of sacrifice to your life in order to get them going.
[35:45] Mike: And I think that’s what resonates with so many people. I mean I think that’s why we’re able to go to a conference for a 40% year over year and it looks like conceivably we could probably grow out more if we really wanted to but there’s other considerations there as well.
[35:59] Rob: What do you think we could improve next year or what are the things you thought while we were doing it like hey, this isn’t working or we should add this or that?
[36:07] Mike: Ugh, tough question.
[36:08] Rob: Because we did everything so perfect.
[36:10] Mike: No. You know, it’s interesting because Monday night after the party that WildBit had thrown at Rumor, I was talking with a bunch of people there specifically about the conference and they said that this year’s conference was so much better than last year’s. And I started pushing for information skill. I started asking, you know, what makes it better, why is this year better than last year. And nobody can give me a concrete answer for anything. I mean obviously —
[36:36] Rob: That makes it hard.
[36:37] Mike: The venue itself was obviously an upgrade and I asked, well, does everything seem better because the venue is better. And the answer was no but, you know, nobody could really put their finger on exactly what made things better. You know, maybe it had something to do with the speaker line up, maybe it didn’t. Maybe it was the location. Maybe it was the atmosphere. I mean because the atmosphere at the Hard Rock is significantly different than it was at the Riviera. So I tried to dig in and find those things. I think it’s probably going to take some time because I don’t have anything at the top of my head that I can come up with that says, you know, we screw this up. It’d be nice to have a coordinator and that’s part of what, you know, raising the price with allow us to do is to have a coordinator so that we can spend our time connecting people together rather than managing and running the conference itself.
[37:25] Rob: Yeah, I would agree. Now, we’re going to be sending surveys out to the attendees. So that’ll help us well getting more feedback. I got lot of in person feedback and some via e-mail and most of it was from stuff that was in my head or it was — it’s minor tweaks. It’s like, “Oh, you should maybe add a panel here. You should maybe do some shorter talks here and there.” It was stuff that I think could visibly make it better but would also be experimental. It’s not like, “Oh there was a big …” Like last year was year, it was obvious that the talks, they were too long, they were back-to-back, there weren’t enough breaks. I mean I feel like we fixed that this year, you know, we shorten them down and we made a lot of tweaks [0:38:00] that I think really improve the experience at the conference. I think the venue was also a lot better. The room was just it had a better feel to it. It was tight but I thought that was cool. I thought there was a lot of energy in the room because it wasn’t this huge open space like last year’s conference room was.
[38:15] Mike: Yeah, I think that that’s definitely something that I think we should maintain is making sure that the space is kind of tight. I mean not that we really have much choice about it this year just because the space was — I mean that they had available so the things really worked out in that regard but definitely having only — what do we have? I think three seats available in the entire place and that was it. And that definitely help with the vibe and the atmosphere of the place.
[38:41] Rob: Yeah, so I guess we have to take a look at the surveys once we get them back. Obviously we do already have a running list of potential speakers for next year, some thoughts on some tweaks and minor improvements but overall, man, you know, I’m glad it’s over this year and I had a blast, obviously, a lot of work. Are you up for doing it again next year?
[39:00] Mike: Yeah, I am. It’s interesting because how was it? It was probably about three days after the conference I got — I was really depressed like all weekend. I’m like, oh the conference is over and I’ve got — I’m really energized and you know, motivated that I’ve got all the great ideas and stuff. And I think I was depressed because I’m like, oh no, where do I start? [Laughter]
[39:20] Rob: Yeah.
[39:20] Mike: I think that was it —
[39:21] Rob: That makes sense.
[39:21] Mike: … more than anything else. It was — it took me I think most of the weekend to get out of it. I think yesterday I kind of solidify things and today’s even much, much better than that. So I’m at the point now where I’m like, kind of gone whole again but it really took a few days for me to kind of swing out of that. And I don’t know why. I mean that just seems countered through to me. I didn’t expect that at all.
[39:41] Rob: I think I went to the same process. I think maybe I was — I had a little easier time because I took a lot of things people said and channeled it directly in to like, “What am I going to do with HitTail?” because HitTail has been my goal project to work on once MicroConf was done. So I was already thinking in those terms. So it’s maybe a little easier to translate that. But I agree. It took me [0:40:00] — I mean jeez, my wife and I actually went on, well with the kids, went to Yosemite just drop off a hat and she’s like “Let’s go up. It’s about two hours from here.” And so we went up and then we just stayed and we stayed until through Monday. During that time, it was just kind of rest and relaxation to kind of regroup. And so it was almost a week after MicroConf before I could even sit down and to e-mail again. And of course, I had I don’t know 400 unread e-mails or something but there’s definitely some recovery time afterwards to kind of regroup because I think you’d just have so much going on in your head, you know, thinking about the conference and just try to participate and provide value and get some value yourself.
[40:34] Mike: Yeah, I was listening to episode 74. I think it was last week or the week before. You know, we were talking about the number of things that we each had that we were working and I’ve said that after MicroConf is basically over and it drops off our list of things to do and I don’t know what I was thinking saying that because all the stuff now that MicroConf is over that still needs to get done. [Laughter]
[40:55] Rob: All the clean up by now, me too. I’m reimbursing speakers and you’re dealing with sponsors and thanking, I mean, doing all that stuff. Yeah, there’s still another, another week or two of it.
[41:07] Mike: If anyone is interested in signing up for the MicroConf mailing list, go to microconf.com and we’re already taking e-mails for the launch for next year. And as Rob said earlier, I mean unless you’re on that list, chances are good that, you know, tickets are going to be gone by the time they get out to I call it the General Press of people out there.
[41:27] Rob: And if you have a question or comment, please call it in to our voicemail number at 888-801-9690 or you can e-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from “We’re Outta Control” by MoOt, used under Creative Commons. You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes if you just search for Startups or you can subscribe via RSS at StartupsfortheRestofUs.com where you’ll also find a transcript to each episode. Thanks for listening. See you next time.
Marketing Monday – love it 🙂
Congrats on another successful conference, guys.
I’m an avid TechZing listener (and one-time guest!) but I’ve been filling in spare my podcast time with your show, too. I like your discussions a lot — super informative and it’s great that you can be self reflective (and critical).
My wife (Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers) and I will definitely attend next year if you have the energy to put on a 3rd show. 🙂
Rob, we’ve also tried HitTail for Joanna’s business — but her traffic isn’t quite there yet. We’re looking forward to having another go soon — as her customer base is growing nicely!