In September 2022 Apptension visited world-known SaaStr, organized a C-level business dinner for CTOs in Austin, and officially opened a US Apptension unit. Here are our thoughts on everything that happened during our trip to the US - follow the checkpoints for a recap and main takeouts.
Checkpoint 1: SaaStr Annual
Thousands of attendees, hundreds of speakers, massive coworking, and knowledge sharing: that’s how SaaStr described the conference on their own website. But are all of those true and is the conference really worth visiting? Let’s find out:
This year, the 8th SaaStr Annual took place on 13-15th of September in a usual location - San Francisco. Having 10K visitors, 1000s of mentoring sessions, and 100s of workshops just over the span of 3 days, actually makes it one of the biggest SaaS gatherings in the world.
What’s our experience with SaaStr 2022?
But all things aside, here are the actual pros and cons of SaaStr Annual from it’s visitors:
- Pro: SaaStr is welcoming to peers from any industry, company size, with any role or business function - all of those will find a long-lasting connections or insightful presentations.
- Pro: You can actually get actionable advice from speakers (find the presentations that stood out below)
- Pro: Dedicated founder meetings were certainly of great value. These provide an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences without sales pitches.
- Con: Sales people and their pitches! There were so many of them that some of the founders, and tech people mentioned how lonely they felt at the event in terms of meeting peers.
- Con: Not enough possibilities for facilitated networking and knowledge sharing. The Braindates, which claimed to be self-organizing contact cells, actually ended up being a misfire. Mostly because people signed in for the interview regularly didn’t show up at all.
- Con: The coffee taste and issues with food which in the end turned out to be a Pro for some booths. They started serving their own, becoming more popular with the visitors and getting more connections after all.
What can we say afterward? SaaStr truly gives you a chance to learn and connect with dozens of people, however, be prepared to sift out the pitchers before you actually find an insightful connection.
Building a SaaS product? Learn more about SaaS Boilerplate and how it can help you.
SaaStr Annual presentations that stood out
There were hundreds of them, so it wasn’t physically possible to listen to them all. And out of those we managed to catch, there were two that stood out thanks to their practical insights and in-depth explanations:
“5 critical and company-altering learnings from B2B startups” by Anu Hariharan, Managing Director of YC Continuity at Y Combinator
For us as a B2B company, this presentation was a must-visit and turned out kind of life-changing in the end. Even though some of the points seem somewhat obvious, companies often tend to forget about the basics of running after huge incomes and rapid growth.
This one really made us take a step back and think if we’re doing everything right at the point. And we’re going to shortly uncover 5 of Anu’s tips right now:
- Many startups don’t have a product that’s good enough even after their Seed/Series A stage. This eventually leads to low adoption and retention. - Make sure your end product is good enough.
- Many startups undervalue their pricing by at least 30-40%. - Establish pricing you’ll actually profit from and constantly monitor the market alterations.
- Companies rarely manage to serve all B2B customers well. - Don’t scatter your efforts on everyone. Focus on easy-to-get, ideal-image customers instead.
- Sales shouldn’t be delegated until the founder finds the sales call repetitive. - Learn the product and customers’ pains by heart, then teach others how to sell.
- Plan how you’re going to reach default alive. - Find a sustainable way of getting clients first.
“Extreme product design” by David Singleton, CTO of Stripe
At SaaStr, David shared invaluable insights about product development. His presentation has provoked lots of thought regarding our own product development. Maybe it’ll inspire you before (or after) launching your own products, too.
Similarly to the previous speaker, you most likely heard about some points already. But it’s always worth reminding about the basics since they are the foundation of product success.
So, here go the 5 pillars of developing a profit-bringing product:
- Make sure your product is clear and usable (avoid overcomplicating by any means);
- Find friction and eliminate it quickly (organize a continuous feedback loop where you iterate and ship product updates immediately);
- Scale and continuously improve;
- Literally everybody at your company should talk to the customers;
- Establish transparency on all levels of your organization and make departments collaborate with one another.
Checkpoint 2: MicroAcquire’s garden meetup
After the conference, we were lucky to be invited to Andrew Gazdecki’s meetup of 100+ Silicon Valley business founders and mingle with some of the best minds in the US startup scene.
For a brief introduction, let me introduce the company and its founder first.
MicroAcquire is a startup acquisition marketplace that facilitates the journey on both buyer’s and founder’s side. Unlike investment banks, MicroAquire eliminates the fuss and frustration during the acquisition process leaving both parties fully vetted and ready for decision-making.
The idea and motivation between such startups is more than understandable - Andrew has gone through the process of selling his business before.
“In 2017, I sold my biggest company to a private equity firm. It was a long, complex, and expensive process that took me away from what I loved most – running my business.” - says Andrew.
He also mentions being lucky enough to have the “clout to attract the right conversations”. However, not everyone can do the same, especially at the right time. That’s how MicroAquire has come into the world.
Andrew’s project is partnered up with brightest minds in the startup community, including members of HubSpot, AngelList, ProductHunt, AppSumo, and many others.
Undoubtedly, the concept behind MicroAquire and its partner base gives it the potential to gather brilliant minds together and bring invaluable benefits to the startup community not only in San Francisco, but in the whole US.
We’re grateful for such a chance and keeping our fingers crossed for next year’s invitation!
After hitting San Mateo/San Fran for a week, Austin, our next destination, was already waiting for us. So off we go to the next section - CTO dinner, FIESTA, and new Apptension office!
Checkpoint 3: Apptension in Austin, TX!
It’s already all over social media and our website, but we’re never tired of repeating it - in September, we officially launched a new Apptension unit at the heart of the US startup scene.
We’ve always had lots of partners and customers from the US, yet we served them from Europe. But from now on, we’re closer to the community and ready to teach and learn directly from the spot. Now, we are closer than ever before. Closer to our partners, peers, and action. We deeply hope, that we can become a significant part of the local ecosystem, and give back to the community that allowed us to be where we are.
As a part of this initiative, we decided to organize a private CTO dinner covering the topic ‘Scaling Your Engineering Team’. Why specifically CTOs, you may ask? Well, we felt like their CTO is often left alone with their very specific tech-related problems that are actually quiet difficult to solve! And most of the conferences/meetups are CEO and business people-centered, leaving tech people with little choice for exchanging ideas.
So, we thought, ‘Why not gather CTOs to give them a chance to help and support each other?'
We were entirely right about this assumption, as all the spots were completely sold out in the first week after the announcement! A private, exclusive meeting with engineering leaders was just what some of the participants were missing at the time. During the dinner, we could exchange experiences, and find out how we can help each other with our knowledge.
After the dinner, we collected feedback from the participants and got a fantastic result of 100% NPS! Such an outcome was definitely unexpected, but currently, we’re looking how to plan another event as soon as possible.
Stay tuned for the announcement not to miss your spot at the dinner!
Checkpoint 4: FIESTA by Capital Factory
Recently, we partnered up with Capital Factory, so it was crucial for us to meet up in real life. And we had a perfect chance given the FIESTA event, organized by Capital Factory itself.
It was a regular meeting targeted at networking and startup pitching, where everyone from founders, investors, and entrepreneurs, to startups, techies, and Austin newcomers were welcomed. Being especially beneficial to newcomers in the ATX startup scene, FIESTA truly provides the introduction to the ATX Tech community.
The goal behind this initiative is to connect startup founders to the “community builders” serving this startup ecosystem in the States.
Long story short, if you’re interested in US startups, investors/ments, and want to get into the club, FIESTA is a great option. You’ll hear some inspiring presentations, get a chance to show yourself to the community, connect with industry pros, serial investors, and startups, and change your digital landscape!
Learn more about FIESTA by Capital Factory here.
More US content is coming soon!
Many events, dozens of connections, and even more wonderful core memories unlocked!
Yet, this trip is only one of the steps on our journey of becoming closer to the US - stay tuned for the new post to follow our growth path.
If you liked this piece of content, make sure to check out: "SaaStr Europa 2022: Key Insights"