Business of Software 2010 Retrospective

Last year, I wrote up a lengthy post summarizing my notes from the 2009 Business of Software conference, along with links to some archived tweets.  This year, I’m taking a completely different approach: a summation of what I’ve felt during and after the conference.  Others have already provided detailed notes about the topics of each speaker and photos of many of the speakers, so I won’t bother with any of that since I’m trying to embody the “be different” mantra espoused by Youngme Moon.

The 2010 Business of Software conference was inspiring, practical, thoughtful, and soul-searching.  This was the year of the deeply transparent personal story.  I somehow felt connected to many of these speakers after they shared these parts of their lives that so many of us experience but few will acknowledge to others: fears of not being able to be a sales person, leaving a job, running out of money, and many more private but common business phobias. (My favorite humorous, yet practical work tip was Peldi‘s from Balsamiq: work while your family is sleeping so they don’t know they are ignoring you — I’m doing that as I write this!)  The speakers presented insightful stories that made me think long and hard about me. There is little so powerful as self-examination. There are so many different stories out there, so many ways to weave paths through business and life.  Reflecting on where others have been and how that relates to where I want to be was a notable outcome of BoS this year.  Being true to yourself, not leading if you’re not passionate, failing everything once, and embracing your strengths are several ideas that stood out for me this year.  It could have just been me and my unusual state of mind this year, but so much of the conference was about alignment of personal issues with professional goals, and of course, passion.

Although I didn’t get to participate in the breakout sessions due to some other meetings with other people in my company, I still had a solid sense of camaraderie with the group.  I especially enjoyed the meals; every one was a chance to meet with others who have a fundamental understanding of the issues involved in running a software business.  One breakfast, I was able to engage with Scott Farquhar from Atlassian about the topic of walls, obstacles standing in the way of getting something done, and how there isn’t really any magic to breaking through these walls other than to persevere with hard work. Hearing that from someone who’s younger than me and running a company that just raised $60mm in funding is validation that my struggles are not unique, but outcomes are.  Scott lead a few conversations at my table with “what’s your biggest challenge facing you today” — a great dialogue starter.

I haven’t spoken much about the practical side of the conference I noted earlier. Much like Seth illuminated the new reality that the business of software is less about brilliant programmers and software than creating and maintaining tribes, the practical side of the conference is less important to me at the moment.  There were discussions of how to build e-mail lists, how to get people to come back to your site, how to calculate particular metrics that drive customer retention, building a cluster immune system, M&A tips, and other useful information, and I’ll be able to use some of that. It’s just less engaging to me than the rest.

So, thanks to all of those who shared their personal stories, spurring deep thinking on my part. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have heard them all speak and the resultant contemplation of the past, present and future of my own personal story.

(Also, a special thank-you to the person who thanked me for the notes I wrote up last year as you were heading out of the elevator; I didn’t realize someone was talking to me until after you left.)

7 thoughts on “Business of Software 2010 Retrospective”

  1. Yeah! That’s very similar to how I felt … thanks so much for sharing your perspective.

    Good luck – and I look forward to hearing how the conference affects the coming year … hope to see you at BoS2011!


  2. Thanks for sharing your retrospective on BoS2010.

    I think the conference gets better and better every year. This year, it was great to hear from folks like Peldi, Scott, Derek and Jason. Though I enjoy hearing from Seth Godin, I get the most joy and value out of hearing from fellow software folks.

    Hope to see you at BOS2011.


  3. Thanks Patrick, Dharmesh, and Lisa for the comments. I, too, get the most enjoyment and value from those who got their start in software development, though I do find it good to exercise the marketing portion of my brain by listening to those on the marketing side of the spectrum.

    Hope to see all of you next year as well!

  4. I enjoyed Seth’s presentation, but he was the only speaker who wasn’t engaged in the conference outside his talk. I can understand why he would make that choice, but it made his overall impact less real, less personal, especially when compared to how personal and engaged the rest of the speakers were.

    … like you, Dharmesh! That meant a lot to me personally. Thanks for contributing more than just your talk.

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