Business of Software 2015 Notes

For Business of Software this year, I took notes via Slack and published them directly for our team to read. When my laptop ran out of power, I switched to writing notes on my iPad.

Most are in outline form, so may not make sense if you didn’t watch the talks. Look for the talks to be published at Business of Software here. Additional notes from others, including links to the slides, are available on the Business of Software blog.


David Heinemeier Hansson – Creator of Ruby on Rails, Founder of Basecamp

Among the cardinal sins of software, few rank as highly as rewriting your application from scratch. Basecamp has sinned not once, but twice. In this talk David will give you the courage to hit the reboot button too.

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Don’t Be The Last to Know

Claire Lew – CEO, Know Your Company

Have you ever been the last to know something in your company? You were caught off guard when a few employees didn’t agree with your company’s direction, or you had no idea that a senior employee had put in her two weeks notice.

As a business owner, CEO or manager, you never want to be the last to know something in your company. In this talk, Claire will discuss how to avoid “being the last to know” as much as possible. You’ll learn a repeatable framework so you can get honest feedback from your employees. This way, you won’t be blind sided by unexpected problems, you can retain you best employees, and you can foster a healthy company culture to help your business win in the long-run.

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Connecting the Dots: Product Strategy and Software Economics

Rich Mironov – CEO/Product Management Guru, Mironov Consulting

There are a few fundamental laws of software economics that should drive executive-level decisions about business and product strategies. It’s easy to forget them, or decide they don’t apply to our special situation.  Rich lays out the three laws of software economics, and sketch the kinds of strategic trouble we can avoid by keeping them in mind.

The Three Laws of Sofware Economics:

  1. All money in software is made on the 2nd (and 3rd and Xth) unit if we sell exactly the same bits.
  2. Your development team will never be big enough to build everything you want.
  3. There is no white space in the roadmap. There are no AND requests, only EXCLUSIVE OR decisions.

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Looking Good for Fun and Profit: When Does Your Company’s Identity Matter?

Robert J. Moore – CEO and Co-Founder, RJMetrics

How do you create a visual identity for your business when a sense of style isn’t in your DNA? This was the challenge faced by the founders of RJMetrics, who set out to disrupt an industry where appearance is everything. CEO and co-founder Bob Moorewill step through the evolution of the RJMetrics brand from attic startup to SaaS powerhouse. The lessons learned along the way go far deeper than just pixels on a screen.

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The Case for Mindfulness at Work

Matthew Bellows – CEO, Yesware

You’ve likely heard of Intel Corp’s mindfulness training for 100,000 global employees. Maybe you know that Google, Aetna, General Mills, Goldman Sacks and many other companies sponsor mindfulness programs for their workers. You might be experimenting with a mindfulness program at your own company.

In this direct and personal talk, Matthew Bellows explains why. Drawing on 25 years as a meditator and 20 years as an entrepreneur, Matthew links mindfulness and work in a way that makes clear why training in this skill is so helpful for managers in the 21st century.

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Scaling a Technology Business is About Unscaling Technical Debt

Jeff Szczepanski – COO, Stack Exchange – Stack Overflow

In every successful technology businesses Jeff has worked in, the key challenge has been understanding how to scale technology and when to tackle the technical debt that inevitably accrues as a company runs ever faster and faster in pursuit of its business objectives. Jeff draws on his experience to help you understand what challenges emerge as a company moves from a Developer Centric environment to become more business focused.

How can you get the business people to have influence on a developer centric environment? How can you manage the challenges that marketing will present?! What principles can you apply to be aware of problems early? How do you trade Agile Practioners vs Architectural Astronauts in a fast growing business? What are the technical debt trade-offs, what problems can you buy yourself out of? What problems will kill you if you don’t move now?

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What’s Your Software Saying to Customers Behind Your Back?

Sarah Allen – Co-Founder, Mightyverse, 18F

Even data warehousing software has a personality – even if you might not want to spend your leisure time with it. Whether you are aware of it or not, everything you ship will reflect the values and culture of your business. Organisations spend a lot of time reflecting on and thinking about their internal values but these are not necessarily embedded in the software you ship. All software has a personality – it can be passive-aggressive, boring, dominating, supportive, helpful, even fun.

What does your software say to your customers? Can you build software people love, even if it’s doing the kind of things people hate to do? Sarah draws on her experience delivering projects at every scale to show how you can build software that delights customers, no matter what it’s doing.

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Difficult Conversations

Paul Kenny – Founder, Ocean Learning

As businesses mature, the nature of their problems change. Gone are the days when the founders have to do everything. Teams deliver on everything from Engineering, Sales, Marketing, HR, Finance, Investor Relations, New Product Development so no one has a true picture of the organization. Running a growth business requires different people and skills to make it work. By the time a company is large, mature, profitable, cash and profit rich, the problems change again – how do you find the ‘next thing’ or stop the inevitable decline of the empire?

Paul considers how you manage the conflicts that inevitably rise as businesses grow and become successful. How can you manage conflicting incentives and priorities across departments? What happens if you fall out with your founders? How can you nurture a new generation of leaders within a business that will be capable of taking the business to the next level? How can you re-energise an organisation that is running efficiently in order that you don’t miss out on the next wave of growth? Paul will share practical insights into how you manage the often difficult conversations that such change requires.

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Rock Solid Software Without Hiring an Army

Trish Khoo – Engineering Manager, Google

You’re already selling ahead of your roadmap and your dev team is getting pretty big. Trish Khoo outlines two approaches to keeping pace and quality high without hiring an army, drawing on a decade of software testing at Campaign Monitor, Google and Microsoft.

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The Art of Selling Software | Hacks to Help You Hustle in Your Business

Steli Efti – CEO and Co-Founder,

If ‘hustle’ and ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ are synonymous to you, you might think this talk won’t be that relevant. You’d be wrong.

It’s fashionable to think that sales are the result of Inbound marketing in some circles – perhaps every sale you make comes to you magically through the Internet with no human touch. Does that mean you can’t do better? Steli has accelerated sales in some of the fastest growing Silicon Valley startups as well as growing his own SaaS business, He will offer some proven techniques to grow your sales revenue and improve your sales processes. You can apply many of the same ideas to get things done in your own organization, regardless of your role. As Dan Pink said, ‘To Sell Is Human‘.

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Growth and Arrogance vs. The Power of a Customer Centric Culture

Art Papas – Founder and CEO, Bullhorn

Every fast-growing organization experiences growing pains. The most difficult and complex challenge for leadership is maintaining an excellent experience as the business scales. Customer centricity is easy for a small startup; the company’s founders are often intimately involved in every key customer engagement.  However, when meeting sales quotas, achieving profit margins, and running your business by the metrics becomes more important than delighting your customers, you stop hearing about customer complaints simply because you don’t see them anymore, and your entire business is at risk. Your customers become easy targets for the competition and your positive momentum in the market slows.

In this session, Art Papas shares his journey as founder and CEO of Bullhorn—a company that has grown extremely rapidly to more than 500 employees and nearly $100 million in revenue. He’ll discuss how he refocused his company’s culture back on customer service after facing a similar struggle, and how leaders of organizations can leverage his hard-earned lessons to position their businesses for long-term growth. This session will offer actionable takeaways to help attendees create an incredible customer experience within their own organizations.

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How to Design Organizational Culture

Alex Osterwalder – Co-Founder, Strategyzer

In this talk entrepreneur and best selling author Alex Osterwalder will introduce the Culture Map, a hands-on concept to systematically assess & design organizational culture. Participants will learn about and apply this tools developed by Dave Gray and Strategyzer to assess their own culture and improve it. Join this talk if you want to design and build an outstanding culture at your company.

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Rookie CEO Grows Up. Reluctantly.

‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni – Founder and CEO, Balsamiq

This year Peldi returns to talk about the most painful moments he experienced during Balsamiq’s growth. It will NOT be fun. ;)

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