Small Data Science – Marc Hoffmann – MicroConf Europe Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.


Talk Recap

  • The hypothesis is a testable assumption
    • Shopify shops need adwords help (difficult to test)
    • Shopify shops use adwords help (easier to test, look at shopify marketplace)
  • Use all background knowledge you can get
  • Reason Backwards / Pattern Matching
  • Use the “right” statistics (mean vs median)
  • Use heuristics
    • Find most important reason and ignore the rest

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The 1-hour UI Audit – Jane Portman – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @uibreakfast
Slides: The 1 hour UI audit slides


Talk Recap

  • Your app/website design is damocles sword hanging over your head: Always threatening, but you never have time
  • Top 4 Design Hazards
    • User doesn’t want your product
    • user fails to sign up
    • user fails to get started
    • user fails to reach his goals
  • 3 modules, 20 minutes each
    • functionality
    • layout
    • style
  • Functionality
    • List the goals
      • Who are your ideal customers?
      • What is their big goal when they sign up?
      • What are their long-term goals, business or personal?
    • List the tasks
      • Primary: What tasks do the users perform daily? What is their daily routine for achieving that big goal?
      • Secondary: What unique tasks are performed from time to time?
    • Extract the objects
      • Work through your tasks from previous step, and list all nouns.
      • Chances are your main menu will list the same objects
    • Define the language
      • Work through list of tasks and objects
    • Classify Existing Screens
      • Primary: items in main menu & first-level descendants
    • Audit each Screen
      • List tasks & objects for each screen
      • Ideal Screen Checklist
        • one big title
        • just one list of objects
        • one prominent task (other tasks subtle)
        • clean corners
        • obvious navigation
    • Now work with the results
      • polish the language
      • split complex screens
      • Group elements in horizontal blocks
      • Polish experience for primary tasks
  • Keep your product crispy
    • simple apps are easier to use, build & sell.

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No exit plan – Rachel Andrew – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @rachelandrew


Talk Recap

  • Have no plan of ever selling to Facebook or anything
  • What happens after you quit the day job?
    • You hit the goal
    • You don’t have a boss anymore
    • But what is next?
  • Created
    • Things were easier back than
    • Swapping hours for money
  • Launched Perch as a result of consulting work (scratching own itch)
  • April 2013 we went full time on Perch
    • “The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow.” – Ingvar Kamprad
  • Goal: “Going full time”
    • specific
    • measurable
    • attainable
    • realistic
    • time-bound

What happened after we went full time on Perch?

  • we’ve launched a second product that people love (a smaller version of Perch)
  • still just the two of us
    • still working very hard – 7 days a week
    • but we love the work
  • There is no transformation moment
    • even after going full-time, you’re still you
    • you still have your weaknesses & strengths
    • you may lose a team that covered your weaker spots
  • We forgot to ask ourselves:
    • What did we want our life to look like?
    • What was the next goal for us?
  • “We have a strategic plan, it’s called ‘doing things'” – Herb Kelleher
  • What are your options? 
    • stay small
      • outsource to small team of freelancers
      • not all products suit small (customers need rapid support; mission critical)
    • hire a team
    • replace yourself
      • “get the solution right then remove yourself from delivery” – Brian Casel
    • sell up and move on
  • We’ve tried staying small
    • Perch as a business has a lot of moving parts:
      • Development
      • Ops
      • Community stuff
      • Marketing
      • Support
      • Documentation
    • We can’t do the job of 5 people
    • We could have delayed that jump
      • continue with consulting
      • would have allowed to hire sooner
      • could have self-funded first hire
  • sometimes it is OK to upset a few customers
  • Why not hire/outsource support?
    • as a self-hosted product support is often our first run experience
    • it is truly technical support
    • not the sort of support a VA can easily handle
    • support that every person with technical chops in the company is going to need to help with
  • hiring a developer: what will this give us?
    • more development capacity
    • someone to work alongside
    • focus
    • new ideas and input to the product
    • What’s stopping us?
      • Money – we’re not quite there yet
    • How are we going to get there?
      • Increase profit to hire developer
      • Working strategically on things that increase sales of Perch
      • Focus on most profitable customers?
    • Who are our most profitable customers?
      • Perch is one-off license sale
      • Recurring because people buy a license per site they develop
      • Support costs are front-loaded
    • How do we identify profitable customers?
      • Look at data
      • segmented our customers into groups: casual, committed, super-users
      • current list of top 100 customers on our dashboard
        • I never talked to some of those customers!
    • We want customers who:
      • run a busy consultancy agency
      • Are building lots of websites
      • are more interested in being profitable than playing with the newest shiny thing
    • Your sales data is a goldmine of information
      • you don’t need a SaaS for this
    • Prioritise features wanted by ideal customers
      • Add weight to feature requests based on customer profile
  • Where do our customers come from?
    • our audience
      • seen me on stage somewhere
    • Colleagues’ audiences
    • NOT our ideal customers
  • Where do our IDEAL customers come from? 
    • they have often never heard of Drew or I
      • e.g. in support they don’t know we are the founders
    • cold audiences from Google, or referrals based on word-of-mouth
    • “Our customers don’t come through the one marketing channel that I am good at!”
  • content marketing targeted at ideal customers
  • search engines
    • we do well in organic search traffic
    • which has meant we’ve typically been a bit lazy
  • Placing ads
    • choosing sites that attract our ideal cusotmer
    • using ad copy that targets these customers
    • creating landing pages that speak to these customers
    • TEST!
  • Plugging our leaky funnel
    • we love Drip!
    • Pushing our customer segments into Drip so we can target them as groups.
    • Identifying lapsed customers – those who haven’t bought a license for 6 months – and emailing them
    • Book recommendation: Watertight Marketing
  • We have everything we need to do this
    • Nothing we’ve discovered has been a shock
    • Underlined things we really already knew
    • We’re looking at data through a different lens
  • If you are stuck
    • define your vision for your company and life
    • what does it look like? What is your role? What else are you able to do?
    • “Arrival is not static” – Sherry Walling

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How to build a self-funded SaaS as a non-technical solo founder – John Ndege – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter:  @johnndge

Talk Recap

  • Pocket Risk is an online investment risk questionnaire for financial advisors
    • launched in April 2013
    • $99/mo
    • made it to 6-figures as a non-technical founder

Idea Phase

  • Goal: Establish whether you have something valuable
    • Establish what you want to achieve – $10k MRR, quit your job, billionaire
    • Margin of safety – have money in the bank or a job
    • Find a problem – your own experience or speak to market
    • Assess market size – can I achieve my goals in the market?
      • total reachable market given your resources (i.e. you know SEO, PPC –> that’s your market)
    • Validate problem – speak to 20 prospects and see if problem exists
    • Define the solution – create a mockup. Have a vision for customers, product and industry
    • Customer validation – sell the solution using mockup. Get 10 companies to pre-pay

Build Phase

  • Goal: Hire developer & build something valuable
    • Minimum $15,000 development budget. $100/hour max. You get what you pay for
    • Finding a developer: HN monthly hiring, Ruby groups, referrals
    • Assess Developer – programming test, level of commitment, past work, references, gut
  • Continue marketing and building your list

Launch Phase

  • Goal: Get to breakeven
    • Generate traffic – read Traction by Gabriel Weinberg
    • Find out why people buy, don’t buy, use, don’t use and churn – speak to them on phone
    • Know your metrics and unit economics – traffic, conversion rates, MRR, CAC, LTV, churn, feature usage
      • feature usage tells you “sticky features” that make people happy
    • Develop Relationships – industry journalists, thought leaders, other CEOs serving same customers

Growth Phase

  • Goal: Achieve your overall goal
    • Manage churn – don’t die by a thousand cuts
      • reducing churn doubled my LTV
      • every 30 days check which users didn’t use product for last 6 weeks and email them
    • Keep generating traffic – marketing is a tax you pay for being unremarkable. CAC < LTV
    • Systems – start building systems so the company can grow without you. Use software & hire
    • Vision – steer company towards your vision for customers, product and industry

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The most sincere form of flattery: Useful & effective website ideas to make your own – Dave Collins – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @thedavecollins

Dave published a shortened version of his talk here: The most sincere form of flattery: Useful & effective website ideas to make your own


Talk Recap

  • “Good artists copy, great artists steal” – Picasso
  • “The only art I’ll ever study is stuff I can steal from” – David Bowie
  • We know our websites are important
    • But we settle for “Meh” – why is that?
    • Open your eyes to the design – beyond copy and popups and attention grabbers
  • Get the originality for your website from copying!
    • Swipe file
    • Copy & Paste vs. Copy & Expand & Paste
  • What’s the first thing a website does?
    • give a good first impression!
    • make clear what you DO!
    • make REALLY clear what you DO!
    • focus on the pain
  • Why Do you do what you do?
    • Was offered a pay check with a substantially higher salary
    • SEO is kind of boring
    • Looked at our own website: “Does it communicate our why?”
    • never allow users to think “… What do I get now?”
    • Websites without email capture are a waste
  • Who are you targeting?
    • adjust your language to your audience
    • Use Avatars
  • Logos
    • no one cares about your logo
  • Not getting stuck
    • Don’t leave your website visitors hanging
  • Make it easy
    • forms need to be obvious, quick
    • reduce nav items where possible
  • About what?
    • People like “About Us” pages with pictures of staff
  • Balance
    • need to include what is important on website
    • we need to conform to standards
    • BUT: Stand out
  • Nudges are good
    • the easier it is, the more likely people are going to use it
  • Differentiation through identity
    • Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign
  • Clarity beats Clever all the time
    • have obvious headlines

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Protected: CEO grows up. Reluctantly. – Peldi Guilizzoni – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

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The inside story of self-funded SaaS growth – Rob Walling – MicroConf Europe 2015

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @robwalling


Talk Recap

  • last 15 months of my story as a founder – mainly Drip

3-Step Marketing Playbook

  • Build something people want
  • Find your position
  • Scale

Build Something People Want

  • Drip: Revenue at Launch: 100% (All numbers relative to that)
  • Stayed the same for ~6 months
    • new trials slowed down after launch
    • 40% trial-to-paid rate
  • Rules of thumb
    • visit to trial 0.7%-2%
    • trial to paid: 40-60%
    • First 60/90 day churn: 20-40%
    • Post 60/90 day churn: 4-7%
  • “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster” – David Ogilvy
  • Ask for cancellation reason in a short email
    • How to filter out the useful feedback?
    • Lots of “too pricey” feedback –> Do NOT lower prices; change your product to justify price!
    • Ask customers “What do you need Drip to do to make $50/mo worth it?”
      • “I like automation rules like Infusionsoft”
      • “Tags and a rules engine”
    • Gut feeling: “Marketing automation will justify the price”
      • checked out Infusionsoft via Google image search
      • talked to mastermind group
  • Build feature or not?
    • Does it fit my vision of the product?
    • Will this feature matter in 2 years?
    • Will it grow the business?
  • Rules Engine
    • Didn’t want to build it: too much work; enterprise-y; not fun
    • building in small steps
    • Revenue went up to 150% – People started talking on Twitter, etc
      • No marketing during that time ==> trial numbers went down
      • Churn rate went down
      • Trial-to-paid went up
      • ==> Product/Market fit

Find Your Position

  • If you are in a market with ANY competition, you need to pick a position
  • Invent a category (e.g. educate people on “Marketing automation” in 2003)
    • Usually something for funded companies
  • Compare features
    • bad path
  • Take a position in a category
    • comparing features makes you a commodity
    • better: “One click SaaS metrics for Stripe” – Baremetrics
    • “Drip is the best way to send emails to your prospects, trial users and customers based on who they are and what they’ve done.” –> Worst. Headline. Ever.
  • The Choices:
    • Compare Features
    • “Email Marketing”
    • “Marketing Automation”
    • Mastermind group: “Fuck it! Call yourself ‘Lightweight Marketing Automation That Doesn’t Suck'”
    • That headline totally crushed it


  • MRR today: 580%
  • First steps:
    • set up email course
    • Retargeting

Concentric Circle Marketing

  • Circles
    • Your Audience
    • Colleagues’ Audiences
    • Cold Audiences
  • Circle 1: Your Audience
  • Circle 2: Colleagues’ Audiences
  • Circle 3: Cold Audiences
    • “Powered by Drip” widget link
    • adding integrations to other software, get featured on “Integrations” page
    • SEO

Tactics we haven’t used

  • no split testing (for a lack of time)
  • paid acquisition – just recently started
  • AppSumo deal
  • Webinars – just recently started
  • Outbound email – just recently started

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From solo-founder with a day job – to a million dollar software business – Alex Yumashev – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @jitbit


Talk Recap

  • “You can teach a software engineer how to run a business, but you cannot teach an MBA how to write code” – Joel Spolsky
  • Jitbit history
    • 100% self-funded
    • 10 years; first 5 years: just me, all alone, 2 years moonlighting
    • 4 people, 100% remote
    • Flagship product: help desk software app (Really, REALLY crowded market)

The Don’ts

  • Don’t wait for an idea
    • start building before you have a product
    • tons of product-agnostic stuff:
      • website
      • blog
      • analytics
      • email list
      • payment gateway
    • less consumption, MORE creation
  • Don’t target developers
    • (At least not with your first product)
    • Hard crowd to please – don’t make it hard on yourself
  • Don’t worry about pirates
    • Software pirates never switch to paid versions – they switch to your competitor
    • We even tried “cracking” our own software and uploading it
  • Don’t worry about incorporating
    • Revenue is important, “LLP or LLC?” is not important
  • Don’t be afraid of competition
    • Don’t try to come up with some new cool innovative shit
    • competition is good news – they proof market exists
    • “Me too” products are fine – you can even clone a product
    • “First – learn to draw a horse” – Salvador Dali

The Dos

  • Charge More
    • charge from day 1
    • price for the customers you want
    • $5 customer is different from a $99 customer – $5 customer is PITA
    • add completely stripped $5 plan only to prevent disruptive competition (if threat imminent)
  • SEO
    • works on all stages of your company
  • “Always be marketing”
    • where no one expects it: 404 page, 500 page,
    • support = cheap marketing (no hard selling, but delight people for word-of-mouth)
  • “Marketing Mondays” by Mike Taber
    • whole team does nothing but marketing on mondays
  • Content Marketing
  • Log everything
    • links you build, AB-tests you run, posts you publish
    • have a “commit history” for your marketing – not just your code

Product Management 101

  • Monitor feature usage from 1st customer
    • Monitor trial/paid users separately
    • Kill the unused ones
    • Enhance the heavily used ones
    • CRO inside the product


  • SEO should be done by founder
  • Do the basics (on page, mobile, speed, Annie Cushing’s SEO checklist, Google Webmaster Tools)
  • target long-tail keywords
    • make all your internal content public – publish knowledge base, enduser docs, API docs, FAQs, installation guides, workarounds
  • Build links from pages that rank for your keyword
    • even at #218. Export the ranking URLs (, check for link opportunities
  • Build brand mentions
    • Google’s patents: “Non-linking citations are treated as implied links”
  • Competitor backlinks
  • Track rankings
    • if it drops, check the “marketing log”, check the Panguin tool
    • track top20 rankings to learn when your competitors improve their SEO –> reverse engineer

Other things we tried (Did it work or not?)

  • Remarketing ==> NO
    • people hate B2B/work-stuff on FB
  • A/B testing ==> YES
    • be prepared that 90% of tests will fail
    • Always have a hypothesis behind a test – not just “lets try X and see what happens”
    • Don’t trust your guts
    • Statistical significance (long time + high-traffic pages)
  • Email marketing ==> NO
    • at least not at the scale I hoped it would work
  • Growth hacks (“invite a friend”, “RT to extend trial”) ==> NO
    • not in B2B
  • Net Promoter Score ==> YES
    • surveying method to know customer happiness
    • delivers actionable data

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How to write email courses – Jacob Funnell – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @emphasiswriting

Key Takeaways

  • Pick a small topic you can cover thoroughly
  • Make the user better with each email
  • Be supportive personal and confident


Talk Recap

  • 5 day course: “Homeworking in Brighton”
    • only has 3 emails (!!) – half-finished
    • still converts!

How to write an email course

  • Picking a course topic
    1. Everything oyu know about a topic != what you can reasonably teach someone in a week
    2. Example: “Speak in a Week”
      1. Seven-day course
      2. Objective: have a conversation at the end of the week
      3. Solve one problem ==> people think you’re good at solving other problems (Halo Effect)
  • Make the reader a better person
    • Example: Brennan Dunn “Charge What You’re Worth”
      • Gets readers to ask questions in a worksheet
      • Focuses reader on problem
    • Example “Serve Mastery”
      • Asks readers to respond to initial email
      • Increases reader’s investment
  • Tell people something useful
    • Write things that a user can act on
    • Don’t cram everything into an email
  • Course is about more than knowledge – come across as a genuine person
    • Tell stories about your own struggle
    • encourage people to add you on Twitter/Facebook
    • Don’t be timid about giving advice – AVOID underconfidence

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Limits and Liabilities: How to use where you come from to get where you’re going – Sherry Walling – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

The MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recaps can be found on the central “hub” page.

Twitter: @zenfounder

Key Points From the Talk

  • own your story
  • know your past and the weaknesses & strengths you get because of your past

Talk Recap

  • When you are the sole driver of your business, everything else matters WAY more
    • emotional well-being, enough sleep, physical fitness ALL affect your bottom line

How your past shapes your present

  • Who you are right now in this moment is an accumulation of all the past moments
  • If we don’t pay attention to the messages we received, we won’t be able to make the most out of our strengths and weaknesses
  • Abuse, neglect and household dysfunction as a child is a robust predictor of how much healthcare support you will need in your adult life
    • People with 4+ categories of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” were 2x as likely to be diagnosed with heart disease or cancer than someone with <4
    • People with 4+ ACEs were 460% more to suffer from depression
    • 6+ ACE shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years
  • We can’t change what happened in childhood, but we can change adoption of health-risk behaviors
  • The same things that can hurt us can also make us incredibly strong
  • The important thing is NOT how scary your liabilities are, the important thing is that you do NOT look the other way
  • the golden child
    • gives you a lot of confidence
    • shadow side: you might lack grit
  • the loner
    • incredible ability to trust your own ideas
    • good problem solver
    • you don’t seek permission
    • shadow side: difficult to understand your customers, lacking empathy
  • the pleaser
    • growing up in a demanding family (“You’ll be a lawyer!”)
    • able to anticipate needs & wants of others
    • shadow side: perfectionist
  • the survivor
    • great ability to protect yourself
    • good at competition, a lot of grit
    • shadow side: difficult to feel accomplishment

The past matters

  • From the founder origin stories
    • lots of adversity – but enough support to hang in there
      • use friends/masterminds to talk through tough spots
    • The need to create an original path
      • not following a script
    • intelligence, curiosity and hard work
  • Own your story
  • not owning your story
    • forcing what has never worked for you

Practical Strategies to own your own story

  • Start tonight
  • write your personal story
    • go on a retreat
    • use a free writing method
    • work with a coach or therapist
  • tell your story in your matermind group
  • write or record the origin story of your business
  • cultivate self-reflection to watch your story unfold in front you


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