Leveling up – Patrick McKenzie – MicroConf Europe 2015 Talk Recap

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

Website: starfighters.io
Twitter: @patio11


Talk Recap

  • Everything we do: It’s all about the family
    • optimize for it, NOT for business results
  • Flying Geese
    • From dirt poor country to really rich country
    • developing economy: dirt poor, not able to do anything
    • start industry anyone can do: textiles
    • take educated workforce, infrastructure improvements from textiles industry and build refining steel industry
    • repeat and level up to automobile industry
    • take what you learn from automobile and re-invest into software/robots/aircraft/etc industry
  • Flying Geeks
    • Bingo Card Creator –> Kalzumeus –> Appointment Reminder –> Starfighter

Don’t Make Our Mistakes – Make Much Better Mistakes!

  • Tutorial mission: Your first business
    • Ship it. Ship it. Ship it. Ship it. Ship it. Ship it. Ship it.
    • Optimize for learning over perfection
    • start accumulating unfair advantages for later businesses
    • Cover “minimum viable financial goal”
  • How you know it’s an advantage?
    • People tell you you’re anomalously good
    • Watch other people around you in community. Note where you’re doing good on something useful.
    • Use your growing understanding of your business to project what X would do in another, larger business, or a business with advantages you lack
    • When you find your superpower: Exploit the heck out of it!
  • The case against SaaS for Biz #1
    • huge barriers to shipping and keeping it in the market
    • Hard to sell and market without any pre-existing foothold in industry
    • Long slow SaaS ramp of death
      • took 6 months to get to $400 MRR
  • The Glide Path To SaaS
    • Plant a flag on the market with an e-book, WordPRess plugin, etc
    • Start collecting email addresses
    • Launch a productized consulting business
    • Gradually titrate up the amount of software offered
  • Typical Bootstrapped SaaS Pricing
    • $29 – $49 – Tier 1, some foozles
    • $99 – Tier 2, even more foozles, maybe a feature
    • $249 – Tier 3, much more foozles, all them features
  • Productized Consulting Base Offering
    • $99/mo: SaaS application to do pricing pages
    • $500/mo: Savvy pricing pages as a service
    • $2.5k to $10k++/mo: Chief Revenue Officer
    • This is aspirational pricing!

“The Peldi Test”: Love What You Do

  • Founder/product/market fit is one of the best advantages you can possibly have
  • do something you love
  • Overlap all products in your portfolio!

Level Up In

  • Scale of problem you’re attacking
  • Engineering acumen brought to bear on target
  • Sales/marketing techniques
  • Sophistication of business operation

Ending A Chapter

  • Deciding when it’s time to move on
    • Business not helping you achieve goals (Live/love/Learn)
    • You’ve stopped accumulating marginal advantages
    • It’s “clearly time to go.”
  • Options for pruning portfolio projects
    • shut it down
    • Put it into maintenance mode
    • Sell it
  • Anatomy of a sellable business
    • Goldilocks zone for revenue/price
    • Low ongoing time involvement from founder
    • Low-risk that present revenue evaporates
    • Growth in market
    • Technical risk mitigated
  • Starfighter
    • Online games (CTFs) engineers play, for fun, by programming
    • We passively identify skilled engineers
    • We contact them and ask about background/goals
    • If appropriate, introduce them to hiring managers
    • If they take a job, we earn a commission
    • Where is this “leveling up?”
      • Trusted relationship with co-founders
      • Scale of technical ambition
        • BCC = “Hello World with random number generator”
        • Starfighter = Stock market with C compiler
      • BCC Investment: $60. Starfighter: …
      • Does Starfighter pass The Peldi Test? HECK, YES!
  • Starfighter Lows
    • Morderous Crunch To Ship
      • Ignored family to make deadline
    • Technical Scope
      • 10x technical complexity in a new business: good. We did 100x…
    • Promised a Ship Date
      • never promise a ship date, because you are going to break it
    • Founder Communication Issues

Share Button
About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.


  1. […] Leveling Up — Patrick’s talk recap from MicroConf Europe 2015 […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.