Sherry Walling: Mental Health Superpowers – Workshop Recap – FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Title: Mental Health Superpowers – self-reflection, relaxation, and connection for the entrepreneur
Twitter: @ZenFounder

The Entrepreneur Life

  • No one else is writing your paycheck
  • You take what’s inside you, put it out into the world and make money
  • Really high highs and really low lows ==> emotional rollercoaster

Why did you choose this path? 

  • 70% did it because of freedom
  • 40% creativity
  • 30% more money
  • 40% terrible bosses
  • There are some great upsides
  • A lot of “internet marketers” are selling the dream and giving the impression that you are failing if you’re not killing it
  • Downsides: 
    • Isolation
    • Anxiety
    • Burnout
    • Failed relationships
    • Sleepless nights
    • Becoming obsolete
    • Instability
    • Self-doubt
    • Failure
    • Selling yourself over and over and over again
  • ==> The psychological price of entrepreneurship
  • We need to pay attention to our well-being
    • Your work depends on YOU


  • Z73.0 Burn-out state of vital exhaustion
    • Physical & emotional exhaustion
      • not having any energy
      • no spark
    • Cynicism & detachment
      • You don’t care anymore
    • Ineffectiveness & lack of accomplishment
      • No relation to reality
      • You feel like you’re not moving the needle
  • Burnout has the power to change the function, structure, and chemistry of our brains
  • 30-40% of attendees feel they have experienced burnout
  • Burnout is caused by: 
    • Not enough social support
    • Lack of clear, meaningful goals
    • Too much work (multi-tasking – great book: “Deep Work”)
    • Few observable or rewarded successes
    • Limited control over work
    • A mismatch between what we think is important and the demands of our work day
    • constant interruptions
    • conflicting goals (family vs. business)

Founder Superpowers

  • #1: Breathe
    • Breathe deep into your belly
    • Sit relaxed, place a hand on the belly button, inhale & exhale through the nose, try to move your hand
    • 5 deep breaths (5 seconds in, 5 seconds out) are enough to start calming you down and push anxiety away
  • #1b: Sleep
    • sleep is the most important way for our brains to reset
    • Benefits: 
      • Improve memory
      • Improve concentration
      • decrease excessive eating
      • improve mood
      • build immunity
      • decrease mistakes
      • improve productivity
      • extend life
  • #2: Body
    • stand up straight and stretch your body for 2-5 minutes
    • If you battle your body, you will lose. 
  • #3: Brain
    • Add some silliness to the thoughts that frighten you and put it on a shelf
  • biggest protective factor: friendships & connection

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Mike Taber: Follow-Up Emails – Talk Recap – FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Full title: Following up… without looking & feeling like a complete dirtbag
Twitter: @singlefounder

  • When you email people it is hugely important to you, but barely registers with them
  • Clarification: Follow up email!= Cold email
  • Why follow up? 
    • Was it received? 
    • Did they make a decision? 
    • Did they inform you of that decision? 
  • If they don’t answer those questions, you have an open loop
    • Follow up is about closing the loop!

Email Black Hole

  • There are 4 common reasons
    • #1: They never received it
      • Mail server issues
      • Wrong email address
      • Filtered as spam
      • Out of office/vacation/traveling
    • #2 Received, but dismissed
      • Email filters or rules
      • Irrelevant subject line
      • Skimmed & made “wrong decision”
      • Gatekeeper said “Nope!”
      • Wall of text
    • #3 Received with best of intentions
      • Traveling, working remotely or mobile device
      • Mailbox flooded / Email Bankruptcy
      • Dropped off their radar
      • Something on fire
      • Guilt from not responding sooner
        • BONUS: Follow ups give permission to reply
      • Popular misconception: 
        • If it’s important to them, they’ll reply
        • ==> Follow up more than feels comfortable. It works.
    • #4 They hate your guts
  • #1 Incorrect Value Association
    • The value of an email is measured in 2 places
      • The Recipient: What does the email do for them? 
      • The Sender: What does a response mean to them? 
    • The value of a response does not feel measurable at the time an email is sent
  • #2 Time Constraints
    • Feels like busy-work
    • Because… deadlines
      • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make when they pass by. 
  • #3 Your Emotions Will Get the Better of You
    • Sending follow up emails is emotionally painful
      • You feel like you’re repeating yourself
      • Variable rewards schedule
      • Negative emotions disproportionally outweigh positive ones
  • #4 We are afraid
    • Terrible emails

Does Following Up Work? 

  • 52.8% average open rate
  • 5.9% average reply rate
  • Average of 11.3% subscribers block tracking pixels – you don’t get “open rate” stats for those!

Successful Follow Ups

  • When: Select situations where it makes sense
  • Action: Clearly define the single action you want the person to take
  • Automation: Templates, software, reminders, Zapier, outsourcing, etc. 
  • Personalization: Use their name, use your own domain, reply to previous emails, etc.
  • Pass along first name, last name, and email address when redirecting people to Calendly/etc!
  • First email in sequence requires users (your!) approval, all steps after that are fully automated

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Aleth Gueguen: GDPR – Talk Recap – FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Title: Achieve GDPR compliance without losing your mind
Twitter: @pl4n3th 
Slides & help: Slides //

  • Protects personal data of persons inside EU
    • any piece of information that can identify a physical person
    • Data subject’s rights
  • any person who’s physically inside EU
  • Privacy
    • What you can do with people’s data & what you can’t do
  • Security of processing
    • Processing is collection, recording, organisation, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration… EVERYTHING. 
      Once you touch data, you’re on the hook
  • Joint responsibility as Data Controller & Data Processor

Risks & penalties

  • European companies will ask for GDPR
  • people will ask for their rights
  • Stop collecting and/or processing personal data 
  • Fines… 

Set of best practices

  • Marketing & customer relationship
  • Security
  • Functionalities

Keep Calm & Document

  • processes & procedures
  • Record of processing activities
  • Privacy notice
  • Take inventory of your data
    • You want to know the Who, What, Where, How long, Why, and How?
    • Do I really need that data? Do I really process it? 
    • Where? 
      • Transfer to third country: 
        • Adequacy decision
        • “Privacy Shield”
        • Standard data-protection clauses
        • Data Processing Agreement
    • How long do you store the data? 
      • You need to state a duration
  • Train your team on privacy & security
    • Identify when “it’s personal data”
    • Procedures for: 
      • Marketing campaign
      • New users stories
      • Transfering list of contacts
    • Privacy by design & by default
    • Profiling, retargeting
    • Notification of personal data breach to authorities within 3 days

Review information to people

  • What you’re doing with people’s data
  • How they can exercise their rights

Update your consent process

  • Clearly distinguishable
  • Intelligible & easily accessible form
  • clear & plain language
  • Make it easy to withdraw consent

Implement data subjects’ rights

  • Access
  • Rectification
  • Erasure (“right to be forgotten”)
  • Portability (easy to read by machines. Make it easier for people to switch services)
  • Restriction of processing

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Claire Suellentrop: Brand Sprints – Talk recap from FemtoConf 2018

The FemtoConf 2018 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Full title: Why even the tiniest companies should think about their “brand” – and how to get it over with in 3 hours or less
Twitter: @ClaireSuellen
Slide deck & brand sprint templates:

  • I’m not an expert on “brand”, but I had to become “okay” at it
  • Brand or Brand Development
    • Brand is a promise you make to your customers
    • Makes your life easier and your company more attractive
  • branding 
    • Messaging & positioning
    • voice & tone
    • color palette
    • website & product design
  • Brand Marketing
    • Efforts to build top-of-funnel awareness of your brand, sometimes in ways that are difficult to quantify – e.g. billboards
  • Brand dev challenges you to think more holistically
    • Where will my company be in 5 or 10 years? 
      • Lets you make smarter marketing and pricing decisions
    • Your company will keep growing. That’s what successful companies do. They don’t stop. – Jason Cohen, MicroConf 2014
  • Brand development simplifies all the “squishy” decisions
    • How do we describe our features? 
    • How do we tell people how awesome our software is? 
    • What should the logo look like? 
  • a consistent experience makes your company feel trustworthy
    • Imagine meeting a person in t-shirt and jeans one day and a tuxedo the next day. Which of the two versions “are” they?
    • It’s confusing, same goes with the brand
    • Brand development lets you outsource work – without worrying about losing consistency
      • How should a page on the website look? 
      • How do we write copy? 
      • What’s our tone when we do customer support? 
  • Brand Development helps your employees, customers, and potential strategic partners (3 target audiences – not just customers!)
  • Slide deck & brand sprint templates:

How to run a Brand Sprint

  • Do it. Takes 3 hours
  • The 6 brand sprint exercises
    • Your company’s motivation
      • 20-year roadmap
      • What, How, Why
    • Your unique details
      • Top 3 values
      • Top 3 audiences
    • Your brand relative to others
      • Personality sliders
      • Competitive landscape
  • Before you sprint, prepare – it makes the actual sprint faster
    • Make sure there are no phones

Step 1: The 20 years roadmap (15 Minutes)

  • Write down your predictions for your company for 5, 10, 15, and 20 years
  • Share with your team members and discuss
    • What do you do after you get acquired (if that is the plan)? 
  • It was great for Benedikt, Jane, and I to learn about each other’s visions
  • If you’re doing it in a group, have a decision maker. At the end of the 15 minutes discussion he/she highlights the most important vision in 5,10,15,20 years
  • Do we want to raise money or not? 
  • Are we going to be part-timers on Userlist forever? 
  • Are we going to grow it to 100+ employees?

Step 2: What, How, Why (30 Minutes)

  • What we do
  • How we do it better than anyone else
  • Why we do it

Step 3: Top Three Values (30 Minutes)

  • Write a list of 5-10 company values, these should help make why (above) more specific
  • Start with a long list, narrow down in first round, then select the Final Top 3
  • e.g. “honesty” will be a great guiding light in dark times

Step 4: Top 3 Audiences  (30 Minutes)

  • Same process as Step 3

Step 5: Personality Sliders (30 Minutes)

  • Pick your stand point on each of these scales
    • Casual – Formal
    • Young – Experienced
    • Modern – Classic
    • Simple – Complex
    • Friend – Authority
    • Quiet – Loud
    • Feminine – Masculine
  • With Benedikt, Jane & I there was a lot of discussion about “Quiet – Loud”

Step 6: Competitive Landscape (30 Minutes) 

  • place competitors on two-dimensional matrix relative to their brand personality:
    • Classic – Modern
    • Expressive – Reserved

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FemtoConf 2018 Notes and Noteworthy

This is the central resource for a recap of FemtoConf 2018 in Darmstadt, Germany.
If you write/record/create ANYTHING related to FemtoConf please let me know (Twitter: @itengelhardt ) and I’ll be happy to add it here.

Notes on the Talks


Articles and Podcasts About FemtoConf 2018

  • Let me know about anything you write with regards to FemtoConf!

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FemtoConf 2017: Thoughts on running our conference

On 10-12 February 2017 my friend Benedikt and I hosted our first conference – named FemtoConf – in Darmstadt, Germany.

These are my thoughts on the whole experience of co-running a conference.

Why we decided to host our own conference

Purely because we get this question quite a bit: “Femto” is a unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of 10 to the power of -15.

Benedikt and I are huge fans and avid attendees of MicroConf Europe, a conference for self-funded software startup founders.
I’ve been the semi-official scribe at since inception.
We both <3 MicroConf, Rob, and Mike.
We even got them a celebratory cake for their 10th MicroConf (

That’s why – when it was time to name our conference – we decided to pay tribute to the legend. FemtoConf is designed to be the smaller cousin to MicroConf – just as the name implies.

We had done a meetup for our podcast listeners back in 2014 and had planed to do it again in 2016. For various reasons (work, family, and stuff), that didn’t happen.

Getting the ball rolling

So one day in late 2016 we said “Screw it, we’re doing this in 2017!”. Within 10 minutes we had decided on a date (10-12 February). We wanted to do it on a weekend, mostly because I work a day job and didn’t want to take a vacation.

We told a few of our listeners and friends about the meetup we were hosting. One of them was Jane Portman of Tiny Reminder, who on a whim told us “I’m coming and giving a talk” – color us surprised.

Turning things up a notch

One thing led to another and before long we had a full blown conference on our hands. We decided to kick things up a gear:
We had already decided to host the conference in Darmstadt. Darmstadt is perfect because it’s where Benedikt lives and easy to get to – it’s close to the middle of Germany and Frankfurt Airport is 30 minutes away.
We looked at conference rooms and found a suitable one at the Welcome Hotel Darmstadt costing 52€ per person per day. By chance my wife had stayed at the hotel before and gave it a raving review.

So we decided on a price: 99€ – enough to cover the costs for the conference room and a bit of buffer in case of unforeseen expenditures (this was a good idea poorly executed).

Benedikt signed us up for Tito so we could sell tickets. We thought that we could – at most – sell 8 tickets.
The plan was to have 8 attendees + speakers + Benedikt & I.

Starting up the marketing engine

When we started selling tickets, we did some serious grade A marketing! I kid, here’s what we really did:

  • we mentioned it to all our friends on all the Slack chats we hang out in
  • we sent an email to our mailing list
  • each of us tweeted about the tickets going on sale

Within 24 hours we were sold out. WHAT?! Looks like we hit a nerve there.
We decided to sell five more tickets and get a bigger conference room.

Finding speakers

Those five tickets sold out as well. So we were now up to 13 attendees + 2 hosts + 1 speaker. We wanted to have maybe four talks, so we needed three speakers.

Luckily, Jane brought along Mojca Mars, who was going to talk about Social Media Marketing.

Benedikt and I decided to approach two additional speakers: Thomas Smale of FE International and Craig Hewitt of PodcastMotor.
Both agreed to speak at FemtoConf and Thomas even was generous enough to be our liquor fairy – another MicroConf tradition; i.e. he sponsored drinks the first night.

The conference itself

There was a lot of preparation – mostly done by Benedikt – that I will only briefly list here:

  • coming up with a schedule
  • sending email updates to attendees (schedule, things to do in Darmstadt, pre-conference survey)
  • taking a look at the room
  • preparing gifts for our speakers (Apfelwein) and attendees (Christstollen)
  • collecting presentation slides from the speakers
  • making plans on how to record audio & video

Kick-off dinner

Fast forward to February 10: I’m heading out from home shortly before 07.00 and take the train to Darmstadt. It’s a four and a half hour journey. I arrive at 11.30 and head straight to the AirBNB I’m going to share with my friends Andrew Culver, Daniel Bader, Daniel Alm and Victor Purolnik.

The next fixed event is the kick-off dinner at Braustüb’l. Benedikt and I spent the meantime talking to the first couple of attendees over lunch and coffee and buying a presenter, because obviously I forgot mine at home. We also set up the audio recording hardware.

Dinner is fantastic, filled with lots of great conversations, and everyone seems to have a blast. The conference is already off to a good start.

The proper conference day

The next morning I wake up around 07.00 and walk over to the hotel to set up the camera and prepare my blog for some notetaking.
When I get there I realize that I brought my camera and my tripod – but that the connector is still on my DSLR, back home in Munich. I text Benedikt, who’s already on the way and he heads back home to fetch his tripod. Disaster averted!

I also realize that there is no cabling in place to supply attendees with power. I get a hold of an hotel employee and she fixes this in 15 minutes – they were on top of their game!

Shortly after 09.30 Benedikt & I kick off the conference with some general information and then we start a round of introductions. After introductions Jane Portman takes the stage and gives a fantastic talk on product strategy.

After that we have a long 50 minute coffee break, before Thomas talks about building a sellable business.

During the 2-hour lunch break we have lunch (surprise!) and we also go for a nice walk the close by Herrngarten. It was a nice change of speed, definitely not something we had planned for.

After lunch we had some more Q&A with Thomas. Than it is up to Mojca to teach us all about Facebook Ads and finally Craig tells us about his adventures in productized services.

Dinner that night was at Sitte – another great restaurant. I leave around 12.30 at night with the few remaining attendees and my head is buzzing with thoughts and ideas.

Sunday morning we have breakfast in the AirBNB and then check out. We all meet in front of the hotel and go for a short tour of the city, thanks to our guide Benedikt. Afterwards to storm into a coffee shop and sit together for a few more hours. Benedikt & I also take the time to record two episodes for our podcast.

My personal thoughts on FemtoConf

First of all, FemtoConf gave me exactly what I hoped for: a weekend with friends and a ton of motivation!

Every time after MicroConf I would feel energized and ready to deep-dive into building a business. The problem is that MicroConf Europe is only once a year.
FemtoConf was – as Andrew called it – a much needed shot in the arm.

I think that Benedikt and I did a lot of things right with FemtoConf:

  • the small size of ~20 founders allowed everyone to talk to everyone
  • lots of time between talks plus two walks throughout the city gave amble time to have deep and meaningful conversations
  • having four talks was just the right amount to get everyone excited about a few(!) ideas they could try in their business AND stuff to talk about with other founders
  • Darmstadt was the right city, especially considering how close it is to Frankfurt Airport (we had attendees fly in from Los Angeles and Crimea – among other places)

Benedikt and I were deliberate in keeping FemtoConf small and focusing on the hallway track. In my opinion those were great decisions. Our attendees share that opinion:

Things that didn’t go well

Aside from me forgetting both the presenter AND the tripod connector the biggest letdown for our attendees was that we wanted to play laser tag on Sunday morning and we couldn’t.
Based on our pre-conf survey I had reserved 7 spots for players, but when I asked around again on Saturday there were 14 willing players. That didn’t work out with the laser tag facility and we had to scrub it.
We all went on a sightseeing tour of Darmstadt instead, which was still great.

Lesson learned: Plan laser tag for all attendees + better halves

From the feedback we got it’s clear that we should give Sunday a bit more structure – maybe with one or two talks plus fun activities. That sounds great, but having additional talks would double our expenses, so we’ll have to see.

Not breaking even

Benedikt and I did improvise (and imitate) a lot for FemtoConf. We followed a solid “Ready, Fire, Aim!” approach when it came to pricing. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

This meant that we were a few hundred dollars short in the end.

That’s not a big deal: We host the pre-conf dinner for MicroConf Europe each year and that has sometimes cost us more than $1,200 bucks (which we are cool with).

Nevertheless, we’d like to break even next year. The biggest contributor to our net loss was that we paid the conference room for 20 people, but only charged 13 people for attending.

Additionally, there were a few extra costs like beverages during lunch, attendee & speaker gifts, and we swallowed a few of the drinks on friday (We had agreed to cap Thomas’ expenses at a certain amount).

I don’t want to charge speakers for attending as other conferences do, so there is only one option: Charge. More. (Hi there, Patrick!)

We’ll probably increase prices quite a bit, but we’ll also add to the FemtoConf experience. People already told us they’d be willing to pay way more, so we’ll see.


Overall, this was a fantastic conference experience. It was great to meet old friends and make new ones. The motivation and energy I feel after FemtoConf is just what I needed to get working on improving my book (SaaS Email Marketing Handbook).

Looking forward to next year!

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Craig Hewitt: “Evolution of a Productized Service – The Story of PodcastMotor” – FemtoConf 2017

The FemtoConf 2017 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Twitter: @TheCraigHewitt

The Premise of Productized Services

  • Quick to launch
  • easy to validate
  • Provide immediate profit
  • Have a clear scope and value proposition
  • Allow previously unprofitable business models to become profitable at scale

But does it scale..? 

  • Yes, however
    • Margin will only go down
    • We saw a ceiling in total revenue/customers
    • Questionable “sellability” of business
      • You don’t want to spend 20h/week working on something that cost you $200k to buy
    • Linear growth curve (along with expenses)

PodcastMotor History

  • 01/15 ==> Launch
  • 03/15 ==> 3 customers, $1k/mo
  • 05/15 ==> 3 team members
  • 08/15 ==> 6 team members
  • 01/16 ==> First $10k/mo
  • 05/16 ==> went full time
  • 07/16 ==> Launched first WP Product
  • 10/16 ==> $20k / mo
  • 12/16 ==> Acquired SSP
  • 01/17 ==> Launch in a Week Course
  • 02/17 ==> Launching PodcastMotor Connect

Lessons Learned Scaling

  • Document everything
  • Better Hiring >> Better Delegation
  • Revisit Monthly where/when you are Limiting Factor
  • Avoid Scope Creep
  • Retain Good Customers (and identify bad ones before they start!)
  • How to write SOPs: We use Snagit to record Screen caps and put them in the process document
  • Removing yourself from the business
    • Get better every month
    • ensure that you’re providing value > cost of support team
    • Do only what you HAVE to, not what’s CONVENIENT in the moment
    • Build in accountability into your team
  • Automatic Delegation
    • Rules in place for when/how to delegate
    • Give the team power
    • Periodic check-in

If I were starting from scratch today

  • Begin with your target pricing from the start (aspirational pricing)
  • Everyone goes on the same plans (no exceptions)
  • Have a service you can fulfill yourself – don’t be dependent on the customer
  • Document and Delegate, Early and Often
  • Structure for >50% margin from the beginning
  • Secondary Market
    • “Typically service based sites sell around 2x net profit, but we have seen them go higher if they have solid brand recognition or a long history of success.”
  • Productized Services can be just the beginning
    • Leadfuze – now Course and SaaS
    • AudienceOps – now WordPress plugins, course, and SaaS
    • Elastic Sales/ – On-demand sales team turned CRM
    • PodcastMotor – WordPress theme/plugins, course, and SaaS

The Future of PodcastMotor

  • Diversifying our offerings
    • Productized Services
    • Information Products
    • WordPress plugins and themes
  • Surrounding the problem
    • Businesses – Concierge Service
    • New Podcasters – Startup Package, hosting, course
    • Existing Podcasters – Ongoing Production Support
    • DIY Podcasters – WP products, hosting, course

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Mojca Mars: “Strategic Growth – How to strategically grow your business with Facebook Ads” – FemtoConf 2017

The FemtoConf 2017 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Twitter: @mojcamars

  • I don’t want to work with companies that just want to spend money on Facebook
    • I want to work with companies that want to see results from Facebook

Why Facebook Ads? 

  • Level playing field
  • Bigger budgets != better results
  • Effective
  • Profitable
  • Unlimited opportunity for scaling
  • Some results: 
    • Campaign 1:
      • LTV: $500
      • CPA: $26
    • Lead Generation: $0.4 per lead
    • Campaign 2:
      • Ad spend: $1,000 (1 month)
      • Revenue: $5,000 (first month!)
      • Total Revenue: $80,000

But how?

  • #1 Mistake…
    • Just starting to sell to people
    • You’re selling to a cold audience that doesn’t even know what your product does
  • Build trust
    • Trust is a highway towards increased sales
  • How to build trust with ads? 
    • Funnel
      • Share Value
      • Lead Magnet
      • Promotion
    • Goal of the funnel: Qualifying your audience
  • 3 Steps: 
    • Facebook Ads account
    • Facebook Pixel on your webpage
    • Facebook Page
  • Facebook Audiences
    • Existing Audience: Custom Audiences
      • people who visited your website (tagged by Facebook Pixel)
      • OR created from an email list
    • New Audience
      • Lookalike Audiences
        • based on an existing audience generated from email list
        • but different people!
      • Interest/behavioral targeting

Share Value

  • Target Audience: New Audience
  • how to share value: Valuable content (blog posts, videos)
  • Goal: build trust
  • Video content is incredibly cheap right now to promote

Lead Magnet

  • Target Audience: new audience & existing audience
  • What Lead Magnets: 
    • Checklist
    • Cheat Sheet
    • PDF collection of your best blog posts
    • eBook
    • Free chapter of an ebook
  • Goal: Collect emails
  • Use retargeting


Things to do later today

  • Implement Facebook Pixel
  • Create a lead magnet
  • Develop and implement ads for lead magnet
  • Invest $50 – $200
  • Run ads for 2-5 days


  • “Are you scared of losing work if you’d charge more? Learn how to avoid being seen as a cheap commodity and let’s double your rates together!”
    • Everyone wants to make more money
    • “scared” is a great emotional word
  • “Let’s say it as it is: Using paper time cards is incredibly inefficient. So why not eliminate them completely with ClockShark?”
    • background picture of a construction worker – target audience relates to that
    • Powerful slogan in the foreground
  • “Time tracking shouldn’t be rocket science. With ClockShark, it’s far from that. You can now track using GPS software. Easy”
    • again same approach for the visuals
  • “Have you hit a plateau in your service business? Learn about 5 key strategies that will give you a competitive edge in your market and leave your business thriving”
    • CEO Warrior
    • CTA: [FREE] 5 Secret Game Changing Strategies
    • Social proof in picture: “As seen on…”
  • “We’re uncovering our secrets! Find out about ONE tactic that can get you 1,000 email subscribers in 30 days! We tested the technique and it works!”
    • ConvertKit
    • CTA: “Get 1,000 email subscribers in the next 30 days (or less)!”
    • communicating the dream
  • “Are you tired of headaches that come with email marketing? There’s an easier and more enjoyable way to grow your business. Try ConvertKit!”
    • CTA: “ConvertKit: Email marketing, made easy!”

Need Help? 

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Thomas Smale: “A Winning Exit – Your 4-step strategy for building a sellable SaaS business” – FemtoConf 2017

The FemtoConf 2017 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Twitter: @ThomasSmale

  • Started of with writing a book on selling websites
    • People started asking whether we offer a service for that
  • We’ve continued to buy & sell businesses for ourselves
  • 95% success rate on selling businesses
  • Now offices in Boston, London and Saigon
  • Did 100 deals in 2016

What Buyers Want

  • Important to understand from the beginning – need to position yourself correctly
  • What buyers look for
    • Low churn (sign that product & customer service is good)
    • Growing MRR 
    • MRR > ARR
    • Documented Code
    • Evergreen
    • Growth Opportunities


  • Establish clear protocols
  • Document everything
  • Create a model that can operate in your absence
  • Make the business sustainable
    • Will the business still thriving in 10 years? 
    • Remove single points of failure
      • important employees
      • co-founder
      • yourself? 
    • consistency vs. one-time
      • Hacker News is not a great marketing channel (no predictability, no control)
      • do the boring stuff often if it works
  • Monthly beats annual
  • Consistent cash flow
  • Focus less on new customers
    • instead focus on retention

Step 4 – Sell at the right time

  • Sell while you are growing
  • Exit before you become stagnant
    • No new clients
    • Maxed out what you can sell to existing customer
  • Take emotions out
  • “If you wait it could be too late”

How we did it

  • Building a great team
  • Existing customers
  • Consistency
    • Employees are way better at being consistent than entrepreneurs!
    • When you find things that work, continue on doing them
  • Removed owner
    • Whether you’re buying or building – remove the owner!
    • Make sure you’re in a position where a buyer can take over from you
  • Systems
  • Platform agnostic

What is it worth? 

  • FEInternational Valuation Model
    • Proprietary data
    • Data from 400 deals, over 20,000 data points
    • Multiple of seller discretionary earnings (SDE)
      • SDE takes differences in owner pay into account
    • SaaS: 3-6x annual SDE
    • Content: 2-4 annual SDE
    • E-Commerce: 2-4x annual SDE

Key Takeaways

  • Your mileage may vary… 
  • Make yourself dispensable
  • Document your processes
  • Outsource as much as you can
  • Create recurring income & repeat business
  • Sell while you’re still growing
  • Know what it is worth
  • Complimentary e-course:


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Jane Portman: “Product Strategy for Founders – How to Build Focused & Profitable Software Products” – FemtoConf 2017

The FemtoConf 2017 Notes and recaps can be found on the central hub page.

Twitter: @uibreakfast

  • Created “Mastering App Presentation” with no product strategy in place
  • Poor strategy is a recipe for disaster

Why your product should exist

  • Research your audience
  • find what pains they are experiencing
  • Do a “sales safari”
    • scour forums, etc. where people are not actively talking about products
  • Define your strategy
    • write down the strategy
  • Apply your strategy
  • Deal with new features
  • Think large scale

Define your strategy

  • four pillars of product strategy
    • Audience
    • Goals
    • Tasks
    • Objects
  • Audience
    • Who is your ideal user (paying customer)?
    • Do you know them? 
    • Do you like them? 
      • You’ll have to interact with them until the end of time
    • Can they pay you? 
      • School systems have tons of problems, but very little money to go around
    • Do you know how to reach them? 
      • Brick & Mortar businesses are notoriously hard to reach as a bootstrapper
      • Do they have online forums? 
  • Goals
    • What goals is the user trying to achieve with your product? 
      • Make more money? 
      • Look good in front of their customers? 
      • Example: I want to write a book because then I can…
        • build authority
  • Tasks
    • What primary tasks does the suer perform daily with the help of your product?
    • Where does the main value come from? 
      • e.g. TinyReminder sends reminders to clients and urges them to fill in an online form
      • online form building is an essential feature, but NOT the main benefit
    • Classify tasks by type
      • Analytical
      • Proactive
      • Reactive
  • Objects
    • What objects (entities, items) do users create and manage while performing their tasks? 
      • Gives you a good idea of how to structure your product
  • Use the real language of your customers to describe product strategy

Apply your strategy

  • In your sales copy
    • Address the audience
    • Appeal to their big goals
    • Describe their tasks
  • In your product design
    • Facilitate the important tasks
    • Focus on one task at a time
    • Carefully manage the important objects
  • What did I do wrong with my first book? 
    • Very vague name, audience, goals & tasks
  • What we did right this time with Tiny Reminder
    • Precise audience (consultants)
    • Precise Goals
    • Precise Tasks

Deal with new Features

  • Her mom gifted two fish to her kids
    • Implications: 20 gallons of water for the first fish, 10 gallons for each additional fish
    • Like to dig out plants
    • Bully other kinds of fish
    • Need daily maintenance
    • ==> Get rid of the fish
  • New feature implications
    • Strategy becomes more vague
    • Marketing & sales become vague (which feature is important?)
    • Support & documentation
    • Usability
  • Classic qualifying questions
    • Does this feature solve a real pain? 
    • What are the development and support costs? 
    • Can we build an integration instead? 
    • What part of the existing user base will benefit from this immediately? 
      • e.g. only free users? 
  • Product strategy questions
    • Does it serve your ideal audience – or does it exapnd it? 
    • Does it serve the big goal – or does it add more goals? 
    • Does it facilitate the important tasks?
  • More goals and tasks don’t make a happy user

Think large scale

  • Nothing exists in isolation
    • Product is attached to you, your personality and your existing audience
  • Simple product lineup
    • Free lead magnet (free course)
    • Entry-point purchase (book)
    • Main product (SaaS, consulting)
  • Advanced product lineup
    • Free lead magnet (free course)
    • Entry-point purchase (book)
    • Medium-touch product (course, workshop, or consulting package)
    • Main product (SaaS, consulting)
    • super-expensive “dream” product (no one buys it, but anchors the price of other products)
      • e.g. a $8,000/mo design consulting offering for developer teams
  • Think of your personal strengths
    • Marie Poulin
      • Digital Streatgy School (expensive course)
      • Doki (courseware)
      • Consulting business (helping clients build courses)
  • Content strategy
    • Mailing list setup
    • Free course
    • Blog & newsletter
    • Book 
    • Podcast
    • Videos
  • Only count on your own audience!
    • No magic from Product Hunt or Hacker News
    • No influencer friends
    • No help from the people you interview
  • Focused strategy is a luxury you can afford

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