The Business of Software Conference has been going on at the World Trade Center, part of the Seaport Hotel, for the last couple days. Software architects, marketing and management visionaries, and venture capitalists have provided presentations, roundtable discussions, and networking (aka cocktails and appetizers) for existing and aspiring software entrepreneurs who have come to Boston from all over the world.
Yesterday started off with marketing guru Seth Godin who began with the statement “All marketers can leave the room” to focus his message on “this room full of ‘the smartest people in the room’”. Godin is a cheerleader of the idea of the “remarkable product/company/experience” and is an advocate of “living the story” of one’s ideas and experiences as applied to a business or product. Drawing upon poignant and pointed anecdotes culled from his many books, such at “Purple Cow”, “Small is the New Big”, and “Meatball Sundae” as well as his (hugely popular) blog – Godin put together a dynamic show that other presenters constantly referred to for the rest of the conference.
Highlights of day one were the unapologetic, idealistic, and aggressive business philosophy of 37signals‘ founder Jason Fried (“planning is overrated”), and a lively Pecha Kucha session (yo! next Boston Pecha Kucha Night is 9/18!) where 8 speakers competed for a Mac Book Air – looks like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian was the winner.
Of the afternoon sessions, founder of Cambridge-based HubSpot, Dharmesh Shah was the outstanding highlight. Brilliant, humorous, and self-deprecating, Shah provided a primer on the do’s and don’ts of launching a start-up. Drawing on personal experience gained from launching his companies, as well as his 2 years getting a pair of Masters degrees at M.I.T., Shah put the technical and business issues related to building a business and bringing a product to market into focused, black-and-white terms that one could apply to any product or business, not just software. We’re looking forward to seeing more of Shah at next week’s Inbound Marketing Summit.
Today, the conference kicked off with Steve Johnson of Pragmatic Marketing, a thought leader in the training of product managers. Johnson highlighted pitfalls of product development and hilariously identified the shortcomings of how companies are structured through the use of, among other things, Star Trek analogies “most businesses are like Star Trek (original series) but we want them to be like Star Trek Next Gen. where they are actually competent”. In summary, Johnson is a great spokesperson for formalizing and empowering the role of product manager in any organization.
Boston-based venture capitalist firm, Summit Partners, was represented by Tom Jennings, who ably provided an overview of VC terminology and function. Jennings was followed by software freedom advocate Richard Stallman, who proposed the removal of patents as applied to software products. His interesting and controversial advice with regards to running into patent problems: “there are three ways to deal with a patent: avoid, license, or invalidate”.
Other highlighted speakers today are Noam Wasserman, professor of entrepreneurial management at Harvard with a great presentation on the dilemma that founders face: to cash in and get rich or to stay put and stay king of their company; usability guru Steve Krug; and conference sponsor, co-founder of FogCreek, and blogebrity Joel Spolsky.
Business of Software organizer, Neil Davidson (also co-founder of Red Gate Software) put together a fantastic show with the underwriting help of Joel Spolsky, and we can only hope that they bring it back to Boston again.
Pic of Joel Spolsky @ Business of Software Conference by Tom Lewis