A Journey from idea to fully fledged SaaS conference: Why we built SaaStock

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In the beginning

Back in Feb 2015 I started SaaScribe, a blog for the SaaS Startup community by The SaaS Startup community. My idea was that I would be one of many SaaS Enthusiasts, publishing resourceful content on SaaScribe for founders and those in SaaS wanting to learn more about the booming industry.

It launched pretty much the same time as the first SaaStr Annual conference, which had an amazing line up. Aaron Levie, Stewart Butterfield, Parker Conrad. The rockstars of SaaS. I Just had to be there. Only one problem, I couldn’t go. My first kid was due. Always next year I said to myself.

Delighted with the birth of my daughter. Bummed to miss out on the SaaS conference of the century. The outcome was a pretty good trade off though. Maybe there’d be a SaaS conference in Europe that I could go to later in the year? There wasn’t.

Come to Dreamforce they said

dreamforce

But i’m in luck. There’s Dreamforce (The Super Bowl of SaaS) in October. There’s Inbound. There’s Pulse. There’s Traction conf. All amazing sounding SaaSy conferences, that if you’re in SaaS, you’d just have to be there. All with killer line ups. All with one problem. All in the US. Almost all in San Francisco. That makes sense, sure. Something like 80% of the SaaS Industry is based in the US. It’s the home of Enterprise Software. But it was problematic for me, for one.

2015 had seen my family grown plus one and my Salary reduced minus two, as I crazily left my job to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. I was going all SaaS all the time now with SaaScribe and the problem I had was that a trip for me to San Francisco was a tough emotional call (leaving fiancee + baby for a few days) and a tough financial decision (I had no income). Maybe not so tough. Pretty straightforward.

As SaaScribe got some traction, i’d get the occasional ‘you coming to Dreamforce let’s grab a beer’ email. Maybe next year I said.

Idea for SaaStock

good business ideas

Where was the European SaaS Conference? If only London or Dublin or Berlin or Stockholm, any of these great European cities had an equivalent. Plenty of Tech Conferences. Some of the best in the world in fact. Europe does a killer tech conference. From Web Summit to Slush to Tech Open Air Berlin. But SaaS? Let’s leave it to Silicon Valley.

Actually, no. Let’s not leave it. If I had a problem in missing out on all the best SaaS conferences as they were in the US, maybe some of the fellow European founders, VCs and SaaS enthusiasts might have had the same problem. Time to investigate. Is the problem real and could it be solved by having a SaaS conference closer to home? After all, SaaS is booming right? And Europe is producing some killer SaaS companies like Zendesk, Intercom, Algolia, Typeform, Teamwork and many many more..

Customer development

Ah, so this is where that customer development concept actually comes in handy! Talk to people. Ask them good questions. Validate the problem and solution. That was my first step.

I spoke with around 50 Founders and VCs in the European SaaS community. Many in person. Some via Typeform (appropriate SaaS where possible). Some via Slack Channels. The outcome was surprising as overwhelmingly those that I spoke to, around 85%, where not flying over to the US to attend the conferences I would expect them to attend.

Biggest reasons being:

  • Too busy – Leaving the office/country for a few days was a tough decision
  • Cost – Mainly from the pre-seed/seed stage founders

One of the questions I’d always ask near the end of the discussions/Survey. ‘If there was a conference in Europe, would you attend and why?’

92% of answers included an big fat yes. Enough for me to take the initiative and try and solve the problem with this crazy idea I had. To organise Europe’s first B2B SaaS Conference.

Idea to creation

I had close to zero experience in events. A couple of SaaS Meetups, but a conference? Uh uh. But had Elon Musk sent a rocket into space before he had the idea for Space X? Please let’s be clear I am not comparing myself to Elon btw.

I drew up a plan. I called on some great minds to discuss strategic partnerships. Tribal.vc, Notion Capital and The Dublin Commissioner for Startups thought the idea for a European SaaS Conference was great and joined a steering committee to provide me with some much valued input and support.

I came up with a name. SaaStock. It felt right.

Then, I needed a venue…..but where? Surely London where I live. Keep it close to home is the advice given. You’ll be needing plenty of site visits and recce’s they say.

Why Dublin?

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I usually heed advice, but this time Dublin sang to me. This was the home of SaaStock. Just like the name felt right, I knew I wanted Dublin to host and be the home of the conference. OK! so there was more to it than a gut feel. A combination of:

  • Dublin being the second home of SaaS – It’s the EMEA HQ for the majority of the Large SaaS companies such Zendesk, Slack, HubSpot, Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twilio, and more. A veritable SaaS cluster
  • Cost – Cheaper than London on many budget line items.
  • Local Network – My SaaS Network was just as, if not stronger in Dublin than in London
  • Timing – There is a big void left by Web Summit moving to Lisbon. Whilst the wheels of SaaStock had long been turning before the Web Summit decision was made public, there seemed an opportunity to be one of a few important new breed conferences to Dublin. Whilst in London, SaaStock would be one of many. Perhaps less important to the city.
  • Can I say the Guinness in Dublin is better than in London and i really love that stuff. No bearing in the decision though. None.

So it’s on?

saastock conference dublin

I’m unbelievably excited and proud to announce that The 22nd September 2016, The RDS will be hosting the first SaaStock conference. The first European B2B SaaS Conference in fact!

This will be the conference to learn how to build a category leading SaaS business. 700 SaaS Founders and VCs will be in attendance from amazing speakers like Des Traynor of Intercom, Christoph Janz from Point Nine Capital, Sitar Teli Partner at Connect Ventures and many more confirmed and in the pipeline.

SaaStock will be championing the European ecosystem. We’ll be championing the second home of SaaS, Dublin. Yet we’ll have global speakers and global success stories. To be a category leader, you need to think/be global.

Who should attend?

Early to growth Stage B2B SaaS Founders and investors in B2B SaaS Startups. Not only From Europe, but predominantly we expect that’ll be the case. Whilst SaaStock will be championing the European SaaS Ecosystem, the content will be relevant and the networking opportunity will be relevant to all SaaS founders across the globe. It’ll just be a No brainer for those that are in SaaS and local and for those that are outside of Europe, you’ll probably have similar emotional and financial questions to overcome.

But check out the lineup. Think about the opportunity to learn. If your SaaS is for other SaaS companies, then once again, I’m hopeful that with SaaStock we’ve solved the emotional, time and cost issues in attending a world class conference and hopeful this will be a ‘no brainer’.

Where can I get tickets?

Early bird tickets went on sale today. Early birds catch the discount. Grab your ticket now and see you in September.

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  • indeed too few SAAS events in Europe , well done Alex and long live to SaaStock !

  • Thanks Luc. Hopefully will get to meet you there!