209: MicroConf US '23 Recap — What Happens When 250 SaaS Founders Meet

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Hello everyone and welcome to The Bootstrapped Founder.

My name is Arvid Kahl and I talk about bootstrapping, entrepreneurship and building in public.

Today I want to talk about my visit to MicroConf in Denver where I was a speaker.

Over the last three days I've been spending my time outside of my home for what feels

like the first time in many a year.

And I want to share with you the amazing conference that I went to, the stuff that I learned,

the stuff that I talked about, why this is a great conference and pretty much every other

thing that I could talk about.

This is going to be more of a train of thought episode today because I have the very strong

feeling that I'm not even home yet, like mentally, I just arrived a couple hours ago, but I wanted

to make sure that you get this, all the insights from the conference as soon as possible.

So yeah, here we go, I guess I'll share my experience at MicroConf US 2023 with you.

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All right, let's talk about MicroConf 2023 in Denver, Colorado.

So for those of you who've never heard of MicroConf, where have you been?

But anyhow, the community that we live in has several conferences that are extremely

relevant to the field, the indie hacker, SaaS bootstrapped entrepreneur field, and MicroConf

is one of them, is hosted and led and organized by Rob Walling, he is the head behind MicroConf

and also TinySeed and the podcast startups for the rest of us.

Rob has written a book just recently, he has a lot going on in terms of empowering our

community of indie founders.

Of course, there are way more people behind this, but Rob is kind of the poster child

and he's been doing this for a long, long time.

So this is a two-day conference and it happened for the 10th time in the United States at

this point.

There was an interesting point during the conference where Rob has had us all stand

up and sit down after he kind of counted up the times of how often people were at the

conference before.

So most people obviously were there for their first time, but a lot of people were there

for the second, third or fourth or even fifth or sixth time, it's just like people sitting

down as the count went up, it was pretty interesting.

And by the end, three people were standing that had been to every single MicroConf in

the past.

And these are people that you probably all know, right?

Like Mike Tabor is in there and Dave Rodenbach was in there.

These are people in our community that just have been around for a while and they've been

attendees of this conference forever in terms of the life of the conference, which was really

cool to see.

Like we have people that have been extremely present in our community, Rob being one of


And this conference is the venue for them to find together, just to find like a way

to communicate with each other and to just exchange interesting developments from our


It was the second MicroConf that I was at.

The first one I went to was back in 2019, MicroConf Europe in Dubrovnik in Croatia,

just a couple of months after we sold our business.

FeedbackPanda, Danielle and I, my partner and I, we sold our business a couple of months


We went to the conference mostly because we finally had time to do stuff and we had the

opportunity to give an attendee talk.

But I'm going to talk about this later because that is part of what I was talking about on

stage at that conference because I also had a slot and had a talk and it was a very special

thing that resonated with the audience in a very particular positive way.

And I want to share that later, but there's so much interesting stuff going on at this

conference that I will now artificially build suspense.

I'm not going to do that and I'm just going to talk about my slot after the other ones

because the other ones were also extremely interesting.

There were five keynote sessions in the conference and several attendee talks and workshops and

discussions, one of which was mine.

The whole conference was co-hosted by Rob, who usually hosts a conference, and Liana

Patch, who is a great copywriter and an extremely funny person to have on stage.

She just compliments Rob and everybody else extremely well.

Liana was awesome.

It was really, really funny.

She brought jokes to the stage, she brought cat pictures to the stage, and just a sense

of community that was palpable in the room.

She picked it up and she did something with it that was really wonderful.

The whole conference, again, is a two-day conference but started the evening before.

That was the idea that people would come and arrive on Sunday and get to the hotel, and

that would be a nice little thing in the evening, a registration where you would get your badge

and that badge then would get you into the place where—it was a reception, essentially—with

a bar and a lot of people chatting.

That starts the zeroth day, I guess.

This is a technical conference, so you start with zero.

On the first day, the Monday, talks started.

The actual conference began, and it began with Rob and Leanne showing people's why.

That was really cool.

They had a slide up where, prior to that, people had been asked to send in pictures

of their why.

Why did they run the business?

Why are they SaaS entrepreneurs?

It was really cool to see.

There were pictures of children, obviously, partners.

There were pictures of places that people wanted to be or go or work from.

There were pictures of things that people wanted to own, like they had material dreams

or a house that they wanted to build.

There were pictures of pets, pictures of cats, a lot of cats in there for some reason.

There were pictures of dogs.

Even my dog, Bina, made it there.

It was really cute.

I took a photo because it was a rotating slideshow.

Our little Bina was on stage at MicroConf.

It was just the most enjoyable thing.

That was just really, really cool, but it just set the tone for the conference.

People really wanted to accomplish something by being a SaaS founder, and they had a reason

for being there, not just because it was a conference and you go to conferences, but

because you could learn something that would make your life better and reach that goal

more easily.

It was extremely enjoyable just to see people light up when they saw their family in that

slideshow or their pets or their dreams.

It was just so nice.

They explained a concept that I want to share with you here as well, because it's super

interesting in terms of just how you can condense a conference into an acronym.

They have this acronym STIR, S-T-I-R, which is short for Strategies, Tactics, Inspiration

and Relationships.

That's what this conference is about.

It kind of feels like in the past, most conferences were really just about S and T and a little

bit of R.

A lot of strategy, a lot of tactical stuff, and some level of connection, networking.

That's what you do at a conference, but more in a business sense.

But what I experience and what I think most founders who go to MicroConf, no matter if

it's the European or the US one, the remote ones, or even just the MicroConf Connect Slack

that exists and is free for you to join, I'm going to put the link in the show now, because

you really should be in there.

This is a great place.

The INDR, the inspiration and the relationships were extremely strong with this conference.

There were 250 people at the conference, all of them SaaS founders, all of them looking

for ideas, looking for solutions to their issues, looking for new friends that could

help them, looking for potential partners, potential future co-founders.

It's just solutions to the pressing problem that they've been experiencing since last

week or ideas how to overcome something that they've been struggling with for years.

Everything and everyone was there because they were looking for inspiration and relationships

and a little bit of strategy and a couple of tactics.

And those things were not in short supply.

The sessions were amazing.

The first one was Dev Basu from Toronto, pretty close to where I live.

He is from a company called Powered by Search and his talk was a nibble at the ARR, which

is just adorable, and it was tips for being more agile than your bigger competitors.

And Dev talked about being where those people can't be, being faster than those big companies,

using your small SaaS business being as an advantage and doing things that they can do.

One big learning that came out of his talk, which I found was extremely well executed.

He's a great speaker.

He talked about discovery ads, Google discovery ads, and that was something that I've never

really even knew of before.

And most people at the conference were surprised by that, too.

It's really interesting to see that there are things, even in paid advertising, that

I just didn't know about.

And I'm dealing with this all the time because I talk to so many founders who try all the

things, not just building in public or social media, but also paid advertising and search

engine optimization, these kind of things.

But it was interesting to learn about discovery ads and how to use them realistically to outcompete

your much bigger and much more well-financed competitors.

That was one big theme of the whole conference, was that bootstrappers have to do things differently.

And that makes MicroConf so extremely interesting for us as indie founders.

We don't have the massive budgets that those big companies have.

We don't have these extremely well-thought-out strategies with like 400 people executing

on your marketing plan.

Like, we're alone.

We're sole entrepreneurs, or we have like a team of four.

And one person has to do all the marketing and the sales at the same time.

So leveraging things that work well because you're fast, that's a great idea.

And the same kind of went for the second talk by Claire Sullentrop from Forget the Funnel.

She was talking about like a customer-led approach to driving predictable recurring

revenue even in unpredictable times.

And unpredictable times we are in for sure.

She explained how she and her business partner Gia helped brands just understand their audience

better and craft higher converting copy and just close more deals through being more precise

in what you offer.

It was just interesting really to see how every talk was kind of focused on giving bootstrappers

tools to be and maintain a life as a bootstrapper.

Like nothing in MicroConf is trying to pull you out of the bootstrapping space.

A lot of conferences kind of give you these big stars.

I was in Portugal back in I think 2018 at Web Summit.

And it was an incredible gigantic conference.

It's like everybody from all industries is there, like Microsoft people.

Like Ray Dalio was a speaker at that conference, a big investor guy.

And you have these big stars that you may really look up to because they have provided

a lot of value in their books and in their writing and in the things that they've been


But that's not really going to help you if you're a bootstrapper.

I mean it's cool that you see people from like Fortune 100 companies, like these extremely

big companies tell you what they did at a certain level.

But that's kind of for other CEOs of equally big companies to implement in their own businesses.

It's not really for us trying to build like a little SaaS that has maybe a couple hundred

if not just a couple dozen customers at any point.

It's just not the same league.

But MicroConf is for that.

And this is not like a sponsored thing for MicroConf.

I just really enjoyed being there as you can probably tell.

And it's been an extremely valuable experience just to listen to these people who are running

businesses like the ones that we want to build.

We want to build successful bootstrap SaaS businesses.

These are the people that are on the same journey.

And when it comes to advice like this, like you shouldn't listen to people who are not

doing the thing that you want to do.

And these people did.

And day one of the conference, the Monday, was more tactical and strategic.

And day two had a bit of a more personal touch.

The stories were slightly different.

Patrick Campbell was on stage.

He opened up the day two, Tuesday, and he talked about bootstrapping to a 200 million

dollar exit, the ProfitWell story.

And he led into the whole talk with a lot of personal stories, too.

Because if there's one thing that Patrick does, it's just be honest about his journey.

I had him on the show.

I had him as a just a speech.

I talked to him about the story of ProfitWell.

I wanted to know what the emotional problems were during that journey.

And he really opened up on my podcast and he kind of did the same thing on stage there

as well.

Like he really went into the mental psychology of building such a business, exiting such

a business, what it means for a bootstrapper to build a bootstrap business, making the

choice maybe to get funding or making the choice to get a lot of funding and how all

of these things align.

It was one thing in his talk that I really enjoyed.

It was the idea that you really need massive alignment with your partners.

And that means partners on any level, right?

Business partners, co-founders, obviously, if one co-founder wants to bootstrap, the

other one wants to eventually disrupt the market, that's not going to be a good fit.

I wrote about this in the past, like the founder, co-founder fit is really important to get

right if you have other people in your business.

And Patrick was saying the exact same thing.

You need that to be aligned.

But that's not just for co-founders.

It's also for life partners, right?

If you want to live the life of building a sustainable business, well, then your partner

should probably also want to live a really nice, enjoyable, relaxed, sustainable, calm


And on the other hand, if you want to build like the thing that disrupts the market, whatever

it may be, then you need to be absolutely clear that this is going to be a really tough


Like you're going to spend a lot of time getting things done, working on these things.

I don't really like the whole hustle culture sentiment here, but the idea is if you want

to build something extremely crazy, you need to spend enormous amount of energy, maybe

not time, but at least energy and focus on it.

And your partner in life as in business should really be aligned with that because if they

expect you to be around more, but you can't because you need to do this, to get to whatever

goal you have, you're going to run into trouble.

So that was what Patrick was talking about.

My talk came after that.

But before I get to that, I'm just going to share what everybody else was doing because

everything else was also super interesting.

Oh, yeah.

John Hundage was also there and John was talking about what he's talking about.

He was talking about sales, building like a sales engine.

That was really cool, too, like his perspective from having built sales engines all the time.

That was really cool.

I'm just going to do a quick look up here because I really want to make sure that I

get everything right.

Yeah, he was the founder of Rapid Reply and he's been building like sales, I wouldn't

call it funnels, but like sales systems forever.

And he shared his personal approach on how to set them up, like gave categories and all


I think these talks, I hope including mine, will be available in video at some point.

And once they are, you can be absolutely sure that I will link to that.

We'll give you links just on Twitter, very likely or in the newsletter as well.

Because I very much would like to rewatch all of these things because every single talk

was just filled with exciting information.

That is extremely useful to where I am, even with my media business that I'm building,


Like I have a really small SaaS business, permanent link on the site.

But what I'm really doing is running this podcast, giving interviews, getting people

to come on my own show for interviews, running a newsletter, writing blog posts and releasing

articles and all that kind of stuff.

That itself is a business.

And even for this kind of business that is not technically a SaaS, most of these things

are extremely applicable.

And even the attendee talks and the micro sessions were like this.

So Liana, the kind of co-host of the whole conference, had a little session there as


And she was just roasting people's copy, the landing page copy from a copywriter's perspective.

It was really interesting to watch.

People had previously suggested their websites, and she just opened them up and just talked

them through.

The people who were giving her these links, they were in the room.

So there was a conversation between the person who ran the business and Liana as a potential


And she just asked the questions that a customer would ask.

What is this?

I don't understand.

Why does it work like this?

Looking at a website copy and not understanding what the product does, she pointed that out

and gave alternative ideas on how to make it better.

That was really cool.

Then Chuck and the folks from the sponsor of the conference, QuietLite, who is a broker

if you want to sell your business, they were taking questions and answers in another room,

which was really cool.

So you could just yell at them and ask them about, I don't know, valuations or how to

structure a company to make it sellable, these kind of things.

That was really, really nice.

So as you could tell, the conference has these multiple tiny sessions that happen at a certain

point like outside of the single track talks that exist, where people can kind of pick

and choose from at which stage they're at.

If you're interested in selling your business, you're probably not going to go to the landing

page roast.

And if you're early and you want to make sure that your initial customers get the message

right, you don't think about selling your business just yet.

So you go to that thing.

It's just a wonderful conference with a great way of getting exactly what you need.

There were two more sessions.

One was by Beth Hannon from AccessiCards, she was talking about accessibility.

And that was really interesting, too, because accessibility is just such a relevant thing

that it's not just a requirement, a legal requirement, but an actual way of empowering

your audience.

Then there was Anthony Eden of D&Simple talking about DNS, which, as we all know, is the source

of every single problem and our salvation, apparently, just how to use DNS in businesses.

That was really cool.

He's a great guy as well, and D&Simple has been something that was on my radar for many,

many years because one of my pals back from Hamburg back in the day, when I was building

Feedback Panda, I went to a lot of meetups in Hamburg, and one of their early engineers

was at the same meetups as I was.

So shout out to Ole, I guess.

But yeah, it's just interesting to see how we are all connected in this community.

That was one of the things that really stood out to me.

So it is time now, I guess, to talk about what I did at the conference.

So I gave something that was like half talk, half interactive session.

I reached out to the people at Microconf like a year ago, and I told them, I'm ready to

do something like post-COVID, I'm ready to get started doing something useful and give

back to the community.

What can we do?

And at that point, I think all the actual talk slots, like the five key keynote slots

were already filled, but I still wanted to do something.

So I talked to a producer, Xander, which is, he's the guy that makes everything happen.

And he was really good at making things happen.

We just chatted about what I could be doing.

And as you know, or may not know, which is why I'm saying it, this podcast, my newsletter

and everything that I've been doing has been focused a lot on mental health topics because

I've been struggling with this throughout my founder journey and beyond, like it never

really ends, like imposter syndrome is always there, burnout is always a potential if you

work too much, and all these little things are things that are important to me, which

is why I suggested that I do something about that.

So we came up with the idea of having an interactive session, the idea that there's a room of like

250 people, every one of whom already kind of shares the same experiences.

Why don't we make people share their stories, and normalize talking about it?

And that was the whole idea.

So I went on stage, I explained that, well, I can just kind of give you a quick walkthrough

through my talk, like the video probably will be, it will be a bit until the video is out.

So I'm just gonna, just gonna give you an insight into what I told people.

Kind of started with making a note that every single talk that we had heard at the conference

before had some passing reference, or even a slide where they mentioned burnout.

And that was extremely interesting, like you would not expect this to be a central topic

in almost everything at a conference, like even something as highly technical and tactical

as SEO information, right, where people talk about how to optimize for search.

Still, in passing at Dev's talk, for example, there was mention of being overwhelmed by

work, or in Patrick's talk, there was mention of being burnt out, or having people not understand

what you're doing.

It was really, really interesting.

Even in the little attendee talks in between, like these 15-minute sessions, somebody was

talking about selling their business, one and how we should sell your business.

One of the reasons for selling your business, burnout.

Or the other attendee talk was about outsourcing, and one of the reasons of outsourcing customer

service, way too much work, burnout.

It was everywhere.

And I'm so happy, I mean, not happy that burnout is everywhere, that is really not cool, but

I'm happy that people are actively thinking about these things and making sure that this

is being communicated, that we talk about this, that this is a real thing that everybody

might or will feel, and we get to have a conversation about it.

So I started by saying, look at this, here we are at a conference for bootstrapped SaaS

entrepreneurs and every talk is mentioning burnout.

That is something important.

That is new, that is great that we talk about it, and this is something we should do more


So I shared a story of my own life involving burnout, which kind of was harking back to

MicroConf 2019, where I gave this attendee talk, right?

We had just sold the business, and Danielle and I, we gave this talk on stage about all

the cool things, like how we automated everything, how marketing worked, and how we made the

business sellable.

It was all cool, and we talked about how great it was and what a nice experience the sale

was and all that stuff.

But what I didn't say to people back then, but I didn't share because I wasn't even really

aware that it was a thing, was that I was still mid-burnout, even after we sold the


Like four months after we sold the business, I still had physical burnout.

It was still there.

I didn't eat the day of that session.

I didn't eat the day of that attendee talk because I just couldn't.

I was so stressed because when you are in this burnout state, a little bit of stress,

at least for me, gets amplified massively.

So I just could barely handle it.

You may not see it, and the video of that talk is on my website.

It's on the Bootstrap founder, somewhere in the about section, I guess, if you want to

look it up.

You don't necessarily see it, but I was super stressed, and I shared that story and then

told people that, well, this is a problem, right?

Like we don't talk about this.

I shared a couple Twitter insights that people have on mental health where they really just

say, yeah, deal with it, or like lean into discomfort.

And then I said, this is really not helpful because we struggle with things, like just

leaning into struggle, that's not going to make them any better.

So I encouraged people at that moment to consider that they all have a story, like in this room,

250 people, all SaaS founders, we all know exactly how it feels to do too much and to

have too little support.

So I wanted to prepare people to have a conversation.

And I shared another story from my own life because I kind of wanted to talk about two

main topics.

One of them was being overwhelmed, and every SaaS founder knows extremely well what it

means to be overwhelmed.

And the other one was feeling isolated on the other side of the spectrum, right?

Overwhelmed is just you get too much external stuff.

Everybody wants something, and you need to do everything to make sure your customers

are happy and that your business keeps running and that you have these external interruptions

and you're just overwhelmed from that.

Other side, you're socially isolated because nobody understands what you're doing.

Like your parents, they think you should get a job.

Even Patrick Campbell in his talk, like this guy sold a business for $200 million.

And apparently he flew in his parents just to celebrate or for a family event.

And his father still told him that he would probably make a good doctor.

Can you imagine selling a business for nine figures, like creating generational wealth

for decades, if not centuries, to come for your family and every offspring in that family?

And your father still talks to you as if you hadn't reached the pinnacle of your career?

That is isolation.

That is being misunderstood.

That is not being seen or heard.

And if a person can sell a business for $200 million and not get the kind of understanding

and respect from their family, then everybody else is in the same boat.

And I certainly know it.

I've seen people on Twitter a lot.

Like Dagobert Renouf famously says that his father-in-law did not understand him going

into business and had been a massive opponent of that.

All of these stories are out there in the open.

And I knew that the audience at MicroConf had the exact same understanding of this.

So I shared the story first of my understanding that I had burnout, like when that happened

to me.

I'm not going to go into that particular detail because it was a very painful story to share.

And I hope there will be a recording of it.

And if not, then I might share it at a later point.

It was really just about like waking up and now I'm sharing it.

Well, there you go.

This is why you listen to the podcast, right?

You get the stuff anyway.

I cannot help myself.

It was about waking up at three in the morning, getting a robocall.

The system was down, right?

Some automated tool figured out our product was offline and called me.

I got up, walked to my computer and just started crying like I just fell apart because it was

just so stressful.

This had been happening for a couple of weeks and it's just like, oh, can't handle it anymore.

And then I handled it and built automation to deal with it.

But it was just so frustrating.

I was just so overwhelmed by all of this kind of stuff and had to rebuild the architecture

to not be as brittle and be more resilient and had to deal with customer service messages

pouring in as I was trying to fix it.

It was just so much.

So I shared a pretty deep, emotionally very painful story with people, preparing them

to share their own.

And then I invited them to have like a 15-minute conversation around that table.

So if you've seen pictures of the MicroConf layout of the room that we were in, the grand

ballroom at the Sheraton downtown hotel in Denver, it's kind of big tables that can seat

like eight to 10 people all in a room.

And you can kind of face your chair towards the stage if you want to, but you can also

face it towards the table.

And that's what I asked people to do.

I asked them to join on other tables that were like half full and then start having

a conversation about a topic, an experience from their own lives, how it impacted them,

how they dealt with it, what they learned from it, if they still experience it, if they

found ways to make it better and share it with the other people around them.

Because one thing that was very obvious to me just from having conversations with people

throughout the conference leading up to this session was that everybody had a story.

I mentioned that I was going to do this during the lunches and dinners that we had, and I'll

talk about like these kind of logistics a bit later because they were also very interesting,

but let's just stay with mental health topics.

And whenever I said, hey, you might want to prepare a little story for tomorrow during

the session that you can share with other people, people started sharing their story

right then and then.

They said, yeah, I have one immediately, like I did this and then that happened.

And then I was super frustrated here or I talked to this person and they thought I was

an idiot for going into entrepreneurship, like people's stories were just waiting to

pour out.

And what I noticed, not just from those conversations, but from my session, was that people were

just waiting to be given permission to talk about their feelings.

It was such a noticeable event because I told people, here's how we're going to do it.

You're going to have a conversation, turn to your people around you, I'm going to give

you 15 minutes, start now.

And I was walking off stage and I hadn't even reached the end of the stage and the room

was buzzing.

Like there was this moment where people just felt like I can open the floodgates and stories

just fell out of people.

It was incredible.

It was an incredible moment.

It was super validating for me to know that the session that I was there to do, which

I thought may or may not work, worked incredibly well.

So I went to my table with the other speakers and we started sharing stories too.

Stories have the same problems, right?

You might think, oh yeah, celebrities on stage, no problems.

Same issues.

A lot of mental health problems.

A lot of issues with losing your partner, going through breakup or having a misunderstanding

with your partner about the priorities that you have in your life.

All of this came out and I listened to the table next to us, similar stories.

It came out and after a while I went back on stage and I shared another story because

I wanted people not just to talk about being overwhelmed but also about feeling socially

isolated because these are similar mental health issues, probably the most common issues

that we have and they very much very quickly stopped talking to listen to my next story

because they knew that I was going to be honest with them and share another thing for them

to reflect about their own lives upon.

So I shared another story about feeling extremely alone which kind of happened as, so Danielle

and I, my partner and I, I'm German, she's Canadian so we used to live in Berlin but

often commute back and forth to Canada and there was a death in her family so I kind

of went there with her to be there with the family and we spent the day of the burial

in the evening, spent some time in her parents' house just as kind of a wake, kind of a moment

to remember the person and everybody was gathered there, people were exchanging stories, it

was a really emotional event, it was just every heartfelt, like people were grieving

and reminiscing, it was really beautiful and my phone started buzzing and it was customer

service, people were writing in, something broke, right?

I don't want to go into the technical details, it was irrelevant, right?

Something had broken, an integration, not critical but critical enough for me to need

to fix it so I had to remove myself from this family event, go to an empty bedroom and open

my laptop and fix that stupid bug, fix that extension thing that kept people from using

our product kind of but not really, they could have done it if they wanted to but their expectation

was product has to be perfect or not so I dealt with this and I felt so incredibly alone

at that moment, like I was just sitting there like fixing this browser extension integration

issue which is just such a banal problem while my family was mourning a person that had just

left us.

It was, I don't know, it was just so pointless and I felt so alone so I shared that story

with the audience kind of to anchor them, again to give them permission to talk about

deep scars on their lives, went off stage again, same thing happened, people just had

yet another story, like they just, it's just like you just snap your fingers and the story

is right there because we all know exactly what this feels, you know, what it means to

be overwhelmed, like what founder doesn't and we know what it means to be misunderstood,

to be left out, to have to prioritise things you don't want to prioritise but you have

to do it and that kind of pulls you away from the people around you.

So that was my session, I gave them another 10 minutes, it was lunchtime after so we wanted

to make sure it stopped at the right time, went back on stage and then just profoundly

thanked this wonderful group of people, this community for opening up to each other.

There was another Q&A session which is nice, somebody asked me how I got to like 100k people

on Twitter which is, I just told them like it's the same thing that what people had just

been doing, like share honest stories with each other, like being authentic and not authentic

in like quotation marks, just be authentic, just be yourself, share what you do and that's

kind of why I think, I believe, my followers, my readers and my listeners and my viewers

I guess, want to connect with me because I just don't pretend.

I don't have time to pretend, like I just want to be myself and that was one of the


And then we kind of closed my session and it was really nice and went to lunch but not

before I was approached by dozens of people from that conference telling me all the little

stories of what their experience just now was.

A couple tables or people from a couple tables came up to me and one thing that I found really

interesting was somebody told me that around that table they noticed that some people there

visibly relaxed after sharing their story and it very much appeared as if these people

had for the very first time ever talked about their mental health issues regarding being

a founder, being a SaaS entrepreneur with other people.

They had for the very first time ever even reflected upon this being not just what life

is like as a founder but that this is something that shouldn't be like this.

That's kind of what I said too when I woke up and had to fix this downtime thing.

You're not supposed to sit in front of your computer and cry.

That's not what a SaaS entrepreneur life should be like.

So people have realized through those conversations around those tables with their peers, with

people who really got them, who really understood them, that something was wrong and that something

should be different and if there's anything that I hope that the people who listen to

what I did at MicroConf take away from the conference is that reflection on these things

is paramount.

You have to think about your own sanity, your mental health and the peers around you in

our community, be it in person at a conference, being present people or in virtual communities

such as the MicroConf Slack, MicroConf Connect or Twitter or the IndieHackers forum or your

peer group, your maybe a mastermind group that you join or a mentor or whatever, a person

or people that understand you, that is how you get out of these things.

I found that in my Twitter community and my IndieHackers community, that's kind of who

got me out of my burnout cycle and my self-doubt and my imposter syndrome all the time and

if you're listening to this, it's quite likely that we had a conversation in the past that

helped me or helped you or that you participated in a conversation that was helpful to others.

The community is where it's at and that was so palpable, so noticeable in that room because

people, it was so bizarre.

People talked about painful stories and they smiled, like they smiled because they knew

that they were heard, that these stories were not judged, they were not being considered

weak when they shared stories of being emotionally vulnerable.

They were considered strong because they shared, because they needed to get it out and they,

just by talking about your own issues, you give other people permission to see their

own issues, not as something that is wrong with them, but as something that can be corrected

because it is an external thing and that was really, really nice.

So that was my session.

It was a very, I guess, soft and squishy topic, was not by far not as technical as the SEO

or funnel building things, but that was the thing about MicroConf that I really enjoyed.

You have all of these.

Stir, right?

You have strategies, tactics, you have inspiration and you have relationships and I hope that

what I did there was fostering a lot of relationships for hopefully a very long time and give people

the inspiration and the motivation to deal with these issues, not when they're already

causing burnout, but on the way in so you can correct it.

And yeah, that's what I did at MicroConf this year in Denver and I really, really am grateful

to Rob and everybody there to make it happen.

It was an incredibly empowering moment for me.

Like I said, the thing, when I went off stage and people were already talking and I was

still walking, like my mic was still hot, I could have stopped at that moment.

It was so touching to see people just opening up and letting the stories pour out.

That was really nice.

Let me share a couple more things about the conference because I would assume that a couple

of you listening to this are now very interested in MicroConf.

Let me put a couple more things on top that make it even better because the conference

itself was at the Sheraton Downtown Hotel in Denver and MicroConf jumps from venue to

venue, right?

You will find that MicroConf is not going to be in Denver all the time.

I think next year it's going to be in Atlanta and that's going to be great too because I

always wanted to go to Atlanta and now I get to it with my friends, my nerds, right?

It's so awesome.

The hotel was cool.

It had like a big old lobby, it had a great ballroom where the conference was held.

It was very nice.

There was a good restaurant in there.

The hotel itself was great.

The rooms were wonderful.

I spent like six hours preparing my talk, like rehearsing my talk in that room and I

felt great.

It was nice.

Denver itself is a cool city and yeah, it was nice.

Good place to have the conference.

Like I said, at the first night and pretty much every night there was a reception in

the lobby where you could just hang out with your fellow founders and your fellow SaaS

nerds and you know, on Sunday when I arrived there was already kind of going on like a

couple hours after I came there.

Even before, I just went out for lunch on Sunday because I arrived early in the morning

and the reception would start like five-ish and we just found a couple people on Slack

and we hung out at a restaurant just across the hotel and we spent like three or four

hours just chatting SaaS.

People who I personally had never met and they had never met me, I think some of them

knew me through Twitter, but we just had this immediate connection talking about the problems

that we all share.

Again, not all problems that we share are mental health issues, but we just have common


We need customers, we need growth, you know, all these things and it was just so much fun

to talk to people.

Then at the reception, I finally got to meet a lot of people that I always wanted to meet,


I met Colleen, Colleen Schnettler, and Aaron from Hammerstone and it was the amount of

people that I met at this place, it was just incredible.

It was just 250 people and you probably kind of knew at least half of them already and

the other half you kind of knew through other people.

It was wonderful.

Everywhere I went, there was somebody I kind of knew.

I met so many people like Shai from Twitter that I've been talking to a lot about and

of course the whole TinySeed team and a lot of founders from TinySeed as well that I met

in the past and had hung out with a couple years ago at the other MicroConf venue.

So it was just great.

So you go there, there's beers, there's drinks, there's food, and there's nerds.

It's the best combination, these incredible conversations with people that you already

kind of know.

It's like the pre-warmed meeting with people that you think you already do know, you have

these kind of parasocial relationships with, and then you actually do know them.

It was really fun.

It was such a great time.

So let me talk a bit more about the logistics of the rest of the thing because MicroConf

is not just talks and workshops.

One of the most important things at MicroConf is what they call the hallway track.

And that is just what happens between things, right?

The thing with the reception, for example, kind of is part of it, but just you chatting

with people all, essentially all day around the conference, learning about things, getting

to meet new people, organizing deals, organizing partnerships, like little adventures together.

That is what makes the conference so special because it's not just listening to a talk

that makes a conference good.

It's building these relationships.

And that's what the hallway track, which is what it's called, is about, right?

Just hanging out, making friends, and being an nerd.

But there's also food, like they organize lunches at the conference too.

So the first day we had lunch at the milk market, which was like a kind of a food market,

which they had booked just for MicroConf.

So essentially what would have been a thing open to the public was a private event.

And you could just get food from all kinds of little stores.

There was like a burger place, and there was like a fish place, a taco place, and you know,

all these little things were exclusively available to everybody from MicroConf, which was awesome.

So again, you would hang out with people, you would eat, you would chat.

That was part of the hallway track too.

And on the second day, there was a mystery lunch.

Just prior to arriving, people had to kind of fill out a survey about what they like

about food.

And then they would kind of pair people, or not pair them, they grouped them up and sent

them to like 12 different restaurants all over the city.

Just from the amount of, or the kind of quality of answers that they got, what people liked,

what their experimental risk tolerance was, they would be put into a group and sent off

to a particular restaurant.

It was just a great idea.

And then after that, the whole show continued.

It was really cool.

And then happy hour every evening, and at the closing reception was nice too, like an

open bar next to the pool, which was a bit too cold, but it was still just wonderful

to see people chatting and meeting new people, even on the last day, getting to know people.

And one other thing that we did on the first day on Monday was having micro excursions.

So little, four little excursions throughout the city in the afternoon.

One was a pub crawl, which was hilarious to do it like in the early afternoon, but something

that people apparently did.

The other one was a wheat tour because marijuana is legal in Denver.

So there was a, I think they went to kind of grower and to like a retailer or something.

It was kind of more an entrepreneurial wheat tour.

I mean, I didn't participate in that, but there probably was some participation, if

you know what I mean.

There was go-karting.

A group of people just went to go go-kart.

And the group that I was in went to a place called Meow Wolf, which was, I can only describe

as like a museum of speculative history.

I think that's what somebody told me that it reminded them of.

It's like, imagine like aliens had made contact with people in the 70s.

And there was a portal between planets and one of them, that's the story to all of


It's so bizarre.

The whole place is essentially like a little theme park for adults, but no like rides or


You just walk through and you discover a place that is super weird.

Just check it out.

Meow Wolf is the name.

It exists in multiple cities.

And it's just a place that you can walk through and discover new things, new mind boggling

things in the place.

Just yeah, I cannot even describe it.

I went through this place for three hours, was constantly mesmerized, and I'm still

having a hard time describing it.

So that's the kind of stuff you also get to do with microcosm.

You get to expand your mind, either through alcohol, go karting, weed, or visiting a museum

of speculative history.

It was great.

And everything around the conference was well videoed.

There was a video team there.

Photography was happening.

Sound was amazing.

It was really well done.

And the hallway track, as usual, is the thing that you go to this conference for.

So yeah, microcosm, man, that was awesome.

I was glad to be a speaker at this because I got to hang out with the other speakers


But the thing is, everybody got to hang out with the speakers.

We were, and they were, extremely accessible because we were also just founders who want

to learn something at the conference.

And that's something you don't really get much at conferences like this.

Like Patrick Campbell, right?

When do you have access to a person who sold their business for nine million dollars?

Or not nine million dollars, sorry, for nine figures, for $200 million?

Well, you get access to them if you go to a conference like MicroConf where they just

hang out with you at the coffee station or something.

That's what, that's how that works.

And yeah, next year it's going to be in Atlanta and you can be very sure that I'm going to

be there because even though I might not speak, which I hope to do, because I just really

enjoy it, I might want to do a session like this again.

I still would like to go as just a participant to be part of this wonderful climate there.

So MicroConf was a glowing success.

I had an amazing time doing what I like doing, helping people help themselves, and I enjoyed

it a lot.

If you have any ideas, like what could be done next year or something, or if you want

to join, check out MicroConf Connect, which is a Slack that is free for you to join and

you can just hang out with people and chat with them all year round and then be part

of the actual MicroConf conference experience as well.

I think Rob has a book out, it was really nice.

There was a little swag bag for all of us speakers and one thing in there was a copy

of his latest book, I think it's called The SAS Playbook.

I think there are 25 copies of that book in existence and I own a signed one that is also

dedicated to me, which is just the most adorable thing.

I'm really, really happy that Rob did that.

And a couple of other things, it was just very thoughtful, like it's a wonderful, thoughtful

experience to be at this conference.

Huge shout out to Rob and Sander and Tracy and Liana and all the people behind the scenes

at the conference too.

I just had an amazing time.

So it's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about here today, because I just returned

from this thing and I think these kind of experiences are best conveyed fresh.

So that's it for today.

Thank you for listening to the Boots of Founder.

You can find me on Twitter at arvidkhale, A-R-V-I-D-K-H-L, you find my books and my

Twitter course there as well.

And if you want to support me and the show, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, get

the podcast in your podcast play of choice.

And most importantly, please leave a rating and a review by going to ratethispodcast.com

slash founder.

It will forward you to Apple podcasts or wherever this can be reviewed.

It would really help me to get more people to see this and then check it out.

Any of this will help the show.

So thank you very much for listening and have a wonderful day.

Bye bye.

Creators and Guests

Arvid Kahl
Arvid Kahl
Empowering founders with kindness. Building in Public. Sold my SaaS FeedbackPanda for life-changing $ in 2019, now sharing my journey & what I learned.
209: MicroConf US '23 Recap — What Happens When 250 SaaS Founders Meet
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