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Lessons Learned From Bootstrapping a Conference Part 1

By Ninh Bui on August 16th, 2012

Little over a month ago, we announced BubbleConf 2012, a conference for tech startups on design, development and experience sharing. Speakers include Zed Shaw, Laurent Sansonetti, Amy Hoy, Anton Zykin and many more.

In this first behind the scenes blog post, we look back at how BubbleConf came to be. We’ll also elaborate on the process of determining the themes and the conf’s visual identity.

Themes

During our time as a startup, we’ve come across some pretty amazing companies and individuals from whom we’ve been able to learn and grow as entrepreneurs and developers. BubbleConf was basically the result of wanting to bring these people together to inspire an audience that had the same hunger to learn and grow as a tech company as we did.

Even though there are already many conferences out there dedicated to one of these topics, we strongly felt that they should be addressed in a combined manner instead of as separate topics. Anyone who has ever engaged in founding a tech startup will after all have likely run across one of these topics at one point in time.

This should become more apparent when considering that developing a tech product in-house requires programming and design, as much as it requires legal and marketing to be able to sell it. The product itself basically resides at the intersection of these themes and it is for this reason we decided to try to tackle all of them in an introductory and applicable manner.

Making it affordable and accessible

Comparable conferences dedicated to one of BubbleConf’s topics usually cost over a $1000 to attend. Having bootstrapped Phusion, we know how large an amount $1000 can be: will you spend it on server hosting of your SaaS or to meet new people? The latter of the options usually loses and in our opinion, rightly so, but “build it and they will come” may not be sufficient for everyone. An approach involving the lessons learned from the mistakes and successes of existing entrepreneurs however, may very well increase your odds at having a successful startup.

We strongly feel that knowledge like this should be as accessible as possible. This is the main reason why we wanted BubbleConf to cost no more than $200 to attend within the early bird period and I’m happy to see we’re able to make this work without having to make compromises on things like the venue and speakers.

A conference with international attendance in one of the most beautiful theaters in the Netherlands at a fraction of the cost of comparable conferences is — as you may have guessed — not an easy undertaking. The reason why we’re able to pull something off like this is because we’re treating the conference itself as a bootstrapped startup. Bootstrapped in the sense that each ticket sale allows us to do something bigger and better for the conference. This approach has allowed us to fly over some of the most exciting people in both development and design to come share their warstories in a just-in-time manner. Our weekly speaker announcements are basically a direct result from this approach. This has for the most part been made possible by our early bird attendees who have entrusted us in delivering an awesome conference. We are extremely grateful to them and will do our best to not disappoint.

Identity

In determining an identity for BubbleConf, we have teamed up with Juanma Teixido. Witnessing Juanma’s diligent approach in researching and creating an identity is in itself a memorable experience. Pictures in this case say more than a thousand words:

Juanma has also been responsible for designing the collateral and the final site which is currently being implemented by Andre Foeken of Nedap. Needless to say, we can’t wait to see it live in all its retina glory! Stay tuned for further design updates.

Stay tuned

This concludes our first post on our experiences in setting up BubbleConf. Stay tuned for further updates on BubbleConf, or better yet, buy a ticket today to experience our conf first hand on October 12th and to enjoy the early bird discount. With about 2 months left to go, we still have plenty of updates for you in store in terms of speakers and programme. Not ready to commit just yet? Consider signing up to BubbleConf’s mailing list instead to stay in the loop.

A rising tide lifts all boats

As corny as it may sound, we genuinely hope to be able to entice startups to go about in creating the next best thing since sliced bread. This is basically our celebration of entrepreneurship and our way of trying to grow the startup scene in the Netherlands and its direct surroundings. Why? Because we ourselves are part of it as well and we believe a rising tide lifts all boats.

  • Great article, I look forward to the conference, thank you for all the hard work