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What stuck with me from SaaSiest 2022

Photos of people at SaaSiest, photo by Pierre Ekman

Last week, on the 20th and 21st of April, Saasiest 2022, the first-ever SaaS Nordic (in person) event was held at Slagthuset in Malmö. It was a great experience bringing together people from the vibrant SaaS community in the Nordics into one physical place. It was an energetic extravaganza with ideas, deep dives, and inspirational stories told left, right and center.

After a few days to reflect on all that went down, here are some takeaways from my first time at SaaSiest in 2022:

To go global, you must act local

Everyone there was there for a few reasons. Obviously, the extensive networking opportunities but also to learn from the successes and failures of others in the SaaS world. A common theme that emerged was that many companies have global ambitions. They want to expand and enter new markets to become significant players in markets outside of the Nordics.

Listening to Pål Malmros, partner at Verdane, and Øyvind Reed, CEO of Whereby, they shared many words of wisdom about how they were able to tackle new markets successfully. Most notably, the great white whale that is the US. The main thing that resonated with me, at least, was that despite the Nordics and the US sharing similar cultural features, they’re different. Especially when it comes to work-life and culture. So be aware and do not forget that. It sounds a bit obvious when you think about it, but globalism has allowed us to become culture blind at times. In essence, to go global, you’ve got to act like a local in each market (see Walmart’s expansion to Germany on what not to do).

Regarding cultural components, when it comes to expanding to new markets, Øyvind Reed had the brash advice to just go for it. See what happens. Learn from the experience, whether it goes well or is a nightmare. Then adapt when you try again. And this might be the most important one, ignore the tradition of Jantelagen. Shout your successes or learnings from the mountain tops, then get back to work.

Øyvind Reed at SaaSiest 2022, picture by Pierre Ekman
Photo: Pierre Ekman

A brand is your most important intangible asset

In SaaS, we typically think of our products as the most important intangible asset. Our users should enjoy their experience and how the product makes them feel. The same should be true when it comes to your brand. During the panel on brand building and positioning with moderator Anna Andersson, GM of Sköna, and a panel of Ling Koay, VP of Brand at Oneflow, Dafydd Prichard, Co-Founder of Cite & Julie Solem, Head of Brand Experience at Dixa, there were some valuable insights shared with attendees of SaaSiest.

Ling had this to say about your brand, “A brand is not your logo, website, colors, fonts, or buzz. A brand is your company’s most important asset that you can control. It’s your reputation. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room that influences their decision to choose you over your substitute.” The other panelists seemed to agree with this assessment as companies with strong brands can charge a premium for their products and services. See Apple, Dyson, YETI, and Starbucks, just to name a few…

Photo of Ling Koay at SaaSiest 2022, photo by Pierre Ekman
Photo: Pierre Ekman

Keep calm and carry on

Information overload. Connection fatigue. Constantly online syndrome? All are real things or sound like they could be. But it’s true. There are so many messages, emails, texts, blogs, websites, pop-ups, etc., that we are battered with daily. How do we sort through the blitzkrieg of bulletins? Or not get lost in the mayhem of messages? By keeping calm despite the chaos that we’re engulfed in.

Of course, that sounds wicked easy and so simple, once again. Yet, the world we operate in now, especially in SaaS, is inherently chaotic. We’re all dealing with it daily, yet it’s just a moment in time. It will pass. According to Nick Peters, VP of operations at Ardoq, the SaaS world is an ecosystem. One full of risks. Yet, we signed up for this journey. We cannot let perfect be the enemy of good. So just keep churning along. This theme of controlled chaos continued at SaaSiest.

Aaron Ross, the author of Predictable Revenue, echoed a similar sentiment. To sort through the noise, you have to have emotional smarts and find what energizes you. This looks different for each person and organization. Yet, the chaos turns down a bit if you can find people who are great at doing fewer things better, rather than a jack of all trades. In congruence with this, people should enjoy what they do, as we should work to live, not live to work.

aaron ross at SaaSiest, photo Pierre Ekman
Photo: Pierre Ekman

Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings

Every writer has had this quote drilled into them by professors, teachers or seen it somewhere. The quote should be shared in business schools as well. It’s relevant in many contexts. You’ve gotta know when to stop, move on, or pivot. Past success does not equal future success.

Louise Barnekow, CEO of Mynewsdesk, shared her story of how and why they had to restart their product and move in a new direction. It was interesting to hear as it’s clear that the news industry has undergone a massive shift. Hence, businesses adjacent to it would as well—her valuable insights on finding your core stuck with me. A company should try to maintain a challenger culture. It should be a place where people can still dare to take bold initiatives despite working within a defined structure. It’s about being lean but managing to take risks still as you age as an organization.

Nathan Latka moves a million miles a minute

Nathan Latka, CEO of Founderpath.com, started us off at 9 am on Wednesday with a lightning-quick jolt of energy. It was great to hear and understand the levers that you can pull to drive up the value of your organization. He has extensive experience of hearing how others did it and was sharing other success stories with us. Learning from the best can undoubtedly help you be the best. And there was a lot to learn from him and was a fantastic start to SaaSiest.

Nathan Latka at SaaSiest 2022, photo Pierre Ekman
Photo: Pierre Ekman

Would do it again – see you at SaaSiest 2023?

All in all, it was a great experience at SaaSiest 2022. It was my first time in Malmö, a quaint city on the water. I enjoyed the city center and met so many wonderful people. The exchanging of ideas, stories, and conversations was invaluable to those who work in SaaS. Listening to so many brilliant and talented people in two action-packed days was inspiring. Despite only being a few days removed from the event, I am certainly looking forward to the next one and will circle the date on my calendar as soon as it’s released. So a huge thanks to the awesome hosts, Thomas Sjöberg and Daniel Nackovski, who made it possible, the lovely attendees, and the solid venue that made it such an experience.

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