Here are my reflections on the recent Business of Software (BoS) conference I attended in Boston. First, this tweet summarizes what I think a lot of the speakers at BoS conveyed to us:
But passion is just one side of the equation; being thoughtful is the other. When you combine passion and thoughtfulness, you get art or human creativity.
The speakers at BoS were all artists, both very human and creative. My favorite stories were from:
- Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni, the creator of Balsamiq, who showed us how to love your family and your work both very much.
- Seth Godin, who again inspired me to focus our software even more on connecting people.
- Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, who showed how your first ideas are stepping stones to better ones.
- Dan Bricklin, creator of VisiCalc and President of Software Garden (which has produced Note Taker HD, currently one of the top 20 apps in the Apple app store), who showed us all how to fly through the ups and downs of your career.
- Derek Sivers, creator of CD Baby, told a story about how he formed his company culture early on and how that changed (everything) as he was less present to the company.
But most of all, I was moved by Joel Spolsky, one of the founders of Fog Creek and Stack Overflow. Joel gave a very personal accounting of the founding of Stack Overflow and many of the challenges the idea and software blossomed. Several ideas rang out for me from Joel’s story:
- There’s good and bad art. Simply creating is not enough. What you create should make life better. There must be value in what you do.
- In business, value is measured by profits, which is why the business side of software is just as creative as the engineering side. If you don’t have profits, you are not producing value and you cannot continue to try.
- The value you produce correlates to the values you hold and use to make decisions for your business — this is called leadership.
Though each of the speakers was very different and had different stories to tell with different lessons to be gleaned, each of them showed us their artistry, which stood out because we see what they’re doing as true.
For me, this year, the Business of Software conference was less about any clever insight than it was an inspiration to continuously learn and explore how our software business is the business of life. It’s about people: Our customers, employees and everyone we touch. And how each of these people want to create value. That’s the business of software.