Quoleady at SaaStr: Here’s How to Make the Most of It

Olga Mykhoparkina photo

Olga Mykhoparkina

Feb 01, 2022

We love traveling at Quoleady, our SaaS SEO agency. Whenever we have an opportunity to get away from our everyday routine and see a new place we jump right on it. Sometimes it’s a single-day round trip to a nearby city like our Kyiv trip today (No WiFi here so I’ll spend 5 hours on a train writing this article). Other times, it’s a Quoleady team meet-up in Belgrade where digital faces we see on Zoom calls turn into real people.

A few months ago, we had an amazing trip to San Francisco and nearby San Jose, home of SaaStr Annual, that required a whopping 16-hour flight and changing 10 time zones. That’s the one I’ll share with you today. 

What is SaaStr?

SaaStr is a well-known event among SaaS marketing agencies, SaaS founders, engineers, marketing gurus, and venture capitalists. Started by Jason Lemkin back in 2012 as a simple blog, it is now a massive event that gathers thousands of SaaS enthusiasts all over the world twice a year. 

SaaStr Annual usually takes place in San Jose, California. There’s also a SaaStr Europa event happening in Europe in the summer.

SaaStr Europa was the first SaaS event I went to. My SaaS journey started with Chanty – a team collaboration tool. As a CMO of the company, I was responsible for taking it from 0 to 10K sign-ups. Back in the day, we were looking for SaaS events to inspire our team. We didn’t have much knowledge on how to grow a SaaS but we did have a great will to do everything it takes to make it happen. A simple Google search led us to find the SaaStr website and the next thing I remember I was booking tickets to Paris.         

The story behind – SaaStr in Paris

Paris was great, although a bit cold which didn’t bother us much as we spent the entire days inside—networking, chatting, and listening to SaaS gurus. I loved the brain dates. In fact, I liked them even better than the actual speeches as it was a great way to listen and interact, discuss and share experiences. This is how I met great SaaS people that I still chat with once in a while. I also got featured on the SaaStr ad:

SaaStr post on social media

Overall, my key takeaways from SaaStr Paris have been:

1. Stand out. People won’t remember your name, your company let alone what it does. They will remember, however “that girl walking around with llama” (now, our friend and client Emilia Korczynska, head of marketing at UserPilot) or “that team in the rainbow costumes”.

2. Don’t raise your expectations too high. I might not be the best salesperson in the world as we didn’t close a single deal during SaaStr. However, I treat it more like a chance for networking, brand awareness, and PR rather than a sales channel.

3. Add people to LinkedIn rather than the SaaStr app. Don’t get me wrong, the SaaStr app is great but it goes dead silent once the conference is over. LinkedIn doesn’t. So the next time someone tells me “Let me scan your badge” (like someone at Calendly booth) I ask them to scan their LinkedIn QR code first. If you don’t know how to do it, here’s a short guide: 

How to get a LinkedIn QR code?

1. Open your LinkedIn mobile app
2. Tap into the search field, you’ll see a box icon on the right-hand side
3. Click the box icon
4. Your LinkedIn QR code will be displayed. People will be able to scan it with their devices.
You can also share it or save it to photos. 

Olga Mykhoparkina's, a founder of Quoleady, LinkedIn QR code

How to scan a LinkedIn QR code?

1. Open your LinkedIn mobile app
2. Tap into the search field, you’ll see a box icon on the right-hand side
3. Click the box icon
4. Click “Scan”
5. Scan someone else’s LinkedIn QR code
6. LinkedIn will open a LinkedIn profile of that person. Now you can send a connection request. I recommend asking your connection to confirm your request while chatting at the event. 

This way we can connect on LinkedIn, engage with each other’s posts which encourages further networking.

4. Interview someone cool. I’ve done it at other events (e.g. interview with a well-known growth hacker Josh Fechter) and I’ve seen people do it on SaaStr. It requires some effort like messaging the influencer in advance, agreeing on the interview questions, and getting ready with the equipment (or at least an iPhone and a set of mics for two). 

5. Be active. I am always surprised when I see people silently typing on their Macs during a conference. To me, it’s the time when you chat your tongue off, smile so much that it hurts in the evening, and make use of every opportunity that comes around. 

Drink a strong cup of coffee (or two) and put on your go-getter hat. It’s not a place to be shy. Start conversations; you never know if that girl across the table at lunch is your potential client. Hang your company ad on the pin wall, whether it’s an open job position or your sales brochure. Take part in the contests – there’s a high chance you’ll win.

Speaking of winning, that’s how we got our SaaStr tickets for 2021. My teammate at Chanty made a post on Twitter, added a #SaaStr hashtag, and got dozens of people to like it. That was it, it turned out our little effort was the biggest in the room. We got three tickets for the SaaStr Annual in San Jose worth thousands of dollars? 

SaaStr Annual 2020 or 2021? 

We got off the plane in New York in March 2020 just to realize that SaaStr Annual got canceled. The COVID craze has just started and 1000+ people gatherings were the first to shut down. Although it didn’t go that well, we got to do some sightseeing as it was our first time in New York. Luckily, our SaaStr tickets got transferred to 2021.

Fast forward to 2021 and the new COVID reality – vaccine certificates, COVID tests, masks, and temperature checks – have become the new normal. SaaStr admins made sure the event would be as safe as possible. It took us a lot of effort to prepare for the SaaStr Annual 2021. Here’s what we’ve done:

1. The content marketing dresses. Not only did we make the custom dresses. We put our actual blog articles into designs and custom-made prints on the fabric. Then we got a tailor to make those dresses. I can officially say it was the most expensive dress in my life ?

2. The growing pencils. It’s an actual pencil with mint, pepper, and tomato seeds on the other side. It has our logo on it, you stick it into the soil and grow into a natural plant (while we grow your traffic with content).

Quoleady's promotional material

3. The content checklists. A simple checklist for SaaS content marketers to ensure they are doing everything it takes to get the best results for their blog. There was also our promo on the flip side with a QR code.  

Mixing pleasure and work: Silicon Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco 

I like the work-comes-first approach when planning my business trips so normally it would be three days at the event + 1-2 days of sightseeing. I’m happy we did the exact opposite this time. When you are a little over 30, let’s face it, jet lag could take its toll and boom – you can’t function in the afternoon. At least, that’s what happened to us during the first three days once we landed.

However, by day three, we were back to life and full of energy, living on the Californian clock aka natives. 8-hour non-stop chat? No problem. After-party at 8 pm (4 am our time back home)? Absolutely. If you are changing 10 time zones flying to an event I totally recommend sightseeing first.

Speaking of which, Northern California is a hell of a sightseeing place. We took this fantastic tour to Yosemite (my birthday present from my Quoleady partner, Iryna) where we were awed by the massive mountains, the largest trees in the world, and breathtaking views.

Wandering in the national park’s forests and streams, we ran into a baby bear that was both scary and exciting. Luckily, the mother bear wasn’t around so we got back to the bus OK. Honestly, I keep on googling ‘What do you do if you meet a bear’ even today and I can’t get it – do you lie down and pretend dead or do you stay tall and try to scare her away?

The San Francisco city was nothing like I expected. I thought it would be huge and busy like New York. Instead, we’ve barely seen people on the streets, the weather was changing every minute, the wind was our constant companion and the number of homeless people was overwhelming. It was the first impression. Paired with jet lag, I must confess, I didn’t like it that much.   

Then we met our client Dennis, the CEO of RingBlaze and things got better. All of a sudden we saw San Francisco in a new light with delicious food and unique sights like Alcatraz Island, Twin Peaks, and the Golden Gate. We also tapped into the lives of Facebook, Google, and Apple visiting their campuses (you can actually take the Google bike for a ride which we were late to realize).

The Golden Gate bridge

Alcatraz cell house 

Steve Job’s house

Google campus

Our days at SaaStr

Three days later when we’ve seen the sights and met our client, it was time to move to San Jose, where SaaStr Annual was taking place. We picked a hotel nearby so we can walk to the event and went to bed early as the next few days were supposed to be overwhelming.

“I love your dresses!!” We kept hearing it at every booth we went by. Our dresses turned out to be the perfect ice breakers so starting a conversation was a breeze on our first day there. I don’t think I’ve ever had more chats than on this day. We spoke with Microsoft, Calendly, Intercom, Loom, MailChimp, and many others.

My LinkedIn app wasn’t that active in a long while. We connected with dozens of people that we still stay in touch with today. We got the motivation we’ve craved and the right spirit to kick-start the Q4 at Quoleady.

To summarize, there are many great things about SaaStr:

  • The event is focused on equality and inclusion making it possible for under-represented groups to apply for its balance program.  
  • It’s an excellent opportunity for SaaS founders to pitch their products to VCs and get funded. 
  • If you have some great SaaS insights to share it’s also an excellent opportunity for speakers – make sure to apply in advance
  • If you are a VC, SaaStr is definitely a place to look for promising startups craving for funds
  • If you are a brand renting a booth it’s an excellent opportunity to grow brand awareness, book a couple of dozen demos on the spot that hopefully will turn into clients
  • If you are an attendee it’s a great chance for you to grow your network, learn something new, get motivated as well as bring home lots of swag ?

The cons of SaaStr Annual:

  • If you chatted in the booths as much as we did, get ready for too many promotional emails waiting in your inbox upon your return
  • Jet lag works both ways, prepare to adjust when you arrive back home (if traveling to Europe)
  • If you are an attendee looking for sales and ROI it most likely won’t be there. It’s more about connecting with like-minded people and growing your network    

SaaStr changed us in many ways

At the end of our trip, it seemed like we got this Californian glow – the whiter teeth, the smoother skin, the wider smiles.

But then we removed the Faceapp filters and got back to being ourselves ?

If you decide to visit SaaStr in the future, whether it’s Annual or Europa, we wish you to have a blast making as many great connections as possible!

Olga Mykhoparkina photo

Olga Mykhoparkina

Founder, CEO

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