We Built a Web App in 2 Weeks: SaaS North 2018

What: SaaS North: Canada’s only SaaS (Software as a Service) conference for scaling up.
When: November 28–29th 2018
Where: Shaw Centre, Ottawa ON

Event Recap

On Tuesday, November 27th we set up our booth for what was to be our most anticipated event of the year—SaaS North 2018. Conveniently for us, it was held at the Shaw Centre—just a stone’s throw away from our Ottawa office. Last year, Leanne (Marketing Lead) attended the conference to scope it out. She was impressed by the scale of the event, and found the tech-oriented topics of the keynotes and seminars extremely relevant and thought-provoking. We knew Speedyrails needed to be there in 2018!

SaaS North’s program, speakers, and networking opportunities “promise to connect you with the best opportunities to grow, learn, and meet funders, founders, and executives”. The conference provides the tactical tools you need to scale-up, innovate, and find your next customer—all important things for tech companies to know! Event numbers were pretty impressive: there were over 1350 attendees, 500 companies, 70 speakers, and 40 sessions. SaaS North 2018 even had its own mobile app. You could use the app to participate in a scavenger hunt (a great networking and lead-generation opportunity), connect with attendees, create your own event schedule (so you wouldn’t miss any sessions you wanted to see), and even provide feedback on every session, in real time. Although it was a little glitchy, the app definitely added to the prestige of the event.

The conference provided plenty of opportunities for networking with attendees, sponsors, and organizers. There was a networking event every evening, including a welcome reception at Sidedoor the day before the event officially kicked off. Free drink tickets and open bars were abundant—a tactic that helped get people talking. Our favourite networking event was “The Party” at the Ottawa Art Gallery—a stunning new building in the heart of downtown. Besides drinking, dancing, and munching on hors d’oeuvres,  you could go on a free gallery tour and hit up a poutine bar for a taste of Canada’s most iconic food.

“SaaS North knows how to put on an excellent conference. For two years in a row, I’ve been very impressed with the attention-to-detail and organization of the event. I also appreciate that they have a variety of session streams—this makes the conference appeal to a wider audience. Whether you are a developer, business owner, funder, marketer, designer, or in sales, there will be seminars and panels that are relevant to your line of work.”

—Leanne, Marketing Lead

SaaS North sessions asked hard questions, challenged startups and established businesses to connect and grow using research, and encouraged networking. This inspired us to create our own scavenger hunt activity that stuck to these values—to go beyond simply spinning a wheel for a swag item. After some brainstorming, our team decided to pose a question of our own: “Where does your data live?”. We wanted to give our booth visitors practical insights into their website, as well as the resources to improve it. Where you host your website or application matters: countries have varying privacy laws, location affects your SEO, and, depending on where your site visitors and customers live, can affect the speed of your site.

Our team worked together to bring this idea to life. We decided the best way to do this was to create a web application to use at our booth. Visitors would submit a URL of their choice, and we would give them website results in real time. Leanne and Sarah (Graphic Designer and Marketing Specialist) worked on the user experience and content, while Stephen and Yoshi (Developers) created the web app and an interactive map that displayed the results from the app. It took a lot of hard work, late nights, and hustle, but we got this app conceptualized and pushed out in two weeks. Here’s how we did it:

Creating the Web App

Our main goals for the project were to:

  • Create value for those that participated
    • Give instant insight into their website so they can ask us in-person questions
    • Provide an in-depth report to bring back to their company and use to optimize their websites
    • Encourage them to take action with an exclusive promo for Speedyrails services
  • Gain valuable insights into Ottawa businesses’ websites—what are trends we could use for educational purposes?
  • Connect on a deeper level with Ottawa and Canada-wide businesses—to make contacts and create partnerships

The process:

We began by asking ourselves some questions:

  • What metrics do we measure our own site by?
  • What would we find helpful from a web app like this?
  • What delivery method would be the most beneficial to participants?

The answers to these questions guided our app development. We created a form for participants to easily submit their name, email, and URL. With this data, the app analyzed their information in real time, and provided on-the-spot results. We even displayed the results on an interactive map at our booth, to show where SaaS North attendees’ data “lives”. To follow up, we emailed participants their custom reports with recommendations to improve and optimize their websites. This report allows the participant to easily share the results and recommendations with their team, and to implement improvements as needed. After lots of user-testing and putting the app through some tough tests, it was ready to go.

“The web app we developed for SAAS NORTH was built with Angular. For such a small app, I originally thought Angular might have been overkill. I considered using smaller JS frameworks and libraries. I also considered using plain old HTML + CSS + vanilla JavaScript. Ultimately, I decided that Angular was fine for the project because of how much experience we have with the framework, and how quickly we would be able to get the app up and running. I think using Angular was the right decision since the app worked well and did its job. I had a lot of fun seeing people use the app and get feedback about their websites in real time.”

— Stephen, Lead Software Developer

We found out where SaaS North Attendees’ data lives!

As promised, we gathered the results from this activity and posted our thoughts and recommendations on our website. We also talk about why the metrics we chose are important, so you can make informed decisions when it comes to improving your website!

“It was my first time building something that would go live on such a tight schedule. I’m happy we pulled it off—it was a great experience. I think more than anything, the conference really helped us come together and work as a team. There was a lot of coordination required to make everything come together, and it will definitely improve the way we work together in the future.”

—Yoshi, Developer & Co-op Student

Final Thoughts

We really enjoyed our time at SaaS North 2018. The tech community is full of passionate people, and the expertise shared by established players at the conference fell on welcome ears. If the sessions from this year interest you, we recommend checking out what’s in store for 2019 once details are released.

I found some particularly helpful insights in the talk by Patrick Campbell (the Co-Founder and CEO of ProfitWell, the industry standard software for helping companies like Atlassian, Autodesk, Meetup, and Lyft with their monetization) called “Customer Acquisition is Dead, Pricing and Retention are the Future of Scaling” Although the talk was definitely more sales-driven, which I was expecting to be less relevant to a designer like myself, the speaker was well-informed and used good data to back up the recommendations he made, while making it understandable to all. Having come from a background of research, I appreciated the way he mentioned the sample sizes and used graphics to better visualize the results. There was a list of takeaways that were helpful and applicable to many departments—I shared them with the team after the event.

— Sarah, Marketing & Design Specialist

Thinking about getting a booth at SaaS North 2019?

“It was an excellent event to be part of. It was great to meet our customers, friends, and so many SaaS companies and entrepreneurs. We will definitely be back next year!”

—Maykel, Founder & CEO

Attending SaaS North as an exhibitor is a super smooth experience. Communication from organizers was always clear and timely, and the booths are turn-key, meaning they do most of the set-up for you. You just have to bring your own marketing materials and swag—everything else is covered! We had so many great conversations with conference attendees and other exhibitors at the event. Although the exhibitor floor was a bit quieter during event sessions, lunchtime and happy hour proved to be a great time to chat with others! The event is what you make it, but there is plenty of opportunity to generate leads and create authentic connections. One thing’s for sure: this is a conference that we’ll keep coming back to. See you next year, SaaS North!

Want to find out where your data lives? Contact us for a personalized website report—just like the ones we sent to SaaS North attendees!