Rails SaaS Debrief: The Conference that Rewrote the Rulebook


tl;dr: Get in on the Ground Floor: The Rise of the European Rails Conference Circuit You're Not Part of (Yet!)

7 minute read

Hello, World (again)!

It happens very rarely that I don’t know how to start a blogpost.

Normally, I can’t shut up when it comes to writing. Like a bad date, I just keep on blabbing.

However, the Rails SaaS conference left me as tongue-tied as a politician on truth serum.

This event didn’t just raise the bar. It drop-kicked it into the stratosphere!

Oh hey, I managed to start the blogpost after all! Game on! 😎

Back in the early 2000s, I used to be your typical bored-outta-my-skull Java programmer, stuck in a soul-sucking 9-5 cubicle nightmare situation, where the highlight of my day was clock-watching.

Then Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and Getting Real came along. They turned my life upside down overnight.

I’m suddenly globe-trotting, working remotely, coding Ruby on Rails and having the time of my life. So thrilling, I couldn’t help but blog about it non-stop, like a teenager with a new crush.

Then life happened, and I took a little breather from the blogosphere for, oh… about FOURTEEN years. Yeah, 14. One-four.

Not even crypto, AI, or ChatGPT could get my keyboard smoking again, especially with every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s grandpa chattering about them.

But hold onto your hats, folks - the thrill is back and it’s got a €uro accent.

It’s bananas to consider that Europe, the homeland of Rails’s creator and a truckload of Rails devs, didn’t have a dedicated Rails conference. Ever. 1

Until now.

2023 said ‘hold my beer,’ and bam - not one, but TWO kickass Rails conferences popped up in Europe: Rails SaaS and Rails World.

Late to the party? Sure, but they’re here and they’re about to bring the house down!

We just wrapped up the Ruby on Rails SaaS Conference in Athens, and I’m here to talk about my experience.

The Recipe

  • Choose a niche. Something Goldilocks would approve - not too big, not too small, just right. For example “Ruby on Rails gurus tackling SaaS”
  • Snag an A-list venue. A hotel in the vibrant Plaka neighborhood of Athens, with a direct view of the Acropolis works (who would have tought?!)
  • Reel in some no-BS speakers. Straight from the trenches.
  • Add top-notch video wizards to capture the magic.
  • Slap the final cut on YouTube. Gratis!

So what’s the catch? Spoiler alert: there ain’t one!

Soon enough, the chatter changes from ‘Rails doesn’t scale’ to straight-up FOMO.

Seeing a bunch of excited people come together to share their passion for Ruby on Rails, THE damn best full-stack framework for rapid prototyping and running a SaaS while having immense fun!

Roaming rooftop bars with an Acropolis view, like Dionysus on a winery tour in the clouds? Andrew to the rescue.

Island hopping like Odysseus on a caffeine-fueled odyssey? Adrian has always something up his sleeve.

Gorging on Greek food like Zeus on a cheat day? Petros is your man.

What’s not to love?

good times in Athens

Veni, vidi, vibed.

I’m sold.

This shit works!

Moar please!

The Good, the Better, and the out-of-this-(Rails)-world!

  • Speakers: We had everything from hustlers still earning their beachside mojitos to high-rollers who could retire yesterday, all bound by one superpower: they know their SaaS game.
  • Real talk: Cut the crap, get real, and make it useful was the mantra. More than one attendee I talked to was like, ‘Whoa, I’m wrestling that exact issue right now!’
  • Creator Diversity: We had a badass buffet of talents, from keyboard warriors eating code for breakfast to ops/biz whizzes going WrooMRR.
  • People Power: This wasn’t some ‘Andrew Culver & Co.’ show, it was a straight-up ‘power to the people’ vibe. Zero gatekeeping, zero snobbery, just cool folks hanging out.
  • Random Chats: We dished on everything from philosophy to finances, kids to Kyoto trips. I’m a code-head evolving into a people-person, and this crowd was my social playground!
  • Ad-Hoc Activities: Coffee. Food. Rooftop Bars. Strolls. Island Hopping. There was always something going on!
  • Community Building: The organizers went out of their way to make sure no one eats or sits in the corner alone.
  • Free Photoshooting: Felt like a Vanity Fair cover gig without the designer threads.
  • Rewards: Look, I enjoy seeing tenderlove perform live as much as the next person. It’s like standup comedy with a RoR twist! Same for other Rails heavyweights. But recognizing less visible members of the community, toiling their asses off in the background - HELL Yeah! (Grüezi, Marco! Hallo, Julian! Bon dia, Xavi!)

Image credits: https://twitter.com/marcoroth_, https://twitter.com/julian_rubisch ,https://twitter.com/fxn

I’m pumped up like a kid on a sugar rush.

If a conference does that to me, it’s more than just ‘good’. It’s like finding the last slice of pizza!

Biting my nails for the encore, folks!

Future Ideas

Some of these ideas are not Rails SaaS conf specific.

Some of them might be difficult, time consuming, or even impractical to implement.

Thus, this is more of a brainstorming - and no bad ideas in brainstorming, right?

  • Let’s get the party started early - kick-start that Slack chat before the conference. Encourage people to tell fun facts/tidbits about themselves (on top of the obvious info - like what are they working on.) Sets up conversations smoother than a jazz lounge track.
  • Show and tell schedule - Yeah, I know it’s as fickle as a cat with a laser pointer, but a rough timeline early on would be sweet. Speaker line up, food times, after-conf activities, that sort of stuff
  • Team play - Let’s make sure no one’s riding solo. Maybe a speed-dating-style mixer? Just less awkward.
  • Future forecast - “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”. But. If there’s a hint of a fun event, drop a line! If I’d known about that Saturday island-hopping gig earlier, I would’ve stayed put.
  • The foodie fight - Sure, meal times at these things can resemble a mosh pit, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to elevate our game and try to make it a wee bit more organized.
  • New kid on the block - RailsConf nailed it with a ‘first-timer’ badge. Made them easy to spot so we could swoop in and play welcoming committee.
  • Wing(wo)man system - think ‘new kid badge’ v2.0
  • Hallway track - Looks like I was the only one taking it seriously! LOL. Make it more official/prominent. Had a long and awesome discussion with Alex who suggested discussing all sorts of diverse topics one-on-one, or small groups could be a separate event (to evite FOMO). I concur.
  • Post-conf pow wow - encourage people to connect, follow up, and keep up the convo. A dedicated slack channel, where everyone can drop their info/socials might help.

I’m working on an app to address some of the above points. Using Bullet Train and Avo, of course. More on that later.


Ladies first.

Carly! I know firsthand that ‘behind every successful man, there’s a kickass woman’ ain’t no joke. I’m a grade-A, certified loony, and my wife’s patience with me is nothing short of miraculous. We’re a dynamic duo, just like you and Andrew. Keep on keeping on!

Vanesa and Emily. Who would’ve guessed they are the new kids on the block? More like event-planning ninjas, making it all look like a walk in the park.

Now the fellas!

Adam’s MC skills were top-shelf and he’s as approachable as a friendly barista. Didn’t get to shoot the breeze much - but there’s always next time, <switch on OZ accent> mate!

Tom not only did he nail his talk, but also went full-on Yoda, offering to share his hard-earned SaaS wisdom with a mastermind group. Boss move!

Andrew - duh. I’m pretty sure the Energizer bunny was modeled after this dude. High-voltage vibes, round the clock. Much love for pulling this off, man!

Until Next Time…

Is the Rails SaaS conf everyone’s cup of tea? Nah. But if you are an indie maker, creator, bootstrapper, involved, interested in or just curious about the Rails SaaS scene, odds are, you’re gonna dig it.

Did it hit the bullseye? Maybe not quite, but damn close! And if there’s a squad with the grit and gumption to polish this gem to perfection, it’s the folks running the Rails SaaS Conf show.

Rails is not only not-dead - It’s taking Europe (an the world) by storm.

I’m buckled up and ready for this bullet train ride.

You coming?

My Timeless Thanks

Big ups to the crew who eyeballed my rough cut and dished out some grade A pointers:

Adrian Marin, Amanda Perino, Andrew Culver, Jorge Manrubia, Julián Cheal, Miles Woodroffe, Nate Hopkins, Petros Amoiridis, Pooria Rashidi, Tom Rossi

Swiped a couple of snaps from Adrian Marin, Julián Cheal, Xavi Noria, Julian Rubisch, and Marco Roth.

Shoutout to Πέτρος (Petros) for serving up that Olympus-worthy feast captured in the pic! See ya in Thessaloniki, brother.

❤️ ya all!


1: Hats off to Andrew Culver for the history lesson - turns out there was a Euro Ruby on Rails conf in 2008. Fine, the Rails SaaS Conf wasn’t the trailblazer, but 2008? That’s like Zeus’s heyday in RoR terms. I reckon my point still got its boots on.


tl;dr: Get in on the Ground Floor: The Rise of the European Rails Conference Circuit You're Not Part of (Yet!)

7 minute read



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