“Hey Bill, just wanted to tell you the redesign we rolled out increased your conversion rate 5%. So your ad people can now bid those extra €2 for your keyword…yeah, the one that takes out your competitor’s last stronghold. Should add up to a nice ~€10M by the end of Q4, not to mention the strategic advantage … Heh heh, that’s right… I love you too, man… No, it’s not over, I’ve got some more ideas… Sure, sure, you can pass my name along…”
Cam the Consultant hangs up with a grin, finishing his weekly chat with the ‘head of online’ at BMW, who pays eye-popping amounts of money to keep Cam on retainer. They met through another excellent client, Siemens – Cam was highly recommended because he understands the business side of code.
When Cam works with clients, he takes ownership of the larger business goals. He delivers. He stands out in the crowd of coders, where he’s often found because he loves attending events, and often give talks himself. His city is brimming with tech meetups and events, and startups are always chasing him with fulltime job offers, with no-joke equity – because he’s a respected thought-leader on his trendy tech stack.
Cam gets more work than he can do himself, so he passes it on to his buddy, Ron. They play electronic jazz in hip clubs together – one of the perks of living in an exciting big city.
Meanwhile, far from Cam’s swanky office… Cam’s former University-buddy Fred the Freelancer is waiting. Fred and Cam took the same CS courses; they even worked on projects together. Both stayed in software. But their post-Uni “life decision trees” rapidly diverged.
Fred is sitting at his desktop randomly surfing the web, waiting for emails and replies to his Odesk job bids…for another brochure site.
Fred is competent technically – he knows what Big-O and MVC are, and can search StackOverflow. But he never finds time to keep up with the latest tech stack – he’s stagnating. He hasn’t raised his hourly rates since he started ‘going at it alone’ five years ago. Which is the age of his tech stack too.
Without realizing it as the years rolled by, Fred now competes in a commoditized market, and pay the bills by taking whatever client he can get. Some clients really abuse him, making ever-expanding project requirements for the fixed fee he quoted.
He got his last client a while ago from the local church. Things are slow for him; getting clients by cold emails and fighting low bidders on Elance is not fun, so he does it halfheartedly.
As for Fred’s network – well, maybe his mom will find him another client; she definitely has more connections than him… He could drive his beaten-up Kia 100 km to the city to attend the one tech meetup they have every blue moon – but then he’d have to talk to people.
Even if he could find work, coding the same crappy catalog site with the picture of a smiling girl in a headset mic gets old.
Know people like Cam and Fred? We do. Like any industry, shrewd coders know there’s a “value chain” in the software business to level-up in – and that includes plenty of non-technical skills.
Plus we all know software is “eating the world.” Even flying solo, as a good coder you can create far more value – money and impact – than ever before. Probably more than in any other field.
You can live Cam’s life – with no lack of interesting, well-paid work, staying one step ahead of trends and market needs. Or you could create something that millions of people use and value. Or…maybe you’re not there yet. But you know it’s possible.
So what’s the difference between delivering like Cam, or scraping by like Fred? We think it starts from ambition and awareness – leading to learning, including of what people want – especially what non-coders want.
Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people.
David Packard, founder of HP
Sooner or later, a clever coder realizes that combining code with marketing and business skills – knowing what others want and value – is far more powerful than code alone. As Paul Graham put it, “…adding this ability to raw brainpower is like adding tin to copper. The result is bronze, which is so much harder that it seems a different metal.”
Thus we offer Hacker Retreat for coders wanting to learn more and deliver more:
Hacker Retreat is a career accelerator for location-independent working coders, offering 2 months of learning the high-leverage skills of marketing, and real networking. While still doing your usual client/project work!
Who is this for, who will be there? You’re a professional coder, located anywhere – and you know marketing-fu is what you need for better clients, or your next product/startup. At Hacker Retreat you’ll be surrounded by fellow coders and world-class mentors, learning and immediately applying software’s twin super-power: marketing. That includes business modeling, online marketing, copywriting, design and UX, analytics, and more. You’ll get the skills and tools needed to deliver more value.
It all takes place in the affordable awesomeness of Berlin, Germany – a world-class city, and the EU’s startup capital.
Apply now for the next batch, that starts May 1, 2014. After passing a short video-interview, you can look forward to unique combination of benefits, to boost what you earn and/or the value of your code.
The Hacker Retreat Goodies
You’re a serious coder – you make a living from code, you’re fluent in at least one language and tech stack, you read HN to stay current, etc.
You already know the usual career boosters. You’re tired of cheap productivity porn. We’ve been there too – and we wanted something better. So here’s what happens at Hacker Retreat:
Goodie 1: A structured context for faster learning
Everyone at Hacker Retreat commits at least 20% of their time to learning.
The remaining 80% is at-will – work on your remote job, or on a client project, or on your startup, etc.
But for at least a few hours every day (morning, evening, as you choose), we’re all committed to learning and applying marketing and business skills.
We, the facilitators, will actively match people to learn together.
Depending on your experience, your learning goals could mean the basics: business models, value propositions, psychology. For others, it could mean learning and practicing copywriting and content marketing – write and get that landing page critiqued immediately. Or setting up analytics and tools to track keywords and conversion. And so on.
From our experience teaching and learning at Hacker Retreat’s first batch, we know that in-person, face-to-face learning with peers works – and it’s something books, videos, and online courses will never deliver. Even in the uber-cerebral world of software, in the Interwebs Age, human contact is a huge advantage. It is even more so in marketing – which by definition is about other people.
Goodie 2: The mentors
You’ll hang out with world-class software AND marketing pros at Hacker Retreat. We bring in people who are expert coders, or who knew coding first and then mastered marketing.
The mentors will be ready to work with you, one-on-one or in small groups, during the 20% learning-time, and/or via workshops.
You’ll share structured and unstructured time with these folks over days, sometimes weeks. Compare that with workshops and conferences which don’t provide extended expert attention, never mind a lasting real connection.
Goodie 3: Real networking
Real-world beats online relations – it’s that simple.
If you’re a freelancer, consultant, bootstrapper, you’re not in school, nor in a regular job. In school and work, there were plenty of others like you. Leaving behind the classroom or cubicle farm, you gained freedom, while losing real-world ties.
But doing Hacker Retreat in-person with its shared purpose gets you back in a tribe – people who understand your work, know the challenges, and can share solutions. They’ll sit with you to read your copywriting. Or help track down that bug. Maybe suggest a better library; or show you a few tricks on an Adwords campaign. They’ll tell you to slow down when presenting. Or debate Bitcoin value with you over lunch, and grab a drink with you at midnight…
Take the best social interactions that could happen at a conference or meetup – those random chats at lunch or between lectures – and multiply the time/chances by 100 or so.
Goodie 4: Business networking
Want new work without the work? We’ll be inviting a few cool companies and agencies – from the EU and beyond – to come to Hacker Retreat.
They’ll be looking for solid software professionals like you. No chasing new contacts from a lower position of being unknown or cold-calling/emailing.
Instead, meet in an informal, peer-to-peer, straight-talk atmosphere with warm-intros, where meeting everyone is expected. And they’re coming to your office at Hacker Retreat, not the other way around.
Goodie 5: Berlin!
Seriously, Berlin rocks. We’ve done some traveling ourselves (including San Francisco and the Valley), and as coders, we wouldn’t want to be elsewhere.
Berlin has a vibrant tech scene. There are multiple tech meetups everyday with attendance in the hundreds. The city is well on-track to be the EU’s startup capital. There are headquarters from large companies such as Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Microsoft (Ventures) too.
If you are into culture (architecture, art, music, performance, you name it), history (see the Wall), nightlife, entertainment, parks – it’s all here.
And infrastructure – you won’t need a car, and bike-paths are everywhere.
You can get by in English, and there are people from all over the world here.
And it’s so darn cheap for a major Western capital city! 700-900 EUR/month covers housing, food, transit, and entertainment.
Marketing for Coders – Learning and Doing
Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.
What skills do you need to learn and practice to have serious marketing chops? Like coding, there are many levels, so we intend to bring in a variety of participants and mentors to ensure many perspectives and opportunities.
Even before the Retreat begins, we’ll chat with all participants to assess where they are and where they want to go. Here’s a broad list of topics/skills to build up:
Software as a business – mapping the value chain and finding your place in it.
Business-thinking basics: business models and the Business Model Canvas, value propositions. The overall goals of either boosting revenues or cutting expenses.
Understanding and choosing a market. Hacks to find, test, and understand market segments. Customer interviews.
Channels: social media, landing pages, emails. Techniques and tools. If you’ve spent any time on online marketing, you’ll have noticed the blogosphere’s focus on these. Our aim at the Retreat is to actually use and master the best of these tools.
Copywriting. Text still rules the Internet. Not only get regular practice in this at the Retreat, but get immediate, expert feedback.
UX and design. As any iStuff user knows, elegant simplicity and usability have value, and don’t arise accidentally. Practice the principles of a great UX and get immediate feedback.
Payments and sealing deals. ‘cuz at some point, value gets traded for currency.
We’re Dr. Jose Quesada and Dr. Kai Wu. We’re both neck-deep in the world of professional software engineering. We started working on Hacker Retreat in 2013 because we both believe in learning, mastery, and meeting great people – and having Hacker Retreat was the best platform for that. We’ve already run one batch of Hacker Retreat in Fall of 2013, and want to see it bigger and better.
The Price and Guarantee
The price to participate in Hacker Retreat is 1000 EUR/month. If that seems like a pittance for the value you’ll get, you’re who we’re looking for. We are confident that attendees will rapidly earn back multiples of the price.
Consider that a workshop or conference about coding or marketing can easily cost 500 EUR/day.
A fixed desk in a Berlin co-working space costs 200-400 EUR/month. That includes no learning of high-value skills, no vetted community, no shared purpose, and certainly no mentoring from world-class experts.
Combined with living costs, you’re looking at 1700-2000 EUR/month while you’re here. Try living on that in NYC, SFBA, London, Paris, or Dublin (fair comparisons? Not really – we think Berlin is cooler).
BTW: if, after two full-time weeks here, you don’t agree that there’s value at Hacker Retreat for you, we’ll give you a pro-rated refund. However, we think that after we video-chat with one another we’ll all know whether Hacker Retreat is a good fit for you or not.
You can do the math on our business model – this is not a massively scalable, distributed, semi-friendly-AI startup that we’re doing to get Google-rich. We’re doing this because we want Hacker Retreat for ourselves, and because we take learning seriously. And in any case, if the fee is a huge hurdle or you see it as a cost instead of an investment, HRet is likely not right for you at this point.
Get on board Hacker Retreat
Ready to accelerate your coding career? Apply now for the batch that starts May 1st, 2014! We’ll set up an interview time to make sure we are a good fit for each other.