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The ACE! format has been an important part of the brand ever since it was introduced. It’s worked so well that it’s been copied by many other technical conferences all over Europe. It used to be that all conferences had two or more tracks of 60-minute talks ending with Q&A sessions. Now it seems like half of them use the ACE! format of one track of 30-minute talks with no Q&A but with open spaces instead. So why is the conference that invented this successful format abandoning it?

The community is becoming more diverse

As the tech scene in Poland has matured, healing it’s become harder and harder to curate content that is appropriate for everyone. Six years ago we could ask Pawe? Brodzi?ski to introduce people to Kanban and everyone would find it interesting. This year we’ll have attendees who have been using Kanban for five years as well as people who still haven’t heard of it. Having three tracks makes it far more likely that everyone will find something to interest or inspire them.

Our interests are expanding

The scope of relevant content has grown. Six years ago we all wanted to “do agile better” and so the talk was all about processes and tools. Then the conversation started including various aspects of craftsmanship. Then we become aware of how important people were to the process and included content on collaboration, implant teamwork, leadership, and culture. This year, I’m broadening the content even more. One track just can’t contain so much depth and breadth.

We’re still mostly getting it wrong

Finally, after a decade of creating great web applications that mostly fail, I’ve become very aware that there’s more to software than craftsmanship and execution. It doesn’t matter how clean your code is or how efficient your process is if no one wants what you’re making. Most software is still driven by the vision of a founder or by the machinations of marketing, and only after it’s launched do we learn if the vision was reality or fantasy. There are techniques that can be learned that reduce the risk of building the wrong thing.

This year, in part because I have taken over the growth of a startup myself (Kanbanery.com) and because of the exponential growth of the startup communities in Poland, I was tempted to launch a new startup conference using the ACE! format (I was going to call it LeanUX Poland). But after talking to sponsors at some of Krakow’s largest companies, I learned that companies of all sizes struggle with product development issues and would like their employees to be more aware of how to create things which delight customers.

The best of both worlds, two conferences in one!

Therefore, rather than organizing two one-track events, ACE! will offer the best of both. The Building Software Better track features all the process, people and craftsmanship content that you expect from ACE!, and the new Building Better Products track brings ideas from Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Customer Development, Design Ethnography, and LeanUX to teach us better ways of understanding our customers’ needs, desires, and environments so that we build the right thing the first time. By now we all know that we’re supposed to “get out of the building” as Eric Ries puts it, but I meet very few people who know what to do once they’re out there. Come and learn.

But wait, there’s more!

And, finally, motivated by Marcin Floryan’s #NoLearning talk last year, I’ve added a workshop track, so attendees can get hands-on experience with some of these new techniques. Because you haven’t really learned it until you’ve done it.

A special offer for Startups*

I’d really like to help the local startups to incorporate these Lean Startup and LeanUX toolkits into their practice, and I know that the cost of the conference can be prohibitive. Therefore I’m making this offer, available only to pre-funded and pre-profit startups. Write me an email. Tell me what your startup is about and what you want to learn at ACE! and what you can afford to pay, and I will do my best to find a way to get you into the conference. The fixed costs (hotels, accounting, travel, PR) of organizing an event like this are high, but the variable costs (coffee, lunch, and a t-shirt) are not, and so if you want to be there, but your company can’t afford the 350 Euros for a ticket, I’m sure we can find a way to get you in.

*Is my company a startup? Here’s how I define a startup: If all your cash is going into growth, you’re a startup. If you’re not yet profitable and you haven’t gotten outside funding from angels or VCs, then you’re eligible for this offer. If you’re unsure, just ask me.