Top 8 1/2 Things I Learned at SaaStr Annual 2016
The world of SaaS descended upon San Francisco this week, as the ever growing SaaStr Annual kicked off for its second year. Lead by ex-founder, now VC, Jason Lemkin, it was a great show combining all the best the cloud has to offer in a very “real world examples way” and had almost 5,000 execs in attendance. Here are the top 8 1/2 things I learned as a first time attendee.
8. In B2B, Generating Leads is More Science Than Art
In a packed (and I mean standing room only), uber-smart CMO Meagen Eisenberg delivered a talk on basically everything lead generation. It was pretty incredible to see how generating leads has evolved to a real science, and that you need to know what is happening every step of the way to ensure you are maximizing your results. A key best practice she recommended was to map out your lead flow process, because you would be surprised how many ways things can go wrong. If you want to see her full presentation, here is one on slideshare.
7. Vision is Important, But Know Your Unit Economics
Legendary 5-time entrepreneur David Skok went through a blistering and informative talk on everything you need to measure and understand to build a great company. I have had the pleasure of meeting with David several times over my career, and I can tell you he knows how SaaS businesses work as well as anybody. One key to SaaS Success? Make sure your LTV (Life-time-value) to CAC (customer-acquisition-cost) is > 3. Want to see the rest of David’s presentation – you can download it here.
6. SaaS Execs Like to Party
As expected, there were a fair number of parties and after parties. Perhaps a little over the top with the SaaS emblazoned acronyms all over the place, but it was clear that SaaS execs like to party. You could also tell that because there was an open bar at anytime during the show. It actually made me (who loves a good beer) not want to drink. But it was funny to see this at 8:00AM on Day 1
5. #WeTheStartupNorth: Canada Represents at SaaStr
I went down expecting to see some familiar faces, but didn’t realize how many Canadian SaaS execs would be here: Kristine Steuart (CEO, Allocadia), Michael Litt (CEO, Vidyard), Blair Livingston (CEO, StreetContxt), Mike McDerment (CEO, Freshbooks), Mark Organ (CEO, Influitive), Jessica Weisz (CCO, Soapbox), Mark Opauszky (CEO, Lookbook), Peter McLachlan (CPO, Mobify) just to name a few. Great to see such a strong representation of great Canadian founders and companies, and hopefully even more come back next year.
4. The Subscription Economy Has Created Pervasive Accountability
source: Jeff Yoshi, @elastic
The cloud has transformed the world of software forever. Software is easier to buy, implement and use because of the cloud. Startups are also easier to “start-up”, and with a low barrier to entry, we see competitors proliferate any solution space. I think the biggest transformation that the cloud has enabled is the pervasive accountability that now exists when you sell software. Through all the SaaStr sessions on SaaS metrics, it was clear that if you can keep customers, and grow them, you will have a successful business. The explosion of the role of Customer Success in SaaS makes it more important than ever to adopt this discipline in your business. And startups like Gainsight, Amity, and Totango, are building customer success platforms, to help make it easier. After spending 10 years (2000-2010) running a 100 person customer success organization, I am very excited to see this role reach new heights. If you want to see my presentation on how to scale customer success to a $1B business, go here.
3. Times Are Tough, But Great Businesses Will Prevail
I had several meetings with some great venture capitalists, and everyone is still in shock over what has happened in the public markets over the last few weeks. However it was clear that although the funding environment has changed, VCs still need to find smart entrepreneurs with great real businesses to invest in. One important piece of advice I got was “make sure you don’t just have startups as customers, because a big shakeout is going to happen soon, diversify your base“.
2. The Best Product is Finally Starting to Win
Bessemer VC Byron Deeter took the stage and went through a great talk on specific key metrics that can really affect your capital needs as a growing business. He should know, 1 in 4 public cloud companies today have been funded by Bessemer and they publish a great “State of the Cloud” report every year. One example was that reducing month over month churn by 1% can result in a difference in $100 million of market cap over 6 years. However probably my favourite takeaway was that “the best product is finally starting to win“. Think of #slack, Atlassian, intercom all as examples where the go-to-market has been product lead, and they are some of the biggest success stories in recent history.
1. Although It’s All About The Product These Days, It’s Really All About The People
The first session of the event was with Jay Simons, CEO of Atlassian, who had a monster IPO in Dec 2015 resulting in a market cap of $4.4B dollars. Jay spent time talking about their multi-product-lead go-to-market strategy, and how it really fuelled their growth over the last 13 years. However one point that really resonated with me, was that for the IPO, they brought every employee over 10 years at Atlassian. The reason is that they felt no matter what role they had been in, their success had been a full “team effort”. Great business, great product, great culture.
Oh yeah the 1/2.
More than half of the value of the SaaStr Annual conference is the people that you meet, and the relationships you start to build. Even though there were many opportunities to “network”, with 5,000 people all in startup mode, it was hard to meet new people who were in a similar growth stage, solution space, and or experience. I would challenge the SaaStr team that for 2017 there is a more focused effort to bring like minded entrepreneurs together; not just at the “we are all in the cloud” level, but based on interests, common stages, or common challenges. Because walking away from the event with a “founder support group” for the next year of hard work, would be something that could last you a lifetime. I know, because at Nudge, we all believe your network, is your networth.