1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: The old classic Active Users! An active user is any user who interacts with your platform in some defined way during a specific time period that you can identify (depends on your business but can be daily, weekly, or monthly). Many consider this a vanity metric these days but here is why this is still important.
2. PRODUCT MANAGEMENT: The Syms Method - another for your Tech Dictionary that goes beyond features vs benefits but is definitely more a guide on pure feature selection using some good old-fashioned Venn diagrams.
3. STORYTELLING: Adding onto last week's listing on a post discussing Emotional Moats as a competitive advantage: I anecdotally feel like my way of storytelling has shifted from pre-pandemic ways, and Google seems to agree with my sentiment.
4. GROWTH MARKETING: Some of us old-schoolers still use this phrase (it dates back eons, all the way to 2010). Take a read-through here to better understand the differences between growth marketing and traditional marketing. It includes some great examples of companies who execute growth marketing strategies well (such as Dropbox) along with some great infographics, including a reference to "Pirate Metrics" referenced in this newsletter.
5. SALES: ZoomInfo has unleashed an excellent playbook for all your business development teams, which I've already shared with my team. The PDF contains 16 of the best go-to-market plays from B2B sales and marketing pros across different stages of the sales funnel.
6. POC: We switched to proof of concept (POC) based paid trials as part of our enterprise sales process last year, and I like it! It's working well as part of our customer journey and is the fastest time-to-value metric we can deliver for various enterprise stakeholders. Want to get your POC up and running fast? The team at Work-Bench have a step-by-step framework AND a template of a POC Agreement for you here.
7. SECURITY: The RSA security conference happened IRL earlier this month in SF, and the big 2022 take home: If it's not yet, security should be a significant priority in your stack this year - legislation is coming. Take a read here on how early-stage enterprise startups should think through building a security foundation (great for the sales process too, ya know!) On the enterprise side of town, CIOs are expected to spend 90% of their budget on vital tech like cloud and security (the other 10% still in the mix for POCs (see above)) - it's also a pretty recession-proof budget line.
8. PERSONALIZATION: SaaS marketers use personalization more and more to increase their conversion rates as personalization reduces acquisition costs by as much as 50%. Twilio just released its latest report, The State of Personalization 2022 edition. 35% of companies surveyed feel they are successfully achieving omnichannel personalization, which is a 45% increase from last year. And about half of consumers surveyed said they will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience.
9. CONSUMER BEHAVIOR: So what's really changing in the economic downturn of 2022? Each month, the Google Market Insights team analyzes billions of recent search queries and consumer behaviours to develop a deep understanding of what's happening. Read on more here, where wallet tightening, as seen via search, is a real thing in 2022, divided into 4 pillars: Inflation mitigation, financial knowledge, Consumer research, and online/offline shopping.
10. CASE STUDY: The Design Process. This article made me smile as it takes the reader through a deep dive across the entire design journey of something so simple (but so design challenging): Making the world's most satisfying checkbox.
POD OF THE WEEK: The weekly All-In Podcast was mysteriously on hiatus for almost a month. We find out why in the latest edition - TL; DL - Jason Calacanis did something awkward, and the uber-wealthy tech-boy band almost broke up.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: Customer Renewal Rate measures the percentage of customers who renew their subscriptions at the end of each subscription period. High renewal rates inform companies about many things - product-market-fit, market, pricing fit, value, business model viability, etc. The authors of this article from Profitwell describe the formula and differentiate between renewal and retention - one is actively renewing, the other is actively not cancelling.
2. FREE-ER: It's not necessarily a time to rethink Freemium as a SaaS Go-To-Market strategy. But it's probably a good time to think about a more free-as-a-sales-strategy - according to Jason Lemkin from Saastr - more-free seems to be working well these days. BTW Freemium is not just for B2C businesses like Dropbox and Spotify. Freemium is now a strategy employed in gaming, Enterprise, Cloud, and Online Payments.
3. PLG vs SLG: Product Led Growth remains a popular topic (according to my click-through rates) - why? Just take a look at this Expansion SaaS Benchmarks report (it's a downloadable PDF). Again, product Led Growth businesses lead the pack! So let's look at the differences in PLG vs more traditional SaaS Go-To-Market Strategies - Sales Led Growth. But according to this article, it's not a "vs" thing - you don't have to choose.
4. MOATS: As mentioned in past posts, Moats are one of the best ways to provide a competitive advantage for your business, and moats come in all kinds of different flavours (such as speed, Brand, or growth). But here is a great one that conceptually covers b2b and b2c: EMOTION!. Regarding B2B, this post lists some popular and effective ways companies create moats for their products.
5. VALUATIONS: Check this real-time market data feed from AngelList Venture. At the Seed end of town, early-stage valuations are in flux, but more significant than that - deal frequency has slid down a big bank, and founders are diluting more on deal close.
6. ENGINEER vs ENTREPRENEUR: I love this article as it's a manifestation of the battle that lives in my head: Engineers love to get it right, and Entrepreneurs love to get it done. Such a simple statement materializes in so many ways.
7. NOW WHAT?: We just experienced the incredibly abrupt end to almost a decade and a half of SaaS prosperity. So now, what do we do as operators? Bill Gurley (the guy I mentioned in #8 a couple of weeks back) has some Twitter-based commentary for you (it ain't his first rodeo), and the CEO of Gainsight has put together an excellent framework for executives to get through the rocky times ahead.
8. NEGOTIATE: In 2021, forty-two per cent of us opted for sales-negotiated pricing models - HubSpot will totally negotiate, FYI!. Negotiating is tiresome, so read this article for some hot tips on why you may be negotiating your SaaS contracts all wrong.
9. CLIMATE TECH: While we are seeing venture funding across SaaS and Startups drop, we may have a bright spot; investment in the climate tech sector is expected to remain strong. Climate Tech already went through a significant downturn - but investors think it's different this time #climatetech2.0.
10. CASE STUDY: As someone forced to use Yodlee, I envy those who get to use Plaid - a financial services connector currently valued at $13.4 Billion. Check here for an explanation of what Plaid is and why it's so valuable for those of us in the financial services or financial adjacent. (it's the legacy technology the highly fractured US banking systems are built on).
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: CAC payback (and accounting for the upsell). Often many base metrics (CAC, CAC/LTV etc.) are in service to VCs and operationally don't tell us enough to make good decisions. This article takes an operator view on CAC Payback that includes (and celebrates) the value of net revenue retention. Here is a very relevant essay on the importance of CAC payback in our current Bear/recessive market.
2. CUSTOMER SUCCESS - Quota: this is an expansion of celebrating Customer Success Teams' contribution as NRR and CAC payback referenced in #1 above. In past newsletters, I have referenced AE and SDR metrics and quotas. But what about renewal and cross-sell/upsell quota expectations within a Customer Success Team? Tomasz Tunguz takes a look based on a report a couple of years back from Gainsight. Most Customer Success Managers can handle between $2-$5M in ARR and between 10-500 accounts (but it varies based on segment/ACMR).
3. PLG PILLARS: Last week, my post on Product Led Groth was popular, so I added another PLG link this week that focuses on leveraging community play strategies with a PLG mindset.
4. SENTIMENT: Earlier this year, Tomasz Tunguz conducted a survey on Market Conditions and shared his insights in last week's blog post. TL;DR: 30% of respondents are seeing longer sales cycles. Companies selling to mid-market and enterprise see this pattern with about twice the frequency of those selling to small businesses. Longer sales cycles may be a leading indicator of slowing demand...
5. NO, NADA, NOPE!: An overlooked skill is how to say "No" well. This post was triggered by an article shared by one of my team from a programmer's perspective, and it's just way too good to not share as it is one of the most important skills a programmer can learn. TL;DR - it's all about keeping the code base small and solving the right problems/jobs! On the flip side - when it comes to selling, "No" is almost a curse word. So this article goes into depth about ways to be Yes, rather than have to say no - it's a great way to think about how to say yes through the product. Want to get started on your "no" journey? Here are a bunch of templates for ya!
6. LAYOFFS: Question of the quarter: Is the Tech Industry heading toward mass layoffs? According to Layoffs.FYI, a layoff tracker, over 16,000 tech workers lost their jobs in May and June is off to a similar start. It's not as bad as the initial COVID layoff freakout - but it's the most significant bump since - but is this just a freakout phase or a new pattern? Read here for a deeper dive that's updated often.
7. AI: I moderated a panel on AI in the insurance industry last week, so, FYI, the era of machine learning has arrived! I said as such. A Google Engineer backed up my claim earlier this week by claiming a Google AI was sentient (and also asking for a lawyer, so........). CB Insights has just published AI trends to watch in 2022 following all of AI-based technology's positive and negative roles: Protecting the metaverse, the $67B AI chips race and weeding out all those deepfakes and Elon's fake Twitter accounts.
8. IDEAS: here is a framework for managing them - I found this a beneficial article with a template that is now on my wall! An HD version of it is here. A little bonus is a compilation of mental models that entrepreneurs and investors leverage to develop new startup ideas & venture theses from the same author.
9. VENTURE CAPITAL: What is the overall impact on the VC world in an economic downturn? We already know that deal cadence and valuations have rapidly cooled, but what about the rest? Take a read of this article for more (including the upside).
10. CASE STUDY: ZOOM remains a total SaaS and PLG rockstar company. Last we visited Zoom in this section (March '21), they were at $3.5B in ARR, not just a year-and-a-bit later, they are at $4.3B. They have an extremely optimal payback period of about 3-months and a net dollar expansion of 130%+ while spending just half the average SaaS company spend on sales & marketing (25% vs. 50% of revenue).
POD OF THE WEEK: How to value startups from the team at This Week in Startups interviewing the CEO of Aether, Ryan Shearman.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: Beyond Customer Satisfaction Surveys or Net Promoter Scores is this idea of a Customer Engagement Score. This is a valuable tool for managing a company's customer base, making segment decisions easy, therefore enabling different priorities and engagement strategies - and measuring the impact of those strategies over time. So get started reading this article.
2. VALUE-BASED PRICING: It's a tough nut to crack as it makes the most of the maximum cost customers would be willing to pay for a product or service - this means there is no magic guesswork or thumb-suck number. These prices need to be arrived at Empirically. Paddle.com have a pretty good guide on what this means (with examples), and Profitwell has a comprehensive guide on making it happen (and how to go about calculating/measuring it).
3. PRODUCT BENCHMARKS: For those starting or deep into product-led growth, this report is for you. It's year 3 of the Openview product Benchmark Reports - downloadable here. Products continue to perform well as acquisition, conversion, and expansion tools, so this is an excellent report to gauge what's good vs. what is great for product conversion. In a hurry to benchmark yourself? Use this interactive calculator to see how your user journey compares to businesses of a similar size and scale. FUN FACT: 61% of companies in the Cloud 100—including Calendly, Amplitude, and GitLab—leverage a PLG model.
4. CUSTOMER JOURNEY: What the heck is a Customer Journey anyway, and why do you need to create one? OK - so now you know you need one; mapping out a Customer Success Journey via a visual map is a great way to tell what areas a Customer Success Team need to be involved in (and what their responsibilities will be) via a variety of engagement models. And a "complete guide" with some great, modern templates can be found here.
5. VALUATION MULTIPLES: By now, we all should be aware that Companies looking to raise in 2022 should be prepared for a compression in valuation and possibly a down round. This article has looked at valuation multiples based on the SaaS Capital Index and the Bessemer Emerging Cloud Index for insight. This chart, in particular, is interesting - as it shows that most of the crazy valuation increases in 2020-2022 are attributable to companies added to the index since 2019. Growth is still the most crucial valuation driver.
6. FUNDING: Backing up #5 - According to Crunchbase News, global venture funding continued downward for May '22. $39 billion in total, which is down 14% from April. Good news! It's mainly on the big-deal end of town. The seed stage is fairing pretty well - no real change from April ($3.1 Billion).
7. CLOUD: Battery Ventures historically published an annual Cloud Report, and while attempting the 2022 version, the market was changing so fast that they had to keep re-writing it. So they have switched to a Quarterly edition, which you can view here. It's a dense 40-page document, but, as we know, valuations have plummeted, and the big takeaway is that investors are shifting their focus quite dramatically from growth to profitability.
8. SUPER PUMPED: OK - So I super binged SuperPumped (aka Uber: The Travis-Bro Years) last week and really enjoyed the show. Bill Gurley is one of the main protagonists and a real-life Silicon Valley VC - so sure enough, he is getting some press at present. Fair enough - he is a legendary venture capital investor known for betting big on companies outside of Uber, such as Dropbox, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Zillow. This is a deep dive into his 25 years of experience via every blog post he's ever written.
9. COGS: Not every listing I write has to be exciting; important is just as important. SaaS P&Ls are structured in specific ways, and defining what goes into the cost of goods sold (COGS) section is....important. So take a good read of what the SaaSCFO recommends to include. Bit of an eye-opener for me - where do you record your Support, Professional Services and Customer Success expenses?
10. CASE STUDY: Slack! I've written before on the fascinating week in the life of Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield via a Tweet storm - but this week (and complimenting #3 above) is the Slack growth formula of getting from 0 to 10 million users. PLG, of course - but it was called "going viral" or "growth hacking" back in the early days. These days Slack is at about 12 million users and was acquired by Salesforce for $27.7 Billion at the end of 2020.
POD OF THE WEEK: From SaaStr, a VCs perspective on where the venture markets really are today (recorded late last month).
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: Triple-Double-Double is a classic mantra we hear a lot in the SaaS world, referring to an abbreviated version of what it takes (revenue-wise) to become a $100m ARR business. Jason Lemkin of SaaStr pitches that "10-100-110" is enough, which is 10m ARR, 100% YoY growth, and 110% net-revenue retention.
2. : Marketing is a practice covering many different disciplines and specialties. Which one should a startup hire first?
3. PRICING: It's never right as it has to evolve (and we are all not charging enough). Intercom makes the case that a solid pricing strategy helps shape an entire business model.
4. CAPITAL: This report from CB Insights predicts global venture funding to decline 19% in the second quarter, with retail tech and fintech sectors expected to witness a 50% and 28% slump. If that's not depressing enough for you, also take a read of last month's Sequoia Capital presentation on the downturn and what they think it means for startups.
5. SALES DEALS: Post COVID, Hubspot continues to benchmark sales and marketing data on the platform (aggregated from their global customer base of over 70,000 companies) for core business metrics using the January 2020 average. It's a handy benchmark tool to measure your business. Deals are up across all regions since 2020 - LATAM 43%!! Sales emails are on the decline, while Sales calls are WAY up (150% in Feb '22 compared to Jan' 20).
6. DUNNING: Discussing this one again with a client this week - and I suggested we build an automation for a "Dunning Letter", huh? What's that? Well, it's an actual term with a weird-ass name for involuntary churn (aka bad or failed payments). According to Baremetrics, SaaS and subscription businesses lose around 9% of their MRR due to failed payments. Learn more about a successful dunning (and pre-dunning) process.
7. ENTERPRISE SALES: Moving upmarket into larger organizations is a standard SaaS growth strategy. Increasing ARPU (Average Revenue Per Customer) is good! But there is a lot to learn and a lot of time, learning, and effort required to succeed in this market segment. It's not easy, but it can be done. Here is an excellent guide from Outreach on breaking into deals over $100k ARR.
8. NETWORK EFFECTS: Building and scaling products (like Slack and Zoom) requires getting past the awkward "cold start problem" of zero users, so take a read of this conversation between Andrew Chen and Des Traynor on how to build networks that can make your product thrive.
9. PITCH DECK: Pitch Decks won't be replaced anytime soon, even though people are trying nifty ways to bypass them. According to TechCrunch, these are the five most critical pitch deck slides most founders get wrong and here is a Tear Down of recent and Successful Series A Deck. Want more? Then check this monster collection of funded pitch decks (including the neo-classics: AirBnB, LinkedIn, Intercom, and Uber - see #10 below).
10. CASE STUDY: Have you watched the TV Show SuperPumped (the story of Uber) yet? Back in 2016, Uber made the call to completely re-write their app. The cool thing (back then) was that the redesign had to be less than 100MB - because that was the max size of an iOS app available via cellular download (the app these days is 300MB +). This was because most first-time customers download the app curbside). Here is how they did it - it's a crazy developer ride. But not as crazy as that TV show!
POD OF THE WEEK: Kickstarting June (how is it halfway through 2022 already?) with an a16z podcast on how to kickstart Network Effects looking at Slack and Zoom as prime examples.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: OTMM - aka One Metric That Matters. Another acronym for your Tech Dictionaries. Metrics can be personal, ya' know and sometimes, all you need is a singular focus. To get stuff done. To shift the needle. This excellent article reviews the methodology to uncover your own unique OMTM.
2. BUSINESS MODEL: You will be asked often (especially when pitching) about your go-to-market business model. This is a pretty long but very high-value read, from Alex Jarvis, with real-life examples of good business models (and some good humour thrown in). The business model is always more important than the product (but they both matter, and so does timing. There is a more extended PDF version - so I got that for ya too.
3. CAP TABLE: Last week, I referenced alternatives to Venture Capital and dilution - it was a popular post and a bit of a downer. This week let's focus on dilution from a cap table perspective. Take a read of this article from Heavybit that discusses Cap Table management concerning growth and how to manage that Option Pool.
4. DOWN MARKETS: Nope - not done with the bad news we all need to hear. This is a GREAT article from a16z on frameworks for navigating crappy markets like this - and how to build different scenario plans (Base/Best/Worst).
5. GROWTH: Even in the down market, we still need growth. So adding on from #4 above - here is a great article (with scenarios) on how to avoid nasty surprises when you're planning for fast growth (in a crappy market)
6. WEBSITE: Quick Q: "Is Your Website Stressing Out Visitors"? Read further or TL;DR - remove the noise and focus on the jobs you want the website to do.
7. CAPITAL: Since 2016, Wilson Sonsini (a US-based Tech Focused Law Firm) has published a quarterly "Entrepreneurs Report" that covers a range of data on venture financing transactions that the firm was involved in. Q1 2022 is now out, and Median pre-money valuations in Q1 2022 fell across all rounds compared to the highs reached in Q4 2021 but remained strong by pre-2021 standards - check the graph on page 3. No down or flat rounds (yet) - but they noted that there are storing indicators that this may not be the case in the Q2 2022 report.
8. UNBUNDLING: This was a strategy first thrown out by a16z in 2019. They defined it as a strategy for identifying new startup opportunities by looking at broad horizontal platforms near their breaking point. A case in the example here is Zapier. It's a cool read.
9. BROWSER WARS: Are they pretty much over? Check the video graphic from 2012 to 2022. In just 10 years, Chrome has pushed everyone else off the map. Chrome currently holds 64% of the global browser market, with the 2nd place browser (Safari) at just 19%.
10. CASE STUDY: I run a pretty big Atlassian Shop - so kind of a fan. Scott Farquhar (co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian) has this presentation on how he built Atlassian (and used Smart pricing). Jason Lemkin also took a look recently - as they are now at $2b ARR - with 121% NRR overall and 130% in enterprise. These are metrics I like!
POD OF THE WEEK: It's actually a webinar - following on from #7 above. My friends at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center are hosting a Venture Finance Trends online event with Wilson Sonsini this coming Friday at 10am PST. They will share insights from their 2022 experience in financing startups so far.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: SaaS Quick Ratio. It's a more modern measure of the 'health' of a SaaS Company (as we must have all learned by now, revenue models are not the same as business models). The SaaS Quick Ratio is calculated by dividing Gross New MRR + Expansion MRR / Downgrade MRR + MRR Churn, which gives insight into the proportion of positive growth to negative growth.
2. CAPITAL: Guess what?? Out of nowhere, 2022 sure is a buyers market in the VC world. So should raising VC money be something you should reconsider until the market settles down? It doesn't always have to be about Venture Capital or equity (and dilution) when looking to finance. Revenue-based financing is becoming a popular way for startups to raise funds without sacrificing equity with the rise of essential services such as Lighter Capital and The 20-Minute Term Sheet in the past couple of years. Here is how it works and what these financiers care about. HINT: It's ARR and growth. Here is the Founder's Guide to Venture Debt with advantages vs disadvantages of Debt vs Equity from the SaaS CFO.
3. DEAD or ALIVE? Time for some reality here. Suppose #2 above is true for your startup, and you want to try and operate with no growth capital for the foreseeable future (18-24 months?). In that case, the question is: Will your business reach profitability before running out of money? Time to read this throwback article from 2015 that dives deep into this question and also has a great visual calculator.
4. SALES TEAMS #1: Betts Recruiting release a compensation guide every year, and the 2022 version is now out (Or this is the more interactive version if you don't want the PDF). It covers salaries of some of the most important roles at high growth (mainly tech, mainly sales) companies. Big take-home: With the great resignation/great rehiring era underway, the report saw the most significant increase in compensation in 10 years! (5-15%) Which is saying A LOT considering the salaries of the last decade. Also - remote workers stay in jobs on average 1 year longer than on-prem staff. Do you hear that, Apple?
5. SALES TEAMS #2: Now that you have some great base-line metrics based on the reports in #4 above from Betts, take a good read of this article from David Sacks on the simple math you can use to set up a sales team. With Individual plans, team plans and expansions/renewals considered for a high growth sales team structure.
6. GROWTH: This week, Jason Lemkin of SaaStr was asked how fast should monthly growth be from $0 to $1M ARR? My personal takeaway from this article is that what really matters is how fast a company grows at $1m ARR (As it is highly predictive of the future, at least within a band).
7. PRODUCT DEBT: This is a nuanced (and more customer-centric spin) on Technical debt: Product Debt is just as bad as Technical Debt. It's all the decisions that have been made, often tactical and acute, without a clear product vision or sufficient consideration about the long term effects of that moment/decision. The link above also has a great case study of Google Messaging's product evolution.
8. PRODUCT VALUE: The Ying to #7's Yang. The basics of product management and building products that people need are creating value and delivering value. This article dives deep into how these types of product work differ and what conditions each type has a maximum impact (along with what problems can arise).
9. DESIGN: Bringing good design into different elements of a business is nothing new to most modern businesses. But there are specialized branches of design constantly emerging. Growth Design is one of my new favourites - merging typical HCD/Empathy Design but adding in the pragmatism of designing the jobs that need to be done by your customers.
10. CASE STUDY: Amazon's AWS remains, by quite a margin, the most widely used public cloud platform. I'm a big fan and have been tinkering there for well over a decade (hankering back to my Yammer days when AWS was basically two things: public or private servers). In fact, Amazon's profits have primarily been driven by its cloud business in recent years (in 2019: 50 per cent of operating profit with just 13 per cent of total net sales). This case study covers the entire history of AWS and is a fun read - it also puts AWS's current ARR at $70B!
POD OF THE WEEK: "Jobs to be done" isn't a phrase; it's a methodology for getting stuff done - listen more to the concept here.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: CLTV: This metric represents the average revenue that a customer generates before they churn - Customer Life Time Value. ChartMogul has a great online calculator here. Go to 'advanced mode' as this calculator references the traditional formula and the David Skok version (which is the advanced one but viewed as being more realistic)....and check here for a thought-provoking read of why your LTV may be lower than you think.
2. SECOND ORDER REVENUE: Doubling down on LTV this week and a little contrary to the last link above, Jason Lemkin claims that CLTV isn't the whole story and often references a term called "Second-Order Revenue". He states that traditional CLTV analyses underestimate genuine revenue generated by customers by 50-100% (whaaaaat!!!) in most SaaS models selling to any businesses larger than SMBs.
3. GROWTH: Five ways to build a $100M business - just follow this simple video, or read this article, find your target market animal spirit, and you are good to go. This is a fantastic way to think about customers, segments, pricing, and cohorts.
4. USAGE BASED PRICING: v 2.0! Usage-based pricing aligns with customer growth and helps minimize friction during customer onboarding, as customers only pay for what they're using - it's right-sized. This strategy typically sees best-in-class net-dollar retention results. The cool thing is that the current understanding of ways UBP is being applied in forward-thinking SaaS companies is so fresh that this article is an updated understanding of UBP Article from November 2020 (but here is that playbook anyway as a downloadable PDF).
5. PRICING 1: Only 41% of SaaS Companies priced by seat in 2021. TechCrunch also notices that more and more SaaS companies are shifting to usage-based, not seat-based, pricing. They reference OpenView's annual Financial and Operating Benchmarks survey noting that startups that adopt product-led growth and UBP outperform their peers. With the more recent additional complexity introduced by B2D (D for Developers) models and Data/AI/Intelligence-based products, traditional pricing no longer works for many of us - and how do you even price intelligence as a product per seat?. Tomasz Tunguz breaks down pricing in Per-seat vs Usage-based scenarios. Bessemer Ventures also reports that UBP sees best-in-class net-dollar retention results.
6. PRICING 2: Speaking of that OpenView report - you can download that here. It's a survey of almost 600 SaaS companies, and it's fantastic, measuring a 2x adoption of usage-based pricing in companies surveyed since they started the survey back in 2018. There is also a great slide (#16) with a decision tree to decide if usage-based pricing is right for your business.
7. DATA: I don't think I have more to add than the title of this article: "You Cannot Be Data-Driven Without Experimentation" well, OK, fine, I do: The opposite of that is also a truth to hammer home "You Cannot run experiments successfully without being data-driven". We all overestimate our experimentation skills AND our Data collection skills.
8. CUSTOMER OPERATING SYSTEM: What exactly is the difference between Customer Success and Customer Support? Get started here to understand the nuances. They are both parts of the same customer journey spectrum. Totango posits, in this recent SaaStr Annual presentation, that we need a fresher look at Success and Support that they coin the "Customer Operating System". Like the presso? Here are the Google Slides deck.
9. PITCH: Getting a VC's attention in an initial pitch meeting is incredibly important. So here are 10 tips to help your pitch game from Fran Rotman presented in a 28-part Tweet-storm (and check these 16 rookie errors founder make pitching to VCs from Jason Lemkin). According to TechCrunch, these are the 5 most critical pitch deck slides most founders get wrong. Finally, here is a monster collection (139!) of funded pitch decks (including the neo-classics: AirBnB, LinkedIn, Intercom, Transferwise, Canva, and Sendgrid).
10. CASE STUDY: Upwork - I have fantastic full-time staff that originated from shorter-term gigs on Upwork, which is now worth $6 billion and at $400m+ in ARR. 2020+2021 gave them a chunky Covid boost, and they are only just getting started with the good ol' fashioned "move-upmarket" strategy, with an absolute classic 80/20 rule in effect. So 80% of clients are SMBs, but 80% of the revenue comes from 20% of clients.
POD OF THE WEEK: Financial Reporting for Startups is something every founder has to up-skill at - this webinar (replay) covers operational and financial forecasts. Answering all those hairy questions - how do I forecast ARR when in startup mode?
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: USER ADOPTION - measuring which new users could turn into paying customers (and which will drift away). Everything you need to know is in this article - it's a comprehensive and a very deep dive (because these metrics differ between businesses and between cohorts of users).
2. SAAS SPEND: This is an outstanding benchmarking report for your spending habits. I (semi-often) joke that SaaS is just a giant Ponzi Scheme - because running a SaaS company requires a boatload of money being spent on other SaaS Companies' products: Slack! Zoom! HubSpot! AWS! Google! Microsoft! Adobe! Atlassian! Etc., etc., etc.). But how much money do SaaS companies spend on everything? Well, check the first chart on SaaS company spend - remarkably to no one, bootstrapped companies are being outspent by venture-backed companies - but the average is 80% of ARR to 115% ARR!! (operating at a loss to support growth - because growth is a Moat). Keep scrolling through - way more goodies (such as spending by ARR levels).
3. SCALE: This is a must-download. Mark Roberge, the founder of Stage 2 Capital and member of the founding team at HubSpot, has launched this excellent playbook for scaling. In this detailed book, Mark has defined different stages of scale, establishes quantifiable measures for each of these stages, structures the sequence and signals of when to move from one stage to the next, and explores the optimal go-to-market design of each one.
4. BOOTSTRAPPERS: This is for all of you choosing the do-it-without-investors route: The latest State of Independent SaaS Report is based on hundreds of non-venture track, revenue-generating SaaS companies. It has fantastic benchmarks for the bootstrapped: growth rates, demographics, validation approaches, and more.
5. MARKETING: 11 Marketing Channels That Consistently Work for Founders - an analysis!
6. FAILURE: I think that this is a skill. Prove me wrong. Failure also requires a culture of safety and permission to be wrong. Tall Poppy doesn't help. As many organizations look to best practices from the tech industry, one hard lesson is that innovation needs a lot of failure before success, something they often do not configure culturally.
7. PRODUCT MARKET FIT: I talk about PMF a fair bit - but never with an actual VC lens, even though it's a vital metric for earlier-stage investors. So AirTree (an early-stage VC) has just published this article examining what metrics VCs like them look at for signs of Product-Market Fit and what the red flags are.
8. ENGINEERING TIME: Have you ever wondered what software engineers are actually spending their time on? The StackOverflow memes are true - y'all are copying a lot of code. Also, read this complimentary report on what makes developers happy at work.
9. CSM ATTRIBUTION: How do you account for or budget the cost of a Customer Success team? The team at Gainsight dive deep into this question and come up with some fantastic insights - even though the question itself is complicated and the answers end up being more non-monetary than you would probably like. For example, owning the renewal, up-sell, and cross-sell are key delineation points between expense attribution to different departments which CSM teams may sit under.
10. CASE STUDY: HOPIN - not heard of them? That may be because, in Feb 2020, they were a small team of 8.........Today? Holy Cow: 800 employees, Raised $1b over 5 rounds and $7,75B in Revenue. Here is their Hypergrowth playbook: 19 steps to repeat Hopin's first 6 months of rapid scaling.
POD OF THE WEEK: The 2022 State of Independent SaaS.......the video presentation version.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: PQL: Product Lead Growth is the new SaaS strategy de-jour. All kinds of metrics tie into this new category - Product Qualified Leads (PQL) being the lead indicator that the PLG strategy a company is investing in is legit.
2. ONBOARDING CHURN: This is the sibling to the post above, as abandonment can signal poor onboarding. Here are 3 reasons why users abandon the onboarding process (identify verification, slow onboarding experiences, and being asked for too much data). Appsee has another 8 reasons in this article (adding Privacy and Ad clutter to the list).
3. WEB3: There is a whole new bunch of vocabulary to learn if you don't want to be seen as a big square at all your Web3 parties. Check this Twitter thread from @MishadaVinci, which covers all of the highfalutin' terms.
4. CUSTOMER SUCCESS - Quota: this is an expansion of celebrating CS's contribution as NRR and CAC payback referenced in #1 above. I have referenced AE and SDR metrics and quotas in past newsletters. But what about quota expectations in renewal and cross-sell/upsell within a Customer Success Team? Tomasz Tunguz takes a look based on a report a couple of years back from Gainsight. Most Customer Success Managers can handle between $2-$5M in ARR and between 10-500 accounts (but it varies based on segment/ACMR).
5. a16z: Watch out Y-Combinator, Andreessen Horowitz has apparently been stealthily piloting their own early-stage accelerator over the past year and went public this month with what they are calling "a16z START". They are offering early-stage founders up to $1 m in venture capital! Not sure how much equity that will require, and a16z will be accepting founders on a rolling basis.
6. PRICING FEATURETTE: Last week's article on pricing pages was a popular post, so I'm doubling down with more this week. Optimizing Pricing is hard, and it's never (ever) perfect. a) If companies decide to have a pricing page on their site (which is that whole other topic I mentioned last week), Jason Lemkin, the founder of SaaStr, lays out some thoughts on what makes a good pricing page. b) McKinsey gets technical, outlining how to leverage big data to make better pricing decisions. c) Want to look at competitor prices? Computers have a great article on conducting a high fidelity competitive pricing analysis project.
7. PODCASTS: Podcasts will make up nearly 20% of Spotify's US ad revenues by 2024 - whoa! In dollar amounts, that will be $400 million. This is just as well as fake artists are a problem these days on Spotify. Podcasting is a massive business now, with an estimated 120 million podcast listeners in the US last year. Podcasting is forecast to be a $94.88 billion industry by 2028. According to this Annual Report from Edison Research, growth is also corollary to Smart Speaker ownership in households.
8. VIDEO: According to this survey, the use of video Aids 95% Of Enterprise B2B Buyers in Conversion - read more (and how it does this) here.
9. BENCHMARKS: Bessemer VP has a playbook for us all (and a slide deck) describing how to scale your business from $1 to $10mm ARR. Significant benchmark data covering all the classics: CAC, retention, growth, etc.
10. CASE STUDY: Category creation! I know we all want to be up and to the left is one of those Gartner/Forrester Quadrant reports. So watch this presentation on category creation from Neo4 and how they did it, and here is another version from Gett.
POD OF THE WEEK: Complimenting #9 above ( but with the added challenge of doing it without any outside capital), how FastBridge scaled from $0 to $10m in just four years.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: ARRR! "Pirate Metrics" was first proposed by 500 Startups; the great thing about this acronym based grouping of metrics is that it can be applied to non-software products or services as well as traditional SaaS:
2. DECENTRALIZATION: With the Web3 hype going mainstream, the movement from "big-tech" Web 2.0 to a decentralized Web3 can seem a little bombastic. So here are some specific models and principles of decentralization that are a little more palatable.
3. METAVERSE: Are you Meta-Curious? What's the Web3 hype all about? Look here at Hackernoon's top 5 Metaverse projects to explore this year. Fun fact: None of these projects are from Facebook/Meta (but who knows, one or two may likely be theirs by year-end....)
4. ATLASSIAN: If you didn't notice, earlier this month, Atlassian (Jira, Confluence, Trello, etc.) was down for many people, like, for evvvvverrrr! And I don't mean a few hours. I mean, WEEKS! Here is how that shit-show (technical term) went down. (TL;DR, Atlassian accidentally deleted all of their customer's stuff and had a hard time restoring it in bulk!). The article also highlights what Atlassian customers are saying now.
5. MARKETING: SaaS Marketing comes in so many flavours. The team at MKT1 have evolved a framework and org chart of the different marketing flavours you may encounter in SaaS. Along with a description of the roles underneath (and some recommendations of who to hire based on stage). This complimentary article takes it a step further on using marketing to get results.
6. EMPLOYEES: Here is a great question: How many employees should you have based on your ARR? David Sacks has a great slide from his SaaStr presentation on optimal SaaS Org Charts - Series A is 40-50 at 1m ARR. Yup, that's only $20-$25k ARR per employee - the full report here expands into what roles you should hire and what the org chart looks like.
7. SALES: From Predictable Revenue is a little eBook for your files covering Sales Development Methodology (includes a Playbook).
8. NOMADS: I travel on a plane for the first time in 2.5 years next week, and for many of us, the world is slowly unfurling from our Covid seclusions, and Travel is desirable again. A lot of us are also operating under a remote-work new order. Did you know that some Countries (21+) have Digital Nomad Visas for remote workers that let travellers stay longer than more traditional tourist visas? (Antigua, Barbuda, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Iceland, Mauritius). Learn more about the specific rules and requirements for those countries here. If you are serious about creating a remote workers Company Policy, watch this webinar replay.
9. PRICING: FastSpirng has released a new SaaS pricing page report for 2022 - you can read more here (I also like to highlight the great debate of whether SaaS companies should even have a pricing page on their site, but that is a whole other topic). Interesting highlights: Product Led Growth seems to be the strategy for leading companies, and only 36% of companies highlighted their most popular plan.
10. CASE STUDY: WhatsApp. Fun fact of which I contribute Zero daily: 7 Billion Voice Messages get sent on WhatsApp PER DAY! With 2 Billion users, some people are very chatty. Check here for more stats. To reach this kind of volume, good design is a crucial component. So take a read more on how WhatsApp achieved that here.
POD OF THE WEEK: It's been quite a couple of weeks if you are Twitter, the Twitter Board, and/or Elon Musk. So get up to speed (and insider gossip) with the team at the All In Podcast (Chamath Palihapitiya, Jason Calacanis, David Sacks, and David Friedberg)
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: CAC PAYBACK: CAC is also a measure of cash profitability per customer, and CAC Payback calculates how long it takes for a customer to become cash-flow positive. Here is how to calculate it (and why it matters). When benchmarking this metric, it's evident in SaaS that the negative cash trough is long! According to this survey, new customers, on average, take 2 years and 2 months to become profitable. This really highlights what will be a deepening dependency on Capital to fuel a SaaS company's growth.
2. CHAOS THEORY: Digital Transformations are important, strategically. But the mindset needed for these changes to happen requires a certain kind of improv style to get there - as the systems in place that are required to change or pivot are usually very complex - change IS chaos. So take some time to read this article to understand more of what this is about - I also aspire to have the title of "Chaos Manager" one day...
3. RYAN BRESLOW: Ryan is the founder of Bolt and is taking zero prisoners this week on Twitter with three SIGNIFICANT threads calling out Stripe for the Fast fiasco and Sequoia Capital for acting like the Mob. Read more on his view on Stripe's impact on Fast (which was a direct competitor to Bolt) here and his teardown of Sequoia here. Finally, wrapping both of those threads up is the third Thread for founders on how to protect their companies from Hostile Takeovers (such as allegedly what happened to InstaCart by Sequoia).
4. INVESTORS: Looking to build a list of non-Sequoia investors for your Cap Raise? Check this new fresh list of 65,000+ Venture capital, Private Equity Firms, Angels and Family Investment Offices contacts.
5. ESOP: Employee Share Option Plans are an excellent idea to incentivize and retain great staff. Not yet figured out your employee stock ownership plan? Check this cheat sheet, or here's a video version if you prefer to watch it. Obviously, working out the dilution factor of an ESOP is an important metric to know - so check this page for more on that. Finally, here is a 9-part video post of the most common questions about startup options.
6. ESOP BENCHMARKS: Fast follow from above here to this wonderful site that has compiled a set of benchmark data, comprising over 20,000 option grants from more than 1,650 startups across the US and Europe sorted by Seed or Venture stage.
7. PRICING: Getting pricing right is a big deal because a 1% increase in price can generate up to an 11% increase in your profits, so check this article on a data-driven framework for SaaS packaging and pricing to optimize that increase in profits.
8. WRAP-UPS: Add this to your tech dictionaries. Daily standups may no longer work in our new mashed up work-from-anywhere team environment, but Wrap-Ups are the new asynchronous, remote, WFH workaround. Possible fit? Take a read here of how to try them out.
9. EXPERIMENTS: Every path toward growth and revenue is a hypothesis in startup land, so read how to run a growth experiment (in 4 easy steps!). Testing versions of things is something to embed across your company and culture as you experiment towards growth - it's why failure is key to not failing. When conducting experiments such as A/B tests, get started with this refresher and then this Step-by-Step Guide. Go Practice has some great advice on making these experiments run faster.
10. CASE STUDY: Complimenting #9 above. On the extreme end of A/B testing is booking.com which often runs over 1,000 tests simultaneously! But here is the payoff: That flywheel enabled Booking.com to compound at healthy growth rates while maintaining ~30% EBITDA margins and scaling Google ad spend to approximately $4 billion per year!
POD OF THE WEEK: From the SaaS Revolution Show - Andy Whyte, CEO of MEDDICC (quite the acronym: Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain, Champion and Competition), discusses how to get ahead of complex SaaS sales.
POD OF THE WEEK: Great video (with outstanding notes) covering content creation and marketing strategy at the early stage: How to Earn Trust, Manage Risk and Build Momentum.
POD OF THE WEEK: Starting the month with a brilliant video covering all aspects of failure and resiliency - and how to get back up when you get let down (feel free to forward this one around).
POD OF THE WEEK: Selling into Enterprise is no joke, and for this week's podcast, Asana's head of engineering has some great tips on managing infrastructure needs to support those big old Elephants. Video version (with Slides) or audio version.
POD OF THE WEEK: Great recommendation sent to me this week based on last week's post #4 covering differentiation. From FullFunnel.io - Strategic positioning for B2B tech companies with Mark Evans
POD OF THE WEEK: Unpacking Product Market Fit - the podcast version - this episode references different examples and strategies to understand what kind of PMF would work for your Startup.
POD OF THE WEEK: We all dread that small amount of toxic customers who take up a disproportionate amount of people's time and energy, take a listen to this podcast from the team at Startups For The Rest Of Us for some fantastic tips on dealing with toxic customers.
POD OF THE WEEK: Dannie Herzberg is now a Partner at Sequoia Capital but, prior to this, spent four years at Slack as their Head of Enterprise Sales and over five years at Hubspot building sales. She is a PLG guru, and this podcast is about building sales teams with a Product-Led-Growth GTM strategy.
POD OF THE WEEK: Expanding on #9 above. SaaStr has a podcast covering the 6 Steps to managing Marketing when everything in the business is locked into hyper-growth
POD OF THE WEEK: It's a video, not a podcast this week. The content pumping out of Y-Combinator at present is always good. YC Partner Carolynn Levy details the basics of startup financing and how modern early-stage financing rounds work using convertible securities, such as the SAFE note.
POD OF THE WEEK: The Video version of #7 - Employee onboarding secrets from Zapier founder Wade Foster.
BONUS: SaaStr Build, a one-day, live digital event, is coming.....and it's free. Sign up/learn more here.
POD OF THE WEEK: Kickstarting 2022 with an a16z podcast on how to kickstart Network Effects looking at Slack and Zoom as prime examples.
According to Ardas, analysts believe the SaaS market will grow at 12% per year. By the end of this year, the volume of investments will reach $ 141 billion, so here is a rundown of what big things may be in store for tech and Saas in 2022.