1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: Space Metrics. The biggest rocket in history launched (and exploded) last week, so here is a great deep dive into the relevant Space industry metrics, acronyms, and Market Sizing that's driving real competition (including the loss of Virgin Orbit earlier this month) - Why should we care? The rise of Heavy Launch Vehicles has just started, and see Pod of the Week for more details - TL;DL - it's all about the global movement of goods and materials.
2. SHAPE UP: A refresher for your tech dictionaries and reading list. Software product development requires innovative strategies based on today's cadence expectations of continuous integration, micro-services, feature delivery, and scale. The team at Basecamp (I'm an old-school fan) has developed ShapeUp, its publications, and a toolbox of techniques that can eliminate chaos when it comes to designing, prioritizing, and shipping products/features.
3. SALARY: Hey Founders, a recent TechCrunch article recommends that founders pay themselves rather than doing it for the equity - after all, paying people is what Venture should be for, right? So how much? This doesn't mean you get Market Rates; startup founder's and CEO salaries can often range from zero to a gated raise based on ARR. See here for lots of good answers and also lots of different situations. According to Nathan Latka, a good rule of thumb is that if you're two-co-founders and just hit $1m in ARR, you should make about $100k per year and Increase to $150k at $2m in ARR.
4. PRODUCT BENCHMARKS: I'm hoping for an updated report soon, but this report is a must-read for those of you starting or deep into product-led growth. 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 regarding 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.
5. GO-TO-MARKET: The team at ContentBeta has teased their now-released Go-To-Market Playbook for 2023. Check here for some great nuggets - guides, ebooks, and research reports are still the best content assets to differentiate your software (more than video), and cold email is still a strong go-to.
6. COLD EMAIL: So based on #5 above, cold email remains a go-to modern-day sales tool - but diving deeper, this method historically has a shallow response rate (1% for cold emails historically but has dropped below 1% in recent years). 1. Jason Bay has spot-on methods to optimize response rates, 2. Predictable Revenue has this PowerPoint deck on the four pillars they think constitute a quality sales-based email campaign. 3. This is a quality case study for anyone with email marketing as part of their businesses - a deep dive into a single cold email and why the author actually opened it (TL;DR - yes, it's all about everything in the design of the email, but its more about how targeted the message is). 4. So here (from LeadIQ) is their 3-step guide to getting noticed by email. And finally, with a VERY focused mission on getting to Demo - a guide to booking 70+ demos/month/rep using cold email.
7. SAAS SPEND: Maybe in part to the AI boom of '23, but there is a growing demand for cloud that will push spending to about $600 billion by the end of the year, according to a new report from Gartner, with 1/3 of that spending on SaaS (about $200 million up 18% YoY)
8. EARLY STAGE FUNDING: Startups go through various fundraising lifecycles. This article guides understanding startup funding/investing for all of you at the early stage of Startup life.
9. ONBOARDING: Userpilot has just released their State of User Onboarding for 2023. 74% of SaaS companies offer a free trial, up from 43% in 2022. There may be a bit of survey bias here as they state that only 4% of companies relied on demos for customer acquisition - prob a ton of enterprise b2b SaaS that would disagree. It may be a hangover from their prior MarTech focus.
10. CASE STUDY: AutoGPT: OK - it's been a couple of weeks since AutoGPT was launched (which is like a year in AI time); here is everything you need to know (via a Twitter thread) - until, of course, things change.
POD OF THE WEEK: Complementing number 1 above. Why should we care about Space? Well, listen to the All In Podcast that hosted SpaceX investors and team members discussing how transportation (especially of goods and materials) could rapidly change in the next 10 years by traveling sub-orbital, at scale, and in big-ass rockets).
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: OTMM - aka One Metric That Matters (to you!!!). 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. So to shift the needle, check this great article that reviews the methodology to uncover your unique OMTM.
2. DEAD or ALIVE? Time for some reality here. If you want to try (or are expected by your investors/Board) to operate with no growth capital for the foreseeable market future (18-24 months?), then the question to be asking is: Will your business reach profitability before running out of money? Time to take read this throwback article from 2015 that dives deep into this question and also has a great visual calculator.
3. CAPITAL: Tomasz Tunguz notes a strong (and strengthening) correlation between interest rates & venture capital investing. It is strong enough to build a simple prediction of early-stage venture capital activity in 2023.
4. 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, established quantifiable measures for each stage, structured the sequence and signals of when to move from one stage to the next, and explored the optimal go-to-market design of each one.
5. REVENUE PER EMPLOYEE: As an operator - asking the real question on scale: What should my annual recurring revenue (ARR) be per employee? Here is the chart in one TL;DR visual, but if you want to read the whole article, you can check it out here and also here (PDF).
6. CRYPTO: a16z has released its specialized crypto publications for the year, including the 2023 State of Crypto report that tracks data, indicators, and trends - active users are still way up. They have also introduced their State of Crypto Index, a tool for cutting through the money hype and focusing on crypto as a tech tool.
7. GTM: Go-to-market motions can be pretty specific, and your GTM motions can impact your marketing strategy and your org chart. Mark Roberge at Stage 2 Capital gives some PLG context on Go To Market Strategies. It's a really great presentation - I've watched it twice :-). The slide deck from the presentation can be found here.
8. CHATGPT: ChatGPT has taken the world by storm, and the Product Management, UX, and UI design part of the world have some significant ChatGPT use cases. Lenny's Newsletter has some great examples for getting real PM stuff done leveraging ChatGPT, and FastCompany has some methods that designers can superpower their work.
9. ZERO-OPS: A new entry for your tech dictionary, ZeroOps is a set of practices that result in developers focusing solely on coding and creating, with 0% of their time spent on operations or infrastructure.
10. CASE STUDY: Freemium. It's not necessarily a time to rethink Freemium as a SaaS Go-To-Market strategy, but ProdCamp did and learned a lot after removing and bringing back their Freemium tier.
POD OF THE WEEK: Complimenting #7 above - How to Prepare your Go-To-Market Strategy for a Downturn with Alexa Grabell of Pocus.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: RETENTION: Hey! Capital is currently costly for startups, so prioritizing customer retention is critical. Gross revenue retention (GRR) and net revenue retention (NRR) are key metrics to master. Here is a valuable guide to all things retention (and having merry customers).
2. VENTURE: New data out from Crunchbase last week puts the state of Venture Capital funding worldwide down 53% in Q1, and this includes the mega OpenAI (of ChatGPT fame) raise ($10B) and Stripes Series I (their 18th round overall) of $6.5B.
3. PRODUCT DESIGN: Getting better at Product is a '23 Goal, so I love this step-by-step guide (along with some solid examples/case studies) on how to package up and present all that extraordinary research, design, functionality, and user testing that product designers have to endure.
4. MISTAKES FEATURETTE: A morbid list of mistakes and failures to learn from this week. First up is a list of Seven deadly ones startups make. Next, Jason Lemkin lists his top 10. Failory has a free Notion Document from over 80 startups who have failed and identified some of their common mistakes (some fatal). Marketing problems seem the most abundant (and deadly) - but product-market-fit, market size, and value add are all creeping around too. CBInsights also lists their top 12 reasons Startups fail.
5. IP: If you have not noticed Facebook's general MO, many startups in the software space are vulnerable to their competitors producing copycat technologies. Now Twitter is in Zuck's cross-hairs. Please read this interview from Nico Hodel of Start It Up NYC on how to better protect your Tech IP and Entrepreneur magazine: 4 IP Mistakes startups make and how to avoid them.
6. CONTENT: Viewing content (of your content marketing) as a "product" was an aha moment for me, as was being told that the strategy of "producing ten blog posts" is wrong. Instead, read this Two-part blog (part 1 and part 2) to change your mindset on what good content should be.
7. SECURITY: It's table stakes that Tech companies should be continually concerned about the security of the software being built (it's why DevSecOps is a thing). But for all of you in the B2B Enterprise-y space, technical Due Diligence is also a critical part of the sales cycle (there is a growing need for chief compliance officers, for example). Having some kind of compliance, certification, or training, such as SOC-2 or ISO-27001, can reduce security/audit friction. Here is a guide to getting started on SOC-2 and an ISO-27001 guide. BONUS - I'm currently trialing trustshare.com as my compliance portal.
8. DIFFICULTY: Having all your security and compliance ducks in a row is MEGA hard, so the payoff (in terms of customer ACV) has to be worth it. Payoff > Difficulty. This is called the Difficulty Ratio - discussed more in a Substack post from David Sacks earlier this month.
9. AI: Weekly AI posts will likely be the norm for a bit - because the space is moving that fast right now. This week is a SaaStr Workshop Wednesday presentation from Tomasz Tunguz that he created via Ai Startups (Gamma, Midjourney, and IA Presenter) covering the four questions a startup should ask themselves about building a startup that uses generative AI. BONUS: The Video is a must-watch, too (starts at watch the whole thing as there is a BUNCH of value before Tomasz even gets to the presentation - and the Q&A after).
10. CASE STUDY: Complimenting #4 above: The top 10 Mistakes from the CEO of Gainsight - Nick Mehta - on his way to 100m ARR.
POD OF THE WEEK: Complimenting #4 above and probably one we all need to share around - this brilliant video covering all aspects of failure and resiliency - and how to get back up when you get let down.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: Burn multiple measures the capital efficiency of a startup. Burn multiple calculated by net burn/net new ARR. In a surprise to no one (because Burn is now a terrible word in this new market), Startup burn multiples have changed markedly in 2023.
2. PRODUCT LED MARKETING: Here is the ultimate deep-dive into PLG from Kyle Poyar of OpenView, one of the OGs of the PLG world. It contains tactical advice, real-life examples, and actionable next steps.
3. TECH MACRO: Every year, Benedict Evans goes on an absolute blinder in PowerPoint, exploring macro and strategic trends in the tech industry. He's back with this year's version noting that (across his 104 slide deck!) big-tech is becoming bigger-tech and the ultimate gatekeepers of the tech economy.
4. PRODUCT DEBT: Modern-day businesses create Technical Debt via Product Debt. Stop taking shortcuts, as 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, but this link also has a great PM-focused article on how to design out of it (or at least your backlogs).
5. CONSISTENCY: I have been delivering this newsletter weekly since December 2018, holy smokes - I even took significant breaks that no one noticed! So this article resonated this week on why being consistent matters - outside of his monetization, podcasts, etc. :-).
6. OPEN SOURCE: Here is an excellent dashboard of the top open source projects by growth, retention, and usage. It can be visually confusing, so read the Substack article outlining the dashboard in more detail here.
7. API: APIs allow different programs and services to get along and work together, which is why they're essential in today's crowded technology space. For your continuing education credits: A Full Guide: Understand Everything About APIs (with Examples).
8. AI: Stanford released a massive 386-page report on the state of AI, showing how heated the market has been getting for years - Newly funded AI startups have tripled in the last ten years, primarily in the US - and also showing how the past three years have been incredibly rapid paced across many measures (including AI-related lawsuits).
9. PRICING FEATURETTE: Optimizing Pricing is complicated, and it's never (ever) perfect. a) If companies decide to have a pricing page on their site (which is that whole other topic. Jason Lemkin lays out some thoughts of 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? Comptera has a great article on conducting a high-fidelity competitive pricing analysis project, and d) Productled has the ultimate "How to build the right SaaS pricing page" in 2023.
10. CASE STUDY: Down rounds are pretty standard this year (and probably next) - so what can we learn from Down Rounds of the past? Here is an excellent report about Docker which went through a down round and a 75% headcount reduction
POD OF THE WEEK: Complementing #2 above - The ultimate (podcast) guide to adding a PLG motion from Hila Qu, former director of growth at Reforge and GitLab.