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.