1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: Another from Andrew Chen of a16z this week (who is now LA-based - see #3 below as to why that's important): An 80-page slide deck of the red flags and magic numbers that investors look for in your startup's metrics. The article is the best part due to Andrew's commentary, but if you want the PDF I got, just click here.
2. PR: Getting good PR if you're an unknown startup is hard (and also can be seen as a low priority in the endless stable of things-to-get-done) - but it's not as hard as you think without a publicist. Here is a great 101 article from Point Nine Capital (they call it PR for dummies) on how to get great press coverage. ChartMoguls also have this article late on PR for SaaS - with some sample scripts!
3. UNBUNDLED: This is a great read (at least for me). For years the common VC adage was that if you are not located in Silicon Valley or in later pre-COVID years, San Fransisco, you ain't worth considering. But last month, Andreessen Horowitz (aka a16z) declared that Silicon Valley, the Region, is philosophically over and that their "headquarters will be in the cloud" going forward. I think this is a pretty big deal for most global Tech Companies - read more via this interview.
4. MARKETING: For me, the main goal of any marketing campaign is value-based. I'm trying to convert people that consume some of our marketing efforts into happy customers. Knowing what works can be complicated: measuring ROI, attributing revenue, measuring brand awareness, overall campaign success, etc., etc. So bookmark this marketing attribution dashboard like me: It covers all the attribution model types and metrics, best practices, tools de jour, and more.
5. COMMISSIONS: How should you pay your different sales channels? Commission sales levels are stable across sale types at about 10-14%. Commissions on renewals are only 3%, and upsell is 9% - however, about 50% of the time, this is not paid at all. (Bringing up another subject on how much revenue a Customer Service Manager can manage).
6. VENTURE: According to The Entrepreneurs Report for 1H 2022 from Wilsons Sonsini, eleven percent of Series B and later financing deals were considered down rounds, the largest share of down rounds since the beginning of the COVID pandemic (Q2 '22). Flat rounds have also increased to 7%. However, valuations are still rising (in series A and B deals).
7. BRIDGE LOANS: In the Wilsons Sonsini report above, Median bridge loan amounts decreased for both pre-and post-Seed companies in Q2 22 and had shorter maturity periods (50% had less than 12 months), so understanding Bridge Loans may be more critical now than ever. Here is how Fred Wilson likes to structure investor Bridge Loans.
8. NET INCOME: In 2020, revenue growth was the most important factor explaining a public software company's forward multiple. NDR has been popular of late - but none of these dramatically matter anymore - it's now Net Income.
9. PRICING: As stated in previous newsletters, pricing is never correct, and we are not charging enough. But 2022 is adding another challenge to our attempts at pricing: Inflation and a recession. FastSpring chimes in on this by deep diving into these challenges via this report. Fun Fact: 37% raised prices by over 10% between Q1 21 and Q1 22. Those that did raise prices grew 15% more than companies that didn't, demonstrating an older article that a 1% increase in price can generate up to an 11% increase in your profits!
10. CASE STUDY: Shopify has been in the news a fair bit lately, and their pandemic boom may be over. But they are still reporting revenue of $5B ARR! Jason Lemkin of SaaStr looks at the top 5 interesting things from their last financial report.
POD OF THE WEEK: Complementing #9 above is from SaaSclub: SaaS Pricing Strategy: Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: Product Market Fit Andrew Chen from a16z is excellent, and his PDF/deck on going from zero to Product Market Fit is awesome (For SaaS, he calls this a 5% conversion rate from free-to-paid, or 3X CPA to LTV ratio, or less than 2% monthly churn rate, or TL;DR.... just a clear path to $100k MRR). He also has an accompanying article with notes.
2. SALES OPS: For those lucky enough to be in Scale-Up mode. Scaling creates some real teething problems. Especially when it comes to revenue teams and moving beyond the founder being the primary (or only) salesperson. Eventually, a dedicated team will be needed (that doesn't involve the founder). In modern times, Sales Ops operators are required to help coordinate cross-departmental activities to help a revenue organization hum. Read this Sales Ops primer article from Point Nine Capital on how to get all this started.
3. ROADMAPS: The old-school way always seemed clunky to me, especially in today's Agile workplaces. But Agile teams absolutely need them as a reference point and sense of direction with what's to come beyond their more myopic Sprint cycles. Read here on the reasoning why along with 5 roadmap templates to use. I'm a fan of how Atlassian have designed their public accessible roadmap, and I have launched my own publicly accessible (Kanban-style) road map and even use it as part of the sales cycle - it works well!
4. BURNOUT: If one thing the past few years have taught us via the Great Resignation - it's that burnout is real! McKinsey explores burnout in the most Consulting way possible - are you asking the right question?
5. PLG STACKED: Adopting a PLG strategy requires unlocking a new tech set to traverse, so get your subscription wallets ready. Here is the mother load of tools you can use from the team at Product Led - Product-Led Growth Tech Stack: 199 SaaS tools for growth. There is an extensive list of tools in there I already use - and I ain't even close to being PLG.
6. EXPERIMENTS: In a very enjoyable mentoring session last week, we took a deep dive into experimentation - because every path you take towards growth and revenue should be a hypothesis in startup land - time to upskill your experiment skills by reading 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 Step-by-Step Guide. Go Practice has some great advice on making these experiments run faster.
7. UNDERSELL: If expansion fits into your growth strategy (it should) take a read of the two-part series from Tomasz Tunguz and Bill Binch - part one is deliberately underselling as a sales strategy to minimize churn and increase upsell/expansion opportunities as a land-and-expand strategy. Post 2 is an expansion of land and expand, which details how to structure a Startup sales team for optimal land-and-expand.
8. SDR RAMP: Kinda expanding on above. According to past studies, the time to ramp for an SDR average is about 3.2 months. From Saleshacker, here are some tips and tricks to make this ramp time as effective and successful as possible.
9. GROWTH: Holy smokes - check this play-by-play SaaS Growth Strategy post from Startup Business Tips - a free worksheet available for you here too.
10. CASE STUDY: Complimenting #6 above on experimenting. 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: It's the TL;DR Video version of #7 above on how to structure a Startup sales team for optimal land-and-expand.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: T3D3: No, this is not a reference to a Star Wars Droid; it's an update to a much loved "T2D3" metric that Neeraj Agarwal of Battery Ventures referenced back in 2015. The original is an acronym for "triple, triple, double, double, double" and refers not to the secret burger menu at In-N-Outs, but to a company's annualized revenue growth path towards becoming a unicorn. T3D3 is the updated version of that acronym which is, you guessed it, "triple, triple, triple, double, double, double." This update was due to the explosion of valuations and market caps, so let's see if 2022 reverts back to the original T2D3.
2. VENTURE: July Funding numbers are out and don't look stellar. According to this article from Crunchbase, venture funding declined globally to 28 billion (a 34% MoM drop), down from $63 billion last year.
3. OKRs: Pioneered by Google a couple of decades back, OKRs have emerged as a part of the suite of modern product and company best practices (that include Lean, Agile, and Jobs-To-Be-Done frameworks). Heavybit has a great article on steps to get started for the first time within your organization.
4. CHANNEL SALES: As I'm learning, figuring out channels (new, emerging, adjacent, uncertain, etc.) requires experimental rigor and good process. Reforge.com are never lacking for detail when it comes to addressing topics like this so take a deep read of their article here complete with a framework, case studies, and a Worksheet (Google Sheets style!).
5. PLANNING #1: Mike Tyson put it well, "Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth", and Covid, combined with the economic downturn of 2022, has been a real metaphorical one-two face punch. So take a read here from an article last month by Lucas F. Costa on why long-term plans don't work (and how to fix them).
6. PLANNING #2: But the ying to the yang above, if you need to be better at planning, is this is an excellent (pre-one-two Face punch above) article on planning from First Round Capital. It includes lessons from some of the best planners (along with their processes) at Airbnb and Eventbrite. It's an intense read and has some really great templates (including the "W Framework" for you to put to work.
7. PLANNING #3: This year has sped by for me, and for many of you with calendar EOY/Financial EOY, the year-end will be here before you know it. So here is a question: How Dynamic Is Your Revenue Plan this year? Who knows what new mouth-punch event could happen next year that could stall or even reverse your growth aspirations (hello, recession/inflation!). So it's time to pull operational techniques from other departments (such as your Dev squad's Agile ways) to create a more dynamic revenue plan. Take a good read of this article from SBI for hot tips on avoiding poor Sales-based strategic planning. It even comes with an (OK-ish) downloadable planning tool (which I took the liberty to snag and sacrifice my email address for you), and First Round Capital feels the same way - Annual Planning is Killing Your Growth - but takes a different tack - building a three-year plan!
8. PLG: Product-led growth is ever evolving and maturing, and Openview just launched a new view on the 11 Principles/Trends for PLG based on their insights and lessons learned over the past 8 years since the phrase was coined. Infographic of all 11 here.
9. EMAIL (deep dive): On the non-PLG end - Cold email outreach is a go-to modern-day sales tool, but this method historically had a meager response rate (1% for cold emails). 1. Jason Bay has spot-on methods to optimize response rates, 2. Predictable Revenue has this PowerPoint deck on the four pillars they think constitutes 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.
10. CASE STUDY: Pitch Decks - from CB Insights is a collection of the early pitch decks of 29 startups before they became billion-dollar companies, including Airbnb, Brex, Canva, Facebook, and Dropbox.
POD OF THE WEEK: This week, it's a video. Product Lead Growth is now very much a thing since the OG's of the term, Openview, coined it back in 2016. This is the TL;DR from #8 above - 11 Tips for Startups using Product-Led Growth.
1. SaaS METRIC OF THE WEEK: TTV - Time To Value: Time to value is similar to ROI (return on investment), but instead of realizing the financial success of an investment, it implies achieving the effectiveness of an investment or for a customer to realize value out of your product. There is also a corollary "trough of disillusionment" your customers may need to navigate.
2. WEBSITE TRUST: Do you have a high churn rate on your home page or landing pages? If so, maybe you have a trust problem. This article outlining the Trust Pyramid is very much worth a read, but TL;DR A website must meet users' basic trust needs before a visitor can be expected to engage meaningfully. With the Trust Pyramid, there are 5 distinct levels of trust-based engagement, each with different design requirements.
3. SPEND: We are all aware of this industry open secret: - SaaS is just a giant Ponzi Scheme - because running a SaaS company requires you to spend a cloud-load of your hard-earned money on other SaaS products. But how much money do SaaS companies spend on everything? Take a read of this benchmarking report for your spending habits. 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).
4. TECHNOGRAPHIC: The evil twin to #3 - Add this doozy of a Portmanteau to your dictionaries and spell checker as it is the label for the Ponzi scheme I described above: How Many Technologies Can a Company Adopt at Once? Answer - there is always one more (JK, but not really).
5. $100 MILLION DOLLARS!: (Insert Doctor Evil GIF in your mind right here). According to the Grandfather of SaaS, David Skok - The average SaaS company burns $52m to get to $100m in ARR, which takes under 9 years (8.7 to be exact). So how? Check this great article from Bessemer Ventures (it's also a little depressing). It's a benchmarking report, complete with a downloadable PowerPoint for what it takes to reach $100m ARR - asking the big questions: What should your gross margin be? How much should you be spending on R&D as a percent of revenue? How does your company's growth rate compare to peers?
6. THE GREAT RESIGNATION: It looks like we could be moving into a "Great Redundancy phase," - but what was the impact of the 'Great Resignation' on B2B SaaS Companies over the past couple of years? The Team at SaaS-Capital takes a look - There is a strong linear correlation between retention and ARR growth rate.
7. VENTURE: Here is some not-negative news: According to this article/report from Crunchbase, regardless of the current market conditions, the most active top 40 VCs have not slowed down, matching the number of investments from 2021. It looks like they are getting good deals, though, as the overall amount of money invested has decreased (which is more in line with the market downturn).
8. SMB: In general, the Old SaaS-Skool guidance was to start chasing the most significant contract values as soon as possible (hello Enterprise!). But according to Craft, newer school thinking is to focus on SMBs, as sales velocity is a better strategy than chasing contract size - and SMBs are plentiful. However - the downside of SaaS-for-SMB is discussed in this article from SaaStr - CHURN!
9. PRODUCT MARKET FIT: At an IRL meetup last week, some discussions were had about Product Market Fit and how to measure it. It's crucial because more than 50% of the time, the lack of Product-Market Fit (PMF) factors into the reason a startup fails. Sure - there are ways (listed in the archives of this newsletter) to measure it - but it's an Art more than a science - so read here on how Product Market Fit should make you feel.
10. CASE STUDY: Expanding on #1 above, Time to Value is front of mind for me right now - so, of course, I found a case study on it (its' a LinkedIn post) - but it gives excellent examples of what quality TTV looks like.
POD OF THE WEEK: Unpacking Product Market Fit - #9 the podcast version - this episode references different examples and strategies to understand what kind of PMF would work for your startup.