Final day at #SaaStrAnnual 16′. This was the best event that I attended as a SaaS founder. If you want to review the previous days, here are my notes:
What Makes a Great SaaS CEO
Josh Stein, Jason Lemkin
Key insight: If you can get to U$1m in ARR you are smart enough to do it. The question is: Do you want a put the effort it?
- It is crucial to set a great vision;
- Met Aaron Levie 2y before the investment;
- He burned the boat early to leave B2C and focus on enterprise. He had to “rebuild himself” to become an enterprise leader. All with discipline and hard work;
- He became the go-to guy for thought leadership in the industry;
- Don’t say “I’m not a good public speaker. I’m not an enterprise guy.” You have to practice. You have to embrace the change.
- Set values and principles, that’ll make things easier;
- As you grow, be less exposed to day to day ops. Assemble a great team;
- 3 stages that require great changes: Up to 50 people, 200 people, 1000 people. You have to emerge as a figure, scale yourself;
- Set clear responsibilities for CEO, COO, CRO, etc;
- Empower people to make decisions and not bottleneck;
- Do not ask yourself if you are capable to become a CEO. Just take the commitment. It takes a lot of effort on the side. It takes reading every single business book. The key question is: Do you want to do it?
- You always have to be thinking 6–12 months in advance. Get advice. Bring external feedback;
Marketo: Winning, IPO’ing, and Going Upmarket
Key insight: Ignore the competition. Let them chase you, do your own thing.
- Fun fact: Lemkin was one of the first 10–15 Marketo customers;
- Marketo started focused on the mid-market. Huge race to the bottom, with 6–7 competitors;
- Before marketing automation, they started as an SEO product. Pivoted after A round;
- In the enterprise there was a need for innovation, budget and less competition;
- Average deal size is U$50k;
- We saw Eloqua as an interesting company between Siebel and Benioff. But on the same budget;
- We highjacked their brains by not engaging in their game. We didn’t respond, they start following. You don’t wanna be responding to the competition;
- Should we worry about relative velocity? Should you care if your competitors are growing faster? Have a real strategy on what you’re doing. Ultimately, the first mover takes the largest share, as SaaS compounds, but segmentation is crucial. Focus on finding out what’s the next play to scale the business;
- Success doesn’t have to mean taking the market… it means we’re growing & scaling within a huge category.
- The degree of change from $1m to $10m is incredible. You need continuous learners to keep an evolving team;
- We weren’t great at strategic planning at U$30m, so we hired for that. U$30m was too early for us to hire a “big company” executive. The organization had a hard time with it. The seduction of the big SAP-type exec is powerful. Be careful if it’s too early;
- Spend about 30% of your time with customers. The cocaine of user acquisition can be very dangerous;
Scaling from 30–1,500 in SaaS: Lessons From the Frontlines
Key insight: Be transparent, polite, work hard to help everybody to develop their self-awareness sense.
- Joined as an account manager, at 30 people. The primary job was dealing with enterprise customers. At that time, we spent time explaining what cloud computing is, and the advantages of the cloud;
- All I wanted was a job close to home. I had a consulting background. So I had to align business process internally and with our customers. I made a lot of mistakes. I moved away from those fast, and that’s key. Be agile. I like building and changing. Don’t stop building and changing;
- I fundamentally believe that if I don’t learn something new every day, I’m failing;
- You need to have a culture. It’s not about ping pong tables, candy walls. You need to trust each other. It’s about relationships. The employees are the culture;
- To create a great culture, acknowledge, and maintain it. You have to care about what you’re doing. You gotta have a mission and stay true to that;
- People who are not a great fit for the next stage: Offer paths and mobility. Give special attention for folks that did an awesome job. Let them know what they’re not good at. Help them develop their self-awareness. Help hem create their own plans;
- When you create a clear, measurable plan, it is easier to coach people. People will tell you if you’re being successful or failing if you ask. You have to be clear with feedback. Straight to the point;
- The I’s don’t scale. The We’s do!
- Forget the MBA, get a psychology degree. It’s all about communication and motivation;
- How to deal with great talent decided to become a “manager”? Tell them you’re just not ready. Tell what’ s missing. In some cases, they’ll leave. That’s ok. Hope you’re helping them giving that info;
- You have to be street smart. You have to be able to “read a room”;
- I became the boss of my boss early on. It is all about the vision. It’s hard. Try to think 3 years in advance. Have a dream. Let people know what that big dream is. Have the tough conversations on whether they can or cannot scale. It is better for the individual. You shouldn’t surprise anyone. Be gracious, but separate business from the individual.
- Tell upfront to the person. You have to perform at the top level. I don’t know what your path is. But trust me. If you rock, I will create a path.
- Phil mentioned the cocaine of customer acquisition. I think about the crack of happy customers;
- Customer success is knowing the science of your customers. Back then we used spreadsheets. Now you can automate a lot of it;
- Customer success manager is responsible for the utilization of the solution, making the solution sticky, and help the customer realize the value, and uncover the needs and goals of the organization. The account management team runs renewals and upsells based on the uncovered needs;
- People are your biggest asset. Treat them with respect;
Marketing: Running the Box Playbook – Even Better The Second Time
Anthony Kennada, Menaka Shroff, Aaron Levie
Key insight: It gets easier the second time. The product might change, you might have different customers, but your first-time mistakes will happen way less often. The second time, you have a draft playbook, at least.
- Both panelists came from Box, and the topic of the panel is doing marketing for SaaS for the second time. Key lessons, mistakes, etc.
- Takeaway #1: Go big with the brand and message. See picture below, from 2009. (If you do a billboard, make sure people will have time to read it.)