Subscriber Cannibalization and Other Mysteries in Content Marketing

As I’ve described in a previous post, this blog’s goal is to create and sustain relationships with readers across the startup landscape. Tuning the engine is proving much harder than I expected and I suspect that content marketers are facing similar issues. For example, over the past 18 months I’ve witnessed a halving of RSS subscribers to this blog. They have fallen from about 4,000 to about 2,000. I wasn’t sure what the cause could be, until I compared the RSS data with email subscriber data.

My Surreal UberX Experience

Last week, I had a surreal experience with Uber. It was mid-morning on Friday and I pushed a button to request an UberX as I walked out of Sightglass, the coffee shop deep in the South of Market district. When the car arrived a few minutes later, I got in. Without saying a word, the driver passed me his iPhone. Confused, I looked up from my emails and he mouthed to me, “I am deaf.

Reflections on YCombinator Demo Day: How the Seed Market Has Changed

Earlier this week, I attended the Spring YCombinator Demo Day. I’ve been attending for six years now. Each time, I’m impressed by the intelligence, ambition and the polish of the founders presenting companies only a few weeks or months old. As I listened to the pitches, I wondered if the types of startups founders decide to build at YC has changed over time and whether those trends are lagging or leading indicators of the market as a whole.

The Metrics-driven SaaS Business

saas business metricsMy first serious lesson in the criticality of SaaS metrics was about six years ago when I was unexpectedly stumped in a board of directors meeting. I had just presented the booking plan for the year and one of the Director’s in the meeting said that the plan was good, but we really needed to increase our booking rate. My first reaction was something like: “Well our current booking rate is pretty strong and we’re a SaaS business, so even with no immediate improvement to bookings we’ll continue to pile up revenue quarter after quarter, right?” Wrong! I had totally neglected the impact of churn. At the time, SaaS investors and executives were still getting their heads around the SaaS recurring revenue business model, so there were very few resources to turn to for support. Yet as the person in the room primarily accountable for the top line, I had to have the answer.

Fast forward to today. In 2014, we not only have a much better understanding of the financial levers that drive SaaS business success, we are on the verge of a metrics revolution in the way SaaS businesses are managed. Unlike licensed enterprise software, the SaaS recurring revenue business model offers a much higher degree of stability, measureability and predictability. These three factors form a foundation that enables SaaS executives to take a much more analytical approach to driving SaaS business success. SaaS business executives are uncovering new operational metrics that connect SaaS customer success to SaaS financial success, and in the process are creating recurring revenue machines. Today we are witnessing the emergence of The Metrics-driven SaaS Business.

metrics driven saas business machine

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This is the first post in a new SaaS metrics series inspired by my ongoing collaboration with Bluenose Analytics. This series explores the promise of customer success metrics and their role as the glue that connects SaaS customer success to SaaS financial success. This first post discusses the unique qualities of SaaS that enable a more analytic approach to management than was possible with licensed enterprise software and introduces the concept of the Metrics-driven SaaS Business.

The SaaS Metrics Mandate

Why are metrics so uniquely important in SaaS? Continue reading "The Metrics-driven SaaS Business"

Benchmarking Box’s S-1 – How 7 Key SaaS Metrics Stack Up

Yesterday, Box filed for its IPO and released its S-1. I enjoy going through S-1s because quite a bit about a private company is revealed and though only a subset of information is released, the S-1 discloses some very important details about the business operations. Over the past several months, I’ve analyzed the basket of the roughly 40 public SaaS companies many different ways. With the Box S-1 in hand, I can now benchmark Box’s business against other publics, and in particular, SaaS companies nine years after founding.

Startup Best Practices 6 – Avoiding the Bike Rack Effect

Imagine a city council meeting with three agenda items: a $100M power plant zoning approval, a request to build a $10,000 bike rack for city sidewalks and and a $100 proposal to buy refreshments for the annual picnic. The power plant discussion takes all of 3 minutes to reach approval, as does the refreshment budget. But the $1000 bike rack debate drags on for hours as council members debate the right materials, the best color scheme and the right way to announce the project.

The Hardest Round to Raise for Startups

Over the past few years, I’ve debated the existence of a Series A crunch and found in that analysis that the volume of Series As was increasing. This trend hasn’t abated. The number of Series As has grown by 31% annually for the past 5 years, reaching more than 831 Series As in 2013, up from 284 in 2009. In short, no founder should be concerned about the Series A market.

The Machinery of Blogging

I’ve been getting a few questions about the tools I use to publish this blog, so I figured I’d write about it and reveal the machinery behind the curtain. I use four main tools Jekyll, Github Mou, and RStudio. Jekyll is the blogging engine; Github is the hosting provider; Mou is the app I use to write these posts; and RStudio is the place I analyze data and make charts.

Are VC Mega-Rounds the New Normal?

Each morning’s news seems to bring another fund-raising announcement of ever larger scale. Just a few months ago, Pure Storage raised $150M in the largest ever venture investment in a storage company. These record financings certainly generate significant press interest. But how representative of the fund raising environment are these mega-rounds? The chart above breaks down fund-raising activity in US tech companies using Crunchbase data. Each chart shows the number of rounds raised bucketed by size from $0 to $5M and up to $150M to $200M from 2005 to 2013.

How Fast Must a SaaS Startup Grow to Raise a Series A?

Last week, Sean Ellis made an interesting comment in response to this post on public SaaS companies’ growth rates: I’m guilty of giving the same advice to startup founders without providing a transparent rationale. This post is my explanation of why the 15-20% MRR growth number is a reasonably good target for post-Seed/pre-Series A SaaS startups to aim for. Let’s create a hypothetical SaaS startup called SaaSCo with a set of founders who aspire to a fund-raising trajectory like the one in table below.