What’s Happening to the SaaS Market?

What a difference three weeks make! Since I wrote “The Correction in SaaS Company Valuations”, SaaS company valuations have continued to fall. As a basket, SaaS companies have fallen 33% from their highs (median), wiping all the gains for the last year. To make that point more explicit, below I’ve charted the total value of public SaaS companies over the last ten months. In that time period, the aggreggate enterprise value has fallen from greater than $150B to $117B today.

Anatomy of an early-stage startup demo

Product Demos start much before the product has come into being. Startups would do well to follow Steve Blank’s customer development, in arriving at the definition of what the product would be. While most of the demos with prospective customers would be around the problem, the degree of pain, day-in-a-life of the end-user and the benefits of your proposed solution, a demo to prospective investors would be slightly different.

Judging from demos of 20+ companies from two accelerators I was part of, in the last week, it was clear that this is one area where startups/entrepreneurs have to do some work. As I was giving my inputs/feedback, I thought it would be useful if I created a template for a early-stage startup demo.

Notice that I am not saying it is “early-stage product demo”, with good reasons. As an early-stage startup, while you might have an incarnation of your product ready, it is bound to change.

Continue reading "Anatomy of an early-stage startup demo"

The Surprising Compensation Trends of Startup Executives

Since 2008, there has been a secular trend to increase cash compensation and decrease equity to startup management teams. Tho two tables below tell the story for VPs of Engineering (VPE) and VPs of Product (VPP) across the US broadly and in the SF Bay Area. VPEUSSF Cash+10%+16% Equity-19%-17% VPPUSSF Cash+26%+8% Equity-31%-25%
In the past 5 years, VPEs have benefitted from a 10 to 16% increase in their cash compensation, but have seen their equity grants fall by 17-19%.

Quantifying the Cost of a Bad Hire

The chart above compares the contribution of two hypothetical inside sales people with $400,000 quotas to an early-stage startup’s finances. In this case, contribution is the 18 month revenue of sold customers tallied cumulatively minus the salary costs of $100k annualized of the sales person. I’ve modeled a six month linear ramp for the sales person to reach 100% of quota. The red line shows the case for a successful sales hire.

Quantifying a SaaS Startup’s Revenue at Risk

One of the key metrics that I don’t think gets enough notice when reviewing the health of a SaaS business is revenue-at-risk or RaR. For SaaS businesses with quarterly or annual contracts, each month some subset of the customer base’s contracts must be renewed. The RaR is the sum of the revenue from these customers in a given month or quarter. RaR is a useful measure because it captures the company’s opportunity to minimize lost customer revenue.

The Promise of SaaS Customer Success Metrics

saas customer success metricsOver the past few years, the SaaS community has gained a solid understanding of SaaS financial metrics, as well as many of the operational principles required to achieve them. However, there has always been an obvious gap between what happens on the top line and what happens on the ground. It’s one thing to claim that a 50% reduction in churn will result in a 2X increase in recurring revenue, but it’s quite another thing to make it happen. Achieving that 50% reduction in churn is usually a tedious and unreliable process of trial and error. This is about to change. As the SaaS industry matures, we are witnessing the evolution of SaaS metrics beyond simple, historical financial measures toward sophisticated operational measures in the form of new SaaS customer success metrics and predictive analytics.

saas customer success metrics kpi dashboard

We are witnessing the evolution of SaaS metrics beyond simple, historical financial measures
toward sophisticated SaaS customer success metrics and predictive analytics.

This is the second post in a series inspired by my ongoing collaboration with Bluenose Analytics that explores the new Metrics-driven SaaS Business and its foundation of emerging best practices in customer success metrics. [Attention SaaS CFO’s and VP’s of Customer Success! Please see the exclusive invitation at the end of this post if you like this series and would like to explore more in person.] The first post discussed the unique qualities of SaaS that enable the Metrics-driven SaaS business to apply a more analytic approach to management than traditional licensed software. This second post drills down on the promise of customer success metrics to bring greater rigor to the processes of churn reduction, upselling and customer success management for increased recurring revenue and decreased recurring costs of service.

saas customer success metrics

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An Ocean of Customer Success Data

The promise of customer success metrics is immense. Unfortunately, so is the challenge of developing them. Continue reading "The Promise of SaaS Customer Success Metrics"

How to Determine Which Price is Best for Your SaaS Startup’s Product

Pricing is one of the hardest things for startups to get right because there is no universal and constant price optimum. As a SaaS startup’s product evolves and offers more features, the product’s price points should increase. As a sales team or marketing team engages different customer segments, price points may vary wildly. The contract for a F500 should have very different pricing than a startup, because of the stark contrast in the different companies’ willingness to pay and value associated with buying the product.

The Challenges SaaS Businesses Face Communicating their Financial Health

Tien Tzuo, the founder and CEO of Zuora* and former CSO/CMO at Salesforce, knows SaaS businesses better than most. So when he pens an opinion about the subscription economy, a term which I believe he coined, I read it with great interest. Yesterday, Tien wrote “These Numbers Show That Box CEO Aaron Levie Is A Genius”, explaining Box’s business and growth in great detail. In the post, Tien argues two important points.

The Power of a Coach

When the meeting first appeared on my calendar, I incredulous at the idea of a management coach. “A business shrink who would sap another hour from my frenetic day,” I thought. I was a few months into being a product manager at Google and stressed because I was in over my head. Most difficult of all, I lacked any type of formal authority. Google structured its product teams to have authority through influence, not direct management of engineering teams or marketing teams or sales teams.

The Investment Patterns of SaaS Companies in Sales and Engineering Over Time

Last week, we proved SaaS startups are raising more than they have in the past and newer SaaS companies seem to be generating more revenue per dollar invested. But do newer SaaS companies actually spend less on sales and engineering than their older counterparts? In fact, the 2014 cohort of public SaaS companies spend more on sales & marketing and engineering than previous IPO cohorts. But this increased spend results in faster revenue growth and consequent higher revenue.