What are the pains and aspirations of your customer? Does your product truly solve your customers problems? And fulfill its promise of doing something in a better way?
Most startups wrestle with these questions at their outset, when they are in the customer discovery and customer validation phases of the lean startup cycle. But all startups should reevaluate these questions periodically. After all, a company’s customers evolve with time and so do their jobs.
After your SaaS startup has found product market fit, the next evolution of the business is to discover the fundamental unit of SaaS growth. A fundamental unit is the atomic go-to-market team: the minimum number of people in the marketing, sales and support roles to be able to support X customers and generate Y in revenue.
At the point that a startup has discovered their fundamental unit, time, cash and execution become the limiting factors of the business.
It’s hard to overstate how powerful negative churn is for a SaaS company. Both New Relic and Zendesk have grown to billion-dollar-plus publicly traded businesses by achieving fantastic negative churn figures: 114% and 120% respectively. in other words, each year existing customers pay these businesses 14 and 20% more than last year.
The recent 2014 SaaS benchmark survey aggregated by Pacific Crest and Matrix indicates that expansion revenue accounts for between 8-26% of total annual bookings, increasing as the company scales.
At the DEMO conference, Danielle Morrill, the founder and CEO of Mattermark presented an impressive statistic. Seed, Series A, Series B and Later Stage startups employ 1M people, up from 650,000 just six months ago, according to Mattermark’s data sources.
While it’s logical to think that the largest and fastest growing startups might employ the majority of startup employees because they hire at stupendous rates, this isn’t the case today.
Hortonworks filed their S-1 last week. Reading through the document, I noticed the company had quite a substantial fraction of professional services revenue; 41% of trailing 12 month revenue is services.
Of the companies we have studied in our S-1 analyses, Hortonworks generates more professional services revenue as a fraction of total revenue than any other company. But, many companies do book a meaningful amount of revenue from professional services.
Negative churn is an incredibly attractive characteristic of a SaaS company because it means that customer accounts are like high-yield savings accounts. Every month, more money comes in, without much effort. This is a powerful effect and can fuel SaaS companies to huge success, as we saw in New Relic’s S-1.
The concept of negative churn is a bit amorphous so let’s illustrate the impact on a startup. The chart above plots the revenue growth of a hypothetical SaaS company for a year.
This post is part of a continuing series evaluating the S-1s of publicly traded SaaS companies in order to better understand the core business and build a library of benchmarks that might be useful to founders.
New Relic is San Francisco based, 534 person company providing tools for engineers to understand how well their code is performing. The company operates in the Application Performance Management category, which New Relic calls Software Analytics.
At the beginning, a startup is only people, a group of friends who share a passion to change the world in some way. There is no product, no brand, no management team, no PR, no swag, no internal processes, no hierarchy.
Over time, by virtue of all the effort of the people within the company, startups evolve into semi-autonomous machines; machines that acquire and serve customers with a great product in exchange for revenue.
A day-in-a-life of a Product Manager involves a variety of interactions, sometimes it is customers, sometime it is the marketing team and most times it could be the engineering team. As a product manager one is required to seek out information from one channel, synthesize it and feed other channels. It could be understanding the requirements from a set of customers, rationalizing it and validating it, crafting it to feed the positioning, messaging initiatives of Product Marketing while simultaneously translating it into functional specifications for the engineers.
Two of the most critical skills of being a successful product manager (I would dare say, most jobs) are asking open-ended questions and listening. Listening involves processing information and cataloging them properly in your memory for recall later. But it starts with the questions you ask, how you ask them and how you follow up.
A typical mistake most people make here is they imagine/rehearse the conversation going a
Continue reading "Mastering the fine art of open-ended questions"
The modern SaaS startup asks marketing to fill the top of the funnel, sales to qualify and close leads, and customer success to retain customers. Conceptually, this trinity works in unison to grow a business rapidly.
But sometimes, SaaS companies struggle with this model, particularly when churn rates increase in a business. The knee-jerk response may be to ask how to change the customer success team’s structure or incentives to increase the revenue at risk save rate (the fraction of dollars that might have churned, if not for the efforts of the customer success team).