Notes from SaaStr 16’ — Day 1 Summary

SaaStr Annual 2016

Amazing event, took a lot of notes. If I forgot something, made a mistake or you have additional stuff for me to add here, feel free to tweet at me or leave a comment.

Atlassian — Inside Story Behind a $5B IPO
Jay Simons

Key insight: Think about “Product Expansion paths”

  • Create a natural network effect built into our products. Think about organic expansion inside the organization
  • Product strategy is important. Atlasssian thinks about the team collaboration.
  • Profile the end users — Make them happy.
  • Be an advocate for your customer and they will be an advocate for you.
  • It was a right decision to divert energy and build a second product.

New Relic: Scaling Even Faster the Second Time
Lew Cirne

Key insight: You’ve got 180 seconds to impress the user


  • I had knowledge of the problem, the customer;
  • Focus on the first minute of experience. It is the most important minute, and that was missing in enterprise software.
  • Make the customer love your product from day 1;
  • Multiple SKUs are distracting. We’d all love to be able to focus on just 1, service the same customer on doing product lines.


  • Get distribution partners. Relic got 400 customers on day 1;
  • Got by the end of 2008 without salespeople;
  • Started adding salespeople in 2009, calling customers, trials.
  • Focus of salespeople — Prioritize the decision NOW. People don’t have time and they can always wait for another week;
  • Sales team was about getting people who already liked our product to become customers.


  • Affordable for SMB, but scalable for enterprise customers


  • As we grow, a lot of competition appears in the SMB space;
  • Learn to be less canadian, defend yourself and punch back;

Hiring your first VP Sales
Brendon CassidySam BlondEmmanuelle Skala

Key insight: The first VP Sales has to be you. Get 2 reps up and running and go for the VP hunt.

  • Perfect timing: You already have 2 reps performing. You have the leads. It is not a true VP of Sales if you only have 1 rep;
  • Have different styles, different profiles for your first reps;
  • The wrong VP of Sales will delay your startup for 1 year.
  • #1 job of the VP Sales is recruiting;
  • Hire ASAP once you have a repeatable process;
  • Your VP Sales must know/have 3–5 sales reps to bring in with him. If not, red flag;
  • VP Sales must take action fast. Assess the team, hire and fire fast;
  • VP of Sales should not carry an individual contributor quota. They exist to teach reps how to do it.
  • You must see results in one sales cycle. More revenue per rep, shorter cycle, 5-10% growth, etc.

More on the subject: This video completely blown my brain in 14′ and inspired us a lot at Rock Content. #thxlemkin, thx Matt Doyon:

CXO Talk Live
Michael KrigsmanZach Nelson

Key insight: Never turn an enterprise deal into a mid market deal 😉

On Netsuite

  • NetSuite was started in 98, went public in 07. Zach came from McAfee, where he was helping the company with internet sales;
  • Initial metrics where deal size and # of deals per rep/month (1 at the time). Never loose historical data, that’ll help find the next growth engines.;
  • Distributed team very early;
  • Priorities: #1 Company vision, #2 Financial management, #3 People

People Retention

  • Track employee vesting schedules. Once they are fully vested, they’ll starting looking for new jobs. Retain these people;

Sales & Market Segmentation

  • Netsuite was selling to SMB’s in the early days, but they were mission critical applications;
  • Cracking the way on how to sell complex applications throught the internet was critical. It allowed Netsuite to sell to midsize business and later (harder) to do enterprise;
  • It’s harder to work for a mid-size business than for enterprise. A U$ 10k mistake is way more dangerous in mid market than on the enterprise;
  • NetSuite once competed with SAP on a 8 million dollar deal. The rep closed a 400k deal. That’s when we learned that the mid market rep would turn enterprise deals into mid market deals. To go enterprise we had to “sorta” create a new organization.
  • When you go public, you have to have a clear answer to “what are your next growth engines? “.


  • Really ugly software, right? None of it works. SAP did a massive 3 billion dollar failure. They should have copied NetSuite.
  • They have not built a single product. They just buy a couple companies and sell it as X on the web.

Building a World-Class Sales Organization
Dave BernanBill BinchJason GreenErica Ruliffson-Schultz

Key insight: The 3 key sales motivators – Personal growth, recognition, compensation.

The VP Sales role

  • VP Sales with little experience that are Alpha Reps are ok in the early stage;
  • At about 10 reps, you need an A+ VP Sales who can train, onboard, and recruit. Someone to build systems;
  • Customer network is also important, specially in enterprise;
  • Your sales leader must be able to tune strategy to segment the team (SMB, enterprise, industry specific, etc.);
  • When scaling, you need a VP Sales who gets his hands dirty;

Early days strategies

  • Marketing on the early days, set quota based on number of deals. Pipeline can be faked;
  • Marketo started with zero discount policy, defined it once the patterns were there;
  • Build a cadence for sales, a motivation machine. Create a spirit of winning;


  • Salespeople are competitive;
  • Motivation factors: #1 growth, #2 recognition, #3 compensation
  • For growth: Encourage 6 months promotions,
  • For Recognition: The leadership must recognize the champs. “Hey, i Saw that deal. Super important for the company”. Have a president’s club. Target for 20% of people. Make sure people get as much fun as they can’t miss it next year
  • For compensation: If you are great on #1 & #2, you can be ok at #3;

Sales Training and Operations

  • If you have 8–10 sales reps and are adding 1 a month, you MUST have training and enablement. It’ll payback faster than you imagine;
  • Sales Ramp up benchmarks: SMB 60–90 days, Mid Market 6 months, Enterprise 9 months;
  • Measure activities. If a rep is trainable and putting in the effort, give them an extra quarter;

Most interesting moment on the talk

Big Binch believes in specialization: “Hunting and customer care are two separate animals. I don’t lump churn and sales together.”

Erica notes that in a product with “high adoption” it is great to have the AE involved in the expansion.

Customer Success: Upsells, Cross-sells and Expansion
April OmanDabid ObrandSanti SubotovskySarah Kokin

Key insight: They only people happy when the customer closes the deal is the salesperson. Finance gets happy when money is in the bank. Engineers are happy when customers actually use the product. CS is happy when customer is successful. Happiness == adoption. Move a significant part of sales compensation towards adoption.

Right time to invest

  • Sometimes, prior to sales. Early goal = Solicit feedback;
  • As fast as possible;
  • For finding your first CSM: Look for consultative people, ability to learn from the customer;

CS metrics

  • Retention is the most important, and first priority;
  • Focus on user engagement, if you have it, you have retention;
  • Customers that want to be a reference. Create passion;

Other notes, ideas

  • Have a clear customer profile. Communicate it to the team;
  • Have a clear alignment across your organization. Make everyone on the organization become passionate about CS;
  • Don’t sell to the wrong customer;
  • Tie part of sales reps comission to retention/adoption;
  • Have a consultative conversation with customers about their one-off requests;
  • Support == cost, Customer Success == Investment;

SaaStr Annual 2016

From Day 0 to IPO: What Went to Plan, What Most Certainly Didn’t
Dharmesh Shah

Key insight: It takes more than technology to build something big.

Wrong assumptions (questioned):

  • Having MBA’s on team is bad. Hubspot has 6 in Management positions;
  • Nobody succeeds selling to small and medium businesses. Hubspot is a billion dollar company selling to these customers;
  • Focus on only 1 thing. Hubspot builds everything a marketer needs (landing pages, seo, smm, email, reporting);

Lessons learned:

  • Charge early, charge often. Your product sucks, that’s ok;
  • Come up with a pricing fast. Do not rocket science it, make it simple. Hubspot had one pricing, one plan, for years;
  • Label your industry. You sell transformation. Hubspot invented “Inbound Marketing”;
  • Don’t be just a brand, be a movement. If you want to create a category, make people be part of it;
  • Freemium hack: Instead of giving people a solution, give them a problem. A Diagnostic tool is a great freemium version, without freemiuns hassles. More on the topic here: ;
  • Absence of cancellation is not proof of presence or delight. Hubspot created the customer happiness index;
  • Lemkin notes: There are some customers that seem active, they seem to be using your product but they’re actually prisoners, waiting to migrate from your product. It’s tricky to find them;
  • Q: How do you resist going enterprise? A: It is easier going upmarket, it is great. The downside is that it is very competitive. The SMB & mid market are infinite.

The Journey to a Unicorn — And How We’re Doing It Even Better This Time
Scott DorseyGordon Ritter

Key insight: Make sure you become a must have, not a nice to have. Become mission critical. Talk to customers everyday.

  • Your product needs to be acessible. Exact Target was laser focused on ease of use. Helping the non-technical marketer be able to do email marketing;
  • Once a small company called Groupon signed via inside sales. A couple months later, they said. We’re gonna be your biggest customer. The ability to serve small and huge companies is critical. SMB helps with virality. Some of those companies will grow fast;
  • Have feature flags: Ability to turn features on and off is critical;
  • Filled to go public in late 07′. A difficult moment, just like right now;
  • Felt the need for a culture framework at 1500 employees. Omniture color was green, Salesforce was red, we wanted a part of it. Being orange was an advantage;
  • 6 acquisitions, all worked incredibly well: 3 international, 3 product expansions;
  • The reseller network was critical for international.;
  • Selling to Salesforce was great, we were SF customers and had a great partnership. They were moving in the marketing cloud direction and it made sense. Salesforce is a PHD in SaaS (stayed for 1 year only);
  • Great moment in Salesforce: Rehearsing Dreamforce keynotes online to all Salesforce employees. Every single employee could rate and comment.;
  • Salesforce is incredibly fast;
  • Integration is critical for success. Exact Target, Buddy Media, Radian 6, lots of companies working in sync.

SaaStr Annual 2016

That’s it for day 1! Feel free to comment, suggest improvements and if you like it, please share it on social networks and send it to your friends that couldn’t make to SaaStr 16′! Stay tuned for tomorrow.

Notes from SaaStr 16’ — Day 2 Summary

SaaStr Annual 2016

Had a lot of fun yesterday, if you want to check day 1 summary, click here. Here’s my notes for Day 2.

Bubble? What Bubble? How It’s Different This Time. And How It Most Certainly Isn’t
Jason LemkinMark Suster

Key insight: In SaaS? It’s time to cut costs, and focus on responsible growth. Not a good time to grow at all costs.

  • There’s a lot of VC money out there and the majority of the money in VC is going to late stage;
  • 55% of money in the system does not come from VC;
  • VC’s are accumulating investments, but not having returns. M&A activity is not up. This is the first january in a decado with zero IPO’s;
  • Median valuation went up 3X in 2 years, but seems to be corrected in Q4 (trend ??);
  • 61% of VCs believe valuations are going down in 16′;
  • Companies are moving towards cost cutting, burn rate reduction and profitability;
  • Not a lot of “FOMO” (fear of missing out) in Silicon Valley anymore. VC’s do not feel the rush to close, and the pace is slowing down. 70% of investors surveyed said their investments have slowed down. They’ll still invest… but not as quickly.
  • Companies aren’t talking about it, but they’re cutting costs.
  • ABR. Always. Be. Raising.

What’s Happening in the Markets: The Real Data
Danielle Morril

Key insights: Raise now OR cut burn and get profitable.

  • In 10 years: 3x more startups getting funded, 6x more capital deployed;
  • We started 15′ at fastest pace of VC deployment in the last 10 years, in 16’things slowed down to 14′ levels (23%);
  • Private funding levels reacted strongly to public markets. Funding announcements lag 1–3 months. Raise now!
  • Seed Stage companies: Medium deal is at U$1.8M now;
  • Series A companies: Going up, right now around U$9.8M;
  • Series A deals are getting done at decent prices, but there’s more competition than before;
  • Series B rounds: Going up, right now at U$24m. Also getting more competitive;
  • Early stage investors are doing inside rounds in their hottest companies.
  • Cutting costs is a great Plan B right now;
  • Keep calm, read Saastr, raise now!

The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Pre-nicorn
Ben UretskyEogahn McCabeTiago Paiva

Digital Ocean: Developer focused, easy to use cloud services

Key insight: Get organic penetration in the enterprise. CTO is not in charge anymore, developers are.

  • Second company, got first one to U$6m arr, 20 employees;
  • Started with the problem: How do you position, and differentiate a business;
  • Focus on developers: The smaller the market segment that you attack, the greater your likelihood of success;
  • Rackspace owned the “great support” message;
  • At Digital Ocean, we focus on the developer and the best user experience;
  • Digital Ocean is the simplest way to run your cloud. It lets you get your app running fast;
  • It’s like stripe for cloud services, it’s just beautiful;
  • Site is great, product is great, people just love it. Quoting Simon Sinek Start with a why;
  • Getting to 9 digits revenues;
  • 3 VC rounds ( 1st round U$3m from IA Ventures, 2nd round U$37m from AH, 3rd 83M from Access Industries);
  • The VC’s that believe the vision and experience are the ones that invested;
  • Started with a product that sold itself, always focusing in self service. It was getting on average 1000 new customers a day. Right now they are building the first sales team;
  • Biggest challenge was evolving as a leader. Getting to 200 employees company;

Intercom: A360 view of the customer, marketing, support, crm solution.

Key insight: Product first companies are a new trend. Product is great. Leads are almost free;

  • U$66M raised;
  • 50% of customers are abroad;
  • 30 days sales cycle;
  • >50% of customers are touchless;
  • Bringing 10’s of millions in ARR;
  • 3k ACV;
  • Super high volume, reps brings more than 15 deals per month. High activity;
  • Timing: Zendesk and Marketo laid the path for companies like Intercom;
  • Intercom was a better solution for real problems. The product itself was contrastant with the market solutions;
  • Selling to developers and product people;
  • In the new world, our customer approach sales people and says “I wanna buy”;

Talkdesk: Easy to use Call center technology

Key insight: Keep going upmarket, step by step. Lead SMB, go to Mid, lead Mid, go Enterprise.

  • Growing 20% MoM;
  • Bringing 10’s of millions in ARR;
  • From 15 to 200 employees in 1 year;
  • Last year was at U$4m arr;
  • 1y paid upfront brings cash advantages and small dilutions;
  • Got to U$1m arr on a U$500k investment;
  • Biggest change in last 18 months: Transitioning from SMB to mid market & enterprise;
  • Sales now at 45 headcount;
  • Expecting 125 in 12 months;
  • Our SMB customers took us upmarket. They grow and keep adding people. We have to adapt to serve them;
  • Great integrations and ease of use were the differentials to win modern buyers;
  • Drove price point up, 4–5X in 2 years, by adding more functionality. Competitors were complex and expensive, as they closed their feature gaps, they could leverage “new features” to upsell and go upmarket;

The Real Story Behind Mergers, Acquisitions & Corporate VC
John Somorjai

Key insight: Salesforce is both #1 VC and acquirer in SaaS.

Saleforce VC

  • SF started investing strategically in partners in the SF app ecosystem in 2009;
  • 6 people team;
  • Sample great investments: Docusign, Hubspot;
  • Every investment requires a executive sponsor from a business unit.Make financial sense;
  • 3 people in investment comitee. We’re fast;
  • 50% investment pipeline split between ventures team / business unit sponsor;
  • Lots of intros from VC community;
  • Doing 10–15 investments per quarter (new investments & follow ons combined);
  • 150 active companies in portfolio. 50% are A rounds, 30% are B rounds;
  • SF does not take board seats;
  • SF Ventures is a good fit is SF brand and customer base are potential assets for you. Ventures goal is to help companies navigate SF ecosystem;
  • Invests of the balance sheet, so everything is disclosed;
  • Ask for notification rights. You have to disclose to SF before selling;
  • Encouraging companies to get burn rates down and get on the path to profitability;
  • But if you have low churn, there is no reason not to invest in sales growth;
  • Does not invest before U$3M in ARR. If you just got into the app store, it’s too early.

M&A at Salesforce

  • 8 people team;
  • You have to date before getting married;
  • You have to have an exit strategy. Most good companies will end in M&A.
  • Executive relations are crucial for getting shot at being acquired;
  • There are 1000 cool companies @SalesForce could buy for every 1 that it does.

Big Arse Companies: Why They Buy from Startups — The Real Stories
Jonathan LehrTom CarrollJoyce ShenScarlett Sieber

Key insight: Yes, big cos buy from startups. Be pragmatic, understand their priorities, and go straight to the point.

  • Startups are more nimble and give big cos an opportunity to be at cutting edge in tech;
  • Corporate buy from startups by getting close to accelerators, meet ups, being part of ecosystem;
  • As as startup sales rep, keep it to the point, give context, make a relevant approach and understand the industry;
  • Be specific. State how you can help, how you differentiate. Figure out early who should you talk to and tailor your message. 3 sentences email. Don’t start with with a 6 paragraph email. Do not send a template email;
  • Do not assume early that they will be a distribution center before helping them. Do your homework before showing up, do not show up like an idiot.
  • Connect on Linkedin & Twitter. Social works on the enterprise too;
  • We’re not interested in knowing what big data is. Show me the value chain!
  • Have an evangelist. Ask what’s going on. Understand the decision chain. Ask for help;
  • They look for product, customer proofs/testimonials.

Benchmarking Your Startup
Tomasz TunguzConnie Loizos

Key insight: Only 2% of software is in the cloud. We’re still in the SaaS early days. But just being SaaS, staying in the cloud is not enough anymore;

  • Redpoint focuses on A rounds;
  • 3.8B managed, 400+ active investments;
  • Successes include: Stripe, Zendesk, Expensify, Twilio, Heroku;
  • Tom analyzed 60 SaaS companies and brought some benchmarks for SaaS startups for their A rounds;
  • Average A size round: U$9.3M in 15′, growing from U$8.5M in 14′ ;
  • Average A round MRR: U$163K, but 27% of Series As Generate $0MRR;
  • 16′ is a year of change. Markets have changed.
  • Seed investors have grown 5X in 5 years;
  • Public investors value SaaS in revenue multiples. Right now the average is 3.3X revenues;

  • Content marketing and email retargeting keep growing fast and proving themselves as cost effective acquisition strategies;
  • Channel partnerships are becoming an effective SaaS distribution strategy;
  • 2 Big forces in SaaS will bring a new SaaS wave: Machine learning, conversational, chat interfaces;
  • Mobile brings a new distribution paradigm. Expensify cracked mobile distribution, people download the app and get their financial team to switch platforms. This has being a really powerful tool for growth. You get social proof in the organization. Unlike SEO, expensive and competitive, you can still get app installs for cheap;

Driving SaaS Success Using Key Metrics
David SkokAlex Konrad

Key insightThe thing that surprises many investors and boards of directors about the SaaS model is that, even with perfect execution, an acceleration of growth will often be accompanied by a squeeze on profitability and cash flow. — Ron Gill, Netsuite CFO

  • SaaS is a machine. Several levers, metrics that you should care and want to optimize.
  • What we care about the most? 3 fundamentals are: 1) Growth, 2) Profitability, 3) Cash;
  • First, make sure we understand the SaaS cash flow. (more here: );
  • Then understand unit economics (see previous article);
  • The golden LTV > 3xCAC formula is alive and still applies 7 years later;
  • Use variable, multi axis pricing. Axis 1: Product tiers (basic, pro, enterprise). Axis 2: Users (per seat, per storage, per leads, etc…). Don’’ panic about it too early.
  • For cash, always think about “months to recover CAC”. Drive this number down to build a great SaaS business. Months to recover CAC must be less than 12 months;
  • More on CAC: Understand Sales Complexity, and model acordingly. CAC growth by model is not linear, it’s logaritmic. Remove complexity. Adding humans is umbelievably expensive.
  • Primary unit of growth is adding salespeople. Understand a “salesperson” cash flow and its unit economics. The average salesperson takes 23 months in ramping and costs up to U$110k to become profitable.
  • Interesting benchmark: According to Skok OTE (on target earnings) should be around 5X quota (I don’t see this close to being a reallity in brazil);

PS: If you’’e from Brazil (just like me), some time ago I translated SaaS Metrics 2.0 to portuguese =>

10 Laws of Building a Unicorn
Byron DeeterAlex Konrad

Key insight: Follow the 1–1–1 rule. Less than 1X new ARR in burn, Less than 1% churn, Less than a year to recover CAC;

  • Law #10: Be on Demand. Everything is on Demand these days. People expect on demand;
  • Law #9: Grow or Die. Every 10% more in growth, 1x more in multiple;
  • Law #8: Sales efficiency is oxygen. You can live some days without water or food. Oxygen, 8 minutes means you’re braind dead. Sales efficiency reduces dilution;
  • Law #7: Customer Success is key. 1% improvement in churn means way better revenues and valuations;
  • Law $6: Control your destiny. Cash is King. Cost of capital is rising right now;
  • Law #5: know the 5c’s of cloud. CARR, CAC PAYBACK, CHURN, CLTV, lost the last 1 (am i doomed?).
  • Law #4: The best product is starting to win;
  • Law #3: Developers are becoming the customer and decision maker. There are 20M developers in the world. Use API’s to accelerate the business;
  • Law #2: Inspire. Have a vision. Hire great people, that believe in a true north;
  • Law #1: Mobile is eating the world (wide web). 85% of your customers are on a smarthone. More than 50% of web usage is mobile;

Presentation can be downloaded here.

Building a Killer Company in a Nonobvious Market
Andy WilsonScot ChisholmDaniel ChaitAileen Lee

Key insight: You don’t need to be super sexy. You need to match a real demand and you’re gonna get great growth, even if it’s a nonobvious market.

  • If you’re niche, it’s not easy to raise money early. The first dollar raised is the hardest.
  • HR is somewhat easier. A lot of people think what we’re doing is meaningful and they actually care. You have several ways to differentiate;
  • Traction is your best friend if you’re raising;
  • Thought leadership is a key to succeed if you’re not mainstream. Come with a complete new concept and tell people;

Building — And Monetizing — A Partner Ecosystem
Neeracha TaychakhoonavudhNarinder SinghApril UnderwoodIlya Fushman

Key insight: Be big enough. People will come to you.

  • 20% of slack’s team works in platform;
  • Platform is not to everyone;
  • You need either data, or API’s to make developer’s life easy;
  • Sometimes you need a service, not a platform. You can provide it as an API, and maybe not a platform;
  • A platform is a huge commitment;
  • You’re distribution, but they increase your adoption;
  • Aim to solve a big problem. That’s the foundation;
  • Bringing big partners early accelerates everything;
  • Keep the partner bar high. People trust and will ask the platform;
  • If the end goal of what you’re working on is just to make a specific platform better, think broader.

That’s it for today guys, see ya tomorrow for day 3. Also, if you have any idea on how to make this better, feel free to tweet at me at @dttg.

Notes from SaaStr 16’ — Day 3 Summary

SaaStr Annual 2016

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’s my notes:

What Makes a Great SaaS CEO
Josh SteinJason Lemkin

Key insight: If you can get to U$1m in ARR you are smart enought 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
Phil Fernandez

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 mid market. Huge race to the bottom, with 6–7 competitors;
  • Before marketing automation, they started as a SEO product. Pivoted after A round;
  • In the enterprise there was need for innovation, budget and less competition;
  • Average deal size is U$50k;
  • We saw Eloqua as a 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, 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 a 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
Kirsten Helvey

Key insight: Be transparent, polite, work hard to help everybody to develop their self awareness sense.

  • Joined as an account manager, at 30 people. 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 consulting background. So i had to align business proccess 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 fundamentaly believe that if I don’t learn something new everyday, I’m failing;
  • You need to have 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 mantain it. You have to care about what you’re doing. You gotta have a mission and stay true to that;
  • People who are not 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 to 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 top level. I don’t know what your path is. But trust me. If you rock, I will create a path.
  • Phil mentioned about the cocaine of customer acquisition. I think about the crack of happy customers;
  • Customer success is knowing the science of your customers. Back them we used spreadsheets. Now you can automate a lot of it;
  • Customer success manager is responsible for utilization of the solution, making the solution sticky, and help the customer realize the value, and uncover needs and goals of the organization. The account management team, runs renewals and upsells based on the uncovered needs;
  • People is your biggest asset. Treat them with respect;

Marketing: Running the Box Playbook – Even Better The Second Time
Anthony KennadaMenaka ShroffAaron 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 bellow, from 2009. (If you do a billboard, make sure people will have time to read it.)
  • Takeaway #3: As marketers, we need to think about entry points — touches, leads, etc
  • If you have a tool one individual can use alone, and you have a large number of those users, freemium works well. If it’s team/collaboration solution, usually is not that great;
  • For new categories, educate the market first, then, bring the product conversations later on. Gainsight focused on teaching customers how to buy, after teaching customer success concepts. ROI calculators, Buyer guides, Sample RFP’s, Long form explainer ebooks;
  • Takeaway #4: Use events to spread the word. (Benioff invented that)
  • It is great for thought leadership. the event is a manisfestation of what you’re doing online.
  • It isn’t just for customers. It’s about the industry and the category.
  • Takeaway #5: Build customers and a Community
  • One of Box core values is to blow the customers mind;
  • Work close with the early believers. They’ll bring your whale customers later. Respond to their needs and leverage them for promotion;
  • You’re building software for people to use. Make them realize that there’s people on the other side too.
  • Bonus Takeaway: Promote your rockstar CEO!
  • Dress him well;
  • Make him become a thought leader in the category;
  • He has to carry the brand and be responsible for it;

Building Amazing Teams
Keith Rabois

Key insight: Take bets when you hire. Get information to make informed bets. Buy a lot of coffee.

  • Keith started at Paypal, and worked and invested in several startups. Slide, Linkedin, Square, Khosla Ventures, Scribd;
  • 28 investments;
  • Just started Opendoor. 70 employees today. Only 2 have domain expertise;
  • If you have no discretionary time for people, you’re overwhelmed as CEO;
  • Beware of the risk of playing 2 roles. A lot of CEO’s end up doing CEO & VP product. In this case, you might need a COO soon;
  • If you have a secondary title, you need someone to help. It has to be a permanent position;
  • For COO, bring a different skill set. It’s important to assess your gaps and hire someone to fill those;
  • In Paypal we used to have aggressive discussions;
  • In my 1st week at Paypal, Peter explained to me. You can’t go after proven people when you start. You have to go after people that are less proven, and become great at evaluating, focus on learning how to evaluate people. Make informed bets, and give these people the opportunity to succeed.
  • 2 kinds of things you want in a VP. Ability to manage people really well, technical/strategy understanding. Take a bet if they only have A+ experience in one of those;
  • Choose investors that can help you recruit, retain, train;
  • Go meet the 5 best people at something. Have coffee. What will I learn from the best CFO in the world? By getting coffee with one, you have a benchmark to interview less experience candidates. You know what to look for. Use your network, investors, angels;
  • For any new position, interview as many people as possible;
  • You can get good early in your career at reference checking for each position. If you get good at that, it will avoid a lot of mistakes;
  • Preserve what’s unique about your culture. When you’re adding 15 people a quarter, your culture is changing. Make sure you retain culture. Keep people together and on the same page;
  • When you grow very fast, it’s a rocket ship ticket. It’s easy to sell, interesting, and people can find an infinite amount of unknown paths.

How to Break Out and Really Scale
Dan SirokerAjay Agarwal

Key insight: The last thing you wanna do, is what other companies have done.

  • Former director of analytics for Google. Man, it was hard to do A/B testing at that time.
  • Ease of use was the catalyst for growth;
  • Focusing on the product, helped us get growth through evangelism;
  • Marketers tend to talk to other marketers;
  • We were not great at marketing initially. My co-founder’s goal was 1 blog post per quarter. A year later, nada.
  • Our tagline when we started the company was “A/B Testing You’ll Actually Use.”
  • Don’t focus at growth at any costs. Growth has it’s costs. It has expenditure costs, we culture costs. The rocketship message is important. It has to go fast, but also to go far;
  • To be pragmatic you need to be consistent. If someone is not a great culture fit, ask why.
  • Great culture: On a weekly all hands, people report a bug incident. One guy stands up and says: I was the one to introduce the bug, here’s why it happened, here’s what we found about it, here’s why it’ll never happen again. This is a great culture. It’s transparent and accountable. Search for missionaries, not mercenaries;
  • Behaviors are important assistants to culture. Defining them is important too;
  • It’s important to update your company, change values;
  • Our real sales team are our customers;
  • Hire people who are not proven. Bet on these guys;
  • A/B testing on pricing. Eat your own dogfood. We went from SMB simple pricing to a very flexible model (no limits, pay per usage, give U$500 for you to test);
  • Make sure everybody understands what you understand. When you are 250 people, you don’t participate in the majority of the decisions. Give people clarity. Give them the reasoning to make the right decisions and get out of the way;

The Second Five Years
Josh McfarlandRaj De DattaSameer Dholakia

Key insight: Ask the hard question. Are we excited for this next stage? Am I? Are we good technical fit? Can I do it? If not, it’s important to refresh the company.

  • Bloomreach is personalization software for enterprise;
  • Sendgrid is an email marketing platform for developers and marketers;
  • Tellapart is predictive analytics for finding your best customers (acquired by Twitter);
  • Raj Scale culture: Use the word we. Create mechanisms for reinforcing it;
  • Sendgrid’s values, 4H’s: Happy, Hungry, Humble and Honest;
  • TellApart: In the transition to Twitter, we kept one of the strongest cultures in Sillicon Valley. And we never sat down and created a formal document. We hoped to impact your resumee, your bank account, your memories. The TellAparties were memorable. As you transition from 80 people to a 4k people company, you have to keep your culture and amplify it. Bring them to the rest of the company.The commitment I made to my people and to Twitter. A year from now, success means leaving a meeting and not knowing who came from twitter and who came from TellApart. If you have a clash, it is a lack of context, not a major disagreement;
  • Sendgrid has a tradition of flying the whole company for alignment and kickoff meeting in Mexico. Create memories that affect the business;
  • Raj: One of the hardest things about scaling the companies is becoming the #1 experience that impact people’s professional lives;
  • Raj: Be aggressive. But aggressive for the long term. Focus on sustainable growth;
  • Sendgrid did several changes lately. Almost all C level. What are the skills needed to get to the next 5 years? And the executives must understand their roles. Bring people passionate about getting to next level and that have the next stage skills. Have honest conversations and ask: Are you still fired up for this new stage?
  • Bloomreach: Stage #1: Let’s take the world on and do everything. No titles. No exec team. Stage #2: Build an exec team, 3 years in. Spent a lot of time recruiting. Stage #3: Who’s got the energy? The skills, the attitude for the next stage? Refresh.
  • These conversations should be explicit. Have open conversations if people are up for the next challenge. It is freaking hard. Before asking people, ask yourself. Am i excited and interested about it?

PR Playbook: The Real Truth. How to Get It. What It Means
Ed ZitronErica LeeSarah FrierColleen TaylorMatt Weinberger

Key insight: Sell stories and relevance. Don’t be boring.

  • Metrics that really matter: Revenue and valuation. Staff numbers are useful. User numbers are good;
  • Don’t say you grew 5000% this year. You didn’t exist last year;
  • Don’t say “best in class solution”, “disruption”, “innovative”. Tell who your customers are;
  • Our job is to tell stories. Give us tools to help that goal;
  • Market data, Business benchmarks, reasearch data. Expose these kinds of numbers. If you don’t want to expose yourself, get great, interesting stuff;
  • Entrepreneurs undersestimate how smart they are often;
  • Very few people are born to get on stage. If your founder is ugly and boring, found multiple spokespeople. Have different people for different spots.
  • Train people. Train yourself. If you’re a CEO, we hope someday you’ll be on Bloomberg.
  • Very few people are interested in stuff such as data analytics. You have to craft an interesting point of view or story;
  • Practice. Zuck was terrible, now he’s always doing Q&A’s. He’s confortable talking about things he’s passionate;
  • Be professional. The journalist is doing his job. Don’t be an asshole. They are not obliged to talk about your company;
  • Give them real NEWS, not OLDS;
  • Never expect them to cover everything. They are just too busy. They do not work for you. They work for the readers;
  • Sometimes we’ll interview you and not run it. It’s common. Don’t expect that every briefing call will end up as a story. Don’t be frustrated by that;
  • Sync stories and launches. Get everything ready from a product perspective when you give an exclusive;
  • It’s great hearing from the founder, makes stuff more relevant, most of the time. In the early days, do not outsource the story you’re telling;
  • The best way to get in touch is not on the phone. It feels weird for all journalists;

“When Last We Met …”
Jason Lemkin

Key insight: I’ll be at SaaStr 17′ again.

That’s it guys. See you next year. Meanwhile, if you want to connect, follow me on twitter or tweet at @dttg. Congrats Jason M. Lemkin for putting this great crowd and content together.