When I was a PM at Google, we conducted customer research often to understand our customers' opinions on AdSense. In 2005, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were vying to win dominant share of advertising pages across large publishers. Customer knowledge, both quantitative and quantitative, informed product development, and that research became a key part of AdSense's success. A few years later when I joined Redpoint, I learned that venture capitalists perform similar customer research during diligence. While the ultimate use of the data might differ, the actual investigations and interviews are remarkably alike.
Starting on October 21, I'll be hosting a bi-weekly event from the Redpoint San Francisco offices called SaaS Office Hours. During these two hours, we will discuss the tactical issues and questions facing seed and Series A SaaS companies in a small group. That's why we called them Office Hours.
How big is your SaaS startup's sales pipeline? How big does it need to be to achieve next month's bookings target? What is the ratio of the sales pipeline to bookings? What should it be?
"What is the one equation that describes our business?" asked Scott, our new director at Google, during one of our first meetings. I had been there only for a few quarters, so I was startled when he asked. I had never viewed our business this way, but after he asked the question, I wondered why I hadn't. It seemed obvious in retrospect.
Today, 70% of startups in the US that raise a Series A have raised a seed round. That's up from 50% ten years ago. In the same period, the amount of seed capital invested in the US has increased about 10x from $200M per year to $2B. What does this imply for early stage founders?
SaaS Enabled Marketplaces benefit from a unique advantage in their go-to-market. They have a panoptic view of their market place, which over time provides them an unassailable competitive advantage.
In 1977, a British polymath named Christopher Alexander, who studied Math and Architecture at Cambridge and was awarded Harvard's first PhD in architecture, published a book titled A Pattern Language - Towns, Buildings, Construction. This book would transform the architecture world, and more surprisingly, forever influence the way computer scientists write software.
One of the most powerful levers for SaaS companies to master is payback period. Payback period is the number of months a company requires to payback its cost of customer acquisition. The median SaaS startup has a payback period of 15 months. A short payback period confers two massive advantage to a startups - smaller working capital requirements and a consequent ability to grow much faster.
When writing the post Vertical SaaS Startups Require Different Go To Market Than Horizontal SaaS Companies, I realized that there is a perception on my part and perhaps more broadly that vertical SaaS companies enjoy greater sales efficiencies than horizontal SaaS companies.After all, vertical SaaS companies target a smaller number of potential buyers. The marketing team concentrates their media buys to target this audience, the sales team focuses on a smaller lead list. Does the data support this notion?