When I started in the venture business and met software companies, I never heard the words customer success during pitches or throughout diligence or in board meetings. A few years later, customer success has become equal in importance to sales and marketing and engineering and product within SaaS companies. The steady increasing drumbeat of the Customer Success mantra is reflected in Google search traffic, which has tripled since 2009 for the term. So, why now?
More than 100B mobile applications have been downloaded since the launch of the Apple iOS and Google Play stores. Last year, I analyzed the state of competition for these downloads among app developers. At that time, startups faced substantially more difficulty rising through Google Play ranks than the iOS charts. During the past 18 months, the competitive behavior within the Free Apps section of these app stores has evolved substantially in four meaningful ways.
When starting a company, founders often decide between two structures: the S-Corp and the LLC. But, as James Surowiecki writes in "Companies with Benefits," there is a new option called the B-Corporation, the Benefit Corporation. The Benefit Corporation became an option in 2010 when Maryland's legislature signed it into law. Subsequently, nearly twenty states have followed suit including California and Delaware. In the past four years, more than 1,000 companies have become B-Corporations including some very well known brands in technology and consumer goods.
For consumer products, the power of mobile distribution is hard to overstate. Facebook serves more than 1B mobile users each month. Angry Birds reached 50M users in 35 days, a feat that took Instagram 18 months and Facebook more than 3 years. But the distribution advantages of mobile app stores hasn't been observed as powerfully in SaaS or enterprise software.
Through last week, 80% of fast-growing technology companies who reported Q2 earnings had met or exceeded expectations, on average by 4%. As the earnings season has progressed, the tech sector is showing impressive signs of strength and predictability in the underlying companies' business. Startups benefit from a booming public market for three reasons.
I've listened to thousands of fundraising pitches in my six years so far at Redpoint. Some with demos, some without. Some with hockey-stick charts, and others just an idea. I'll never forget one meeting when the founders presented an entirely hand-drawn deck on 12 pieces of paper. The extent of founders' creativity is hard to over-state. Most founders do cover the essentials of a pitch in their presentations. But what distinguishes the best pitches? It's a question I hear all the time from founders looking to polish their pitch.
Customer Success is a relatively new discipline in the Software-as-a-Service world. Consequently, there are many unanswered questions about how best to build and manage great Customer Success teams for SaaS companies. Because the financial impact of a great CS team is compounded monthly and can meaningfully increase the growth and decrease the cash needs of SaaS startups, it's critical for CS leaders to get it right. Last night, I attended a dinner with many heads of Customer Success from prominent valley SaaS companies. We spoke for quite a while about the best way to structure and motivate Customer Success teams to balance customer care and account growth. One VP of Customer Success described an innovative approach to managing this balancing act.
One of the most important changes is the workplace in the last 20 years is the notion that most employees are free agents. We are hired and fired and resign at will. It's a markedly different era than the career salarymen of IBM's heyday who remained with the company for decades from college graduation through retirement. In this highly-competitive talent market, where every employee is a free agent, hiring and retaining talent has become a key strategic advantage.So, which are the best tools to create a vibrant and attractive working environment?
I've never paid much attention to earnings reports in the past. But as I've been analyzing the tech industry more and more, and the stock market has begun to surpass record highs, I've been wondering whether the persistent bull market in tech is sustainable. Or at the very least, whether the companies pushing the industry forward are able to understand the environment and their businesses well enough to meet the commitments they make to public market investors.
"Advice is one person's experience generalized", an entrepreneur told me once. "It's a single point of view with all kinds of survivorship and attribution bias. Advice can be a terribly dangerous thing, because it can be used as a shortcut for thinking." When I asked how he responded to requests for advice, because as a successful entrepreneur he was often solicited for it, he replied that he first shared the structure and the framework he used to look at the problem. Only after discussing that did he reveal the details about he and his team had arrived at a decision.