I'm a partner at Redpoint
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book, Winning with Data
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How much should a SaaS startup invest in sales and marketing at different stages of the business? This is a very nuanced question, but benchmarks do provide some guidance for what is reasonable. Sales and marketing investment depends on many different factors including establishing product market fit, the business's sales model (inside, field, freemium), and not least, cash balance and fundraising capacity.
One of the hardest things for me is to admit is when I'm wrong. It's hard first to admit it to myself. But harder yet is to admit the error to others. It could be my wife or my colleagues. Most challenging of all is owning the error in a public forum. But admitting mistakes is a key defining attribute of a leader. Owning the mistake accomplishes one critical thing. It builds trust, because it reinforces a fundamental characteristic of our humanity. We are all fallible.
How important is hiring for emotional intelligence? EQ or EI was introduced in 1964 by Michael Beldoch and popularized by Daniel Goleman in 1995. I hear EQ uttered in nearly every job interview and evaluations, and assumed that high EQ correlated to higher job performance. But I read two articles recently that changed my perception of emotional intelligence.
One of the most difficult go-to-market strategies for startups is platform. Platform go to markets mean selling software that can do many things, depending on the customer need. Selling a platform is challenging for five reasons.
Every startup's sales commission plan is different. But it's key to understand the theory and the benchmark data that governs the creation of sales commission plans to create a good one for your business.
Your startup is growing. You suspect you have initial product market fit. Time to hire the first head of each department. Sales, marketing, customer success, engineering, product management. Some founders might have experience or exposure into one of these teams. But rarely do they understand every one well enough to hire the right department chief. How should you do it? I've observed three successful strategies.
I commuted to my first job on a bicycle. With my parent's help, I bought a lemon yellow second-hand road bike that I pedaled 20 miles each way from 30th and N streets in Georgetown, Washington DC, over bustling Chain Bridge and the languid Potomac to an office park buried in Tyson's Corner in Virginia. That was my workout each week. Then I moved to California and retired the bike. When I started working at Google, I spent the hour on the Google shuttle from San Francisco to Mountain View emailing. Today, I drive most places.
A founder asked me if we had reached the point that SaaS is commodified. "Can you build a venture scale SaaS company anymore?" He made three key points to support the argument.
We've seen quite a bit of volatility in the valuations of publicly traded software companies over the last 5 years. In 2014, the average software company traded at 7.7x forward revenues - the sum of projected revenues over the next 12 months. Two years later, that multiple dropped 57% to 3.3x forward. Today, we're exactly where we were in 2013, at 5.4x, which is coincidentally, is the average over this time period.
Harry Stebbins published a podcast with David Beisel this week in which they discussed the importance of voice. David says, "Voice is the most natural user interface possible." I think the biggest challenge for voice is the skepticism and cynicism engendered by a decade or two of poor experiences. It's no longer the technology.