TL;DR: Build things non-technical staff need and programmers hate building.
I’ve been studying a lot of successful B2B SaaS startups lately, and noticed that the really great ones increase productivity in a very specific way: they eliminate dependency on technical staff to build and maintain internal tools. By doing so, they allow product and marketing teams to operate with greater speed and independence.
A great example of this is Optimizely. Before Optimizely existed, growth-focused roles (typically filled by non-technical team members) relied on technical staff to provide and maintain A/B testing and optimization tools.
Now that doesn’t sound too bad… except that most programmers hate building these sort of internal tools. Programmers are makers, hackers. They want to build cool features and solve big problems — not write and maintain optimization tools. So when tasked with building an internal optimization tool, programmers get bored. And bored programmers build shitty tools. As a result, A/B testing tools built internally never get the attention they need to be great.
So what? Programmers are whiny, hard to please, and even harder to work with — I already knew that ;) However in most cases non-technical teams who required these tools to perform their job also hated using them. The UI was awful, the code was buggy, and it took forever to change anything. In short, their experience sucked. But to make any improvement, non-technical staff were forced to rely on technical resources — they were completely dependent on programmers to maintain and update a tool that they needed to do their job.
The result is painful: programmers begrudgingly build half-baked tools that barely work and nobody likes, and yet are required for non-technical teams to perform their role at the company.
This is where great B2B SaaS comes in. Optimizely provides the A/B testing tool that non-technical growth teams have always wanted, while allowing programmers to stop building boring, half-assed optimization tools, and go write meaningful and interesting software. Optimizely breaks the dependency of non-technical staff on technical resources to provide A/B testing tools. It’s a two-sided win: programmers can stop performing tasks they hate, and growth-focused teams can perform their jobs without relying on technical bandwidth.
At sendwithus, we’re breaking the technical dependency for transactional email. Our goal is to give product and marketing teams the best toolset possible — something their technical teams will never build for them.
There are many opportunities for these sorts of “dependency breaking” SaaS products to exist, and finding such opportunities isn’t too difficult. Ask anyone who works in a non-technical role what they hate having to rely on developers for, and chances are that’s a problem worth solving.