SaaS Nation Army
I recently returned from my second go-round at the SaaStr Annual event in San Jose and the atmosphere and sense of community that founder, Jason Lemkin, has generated there continues to impress. There were some 10,000 people in attendance and the event just keeps on growing. It helped highlight for me this incredible decade-plus run that SaaS is on. It also underlined what a great community there exists within this space, a community of old (and new) successful founders & CEOs presenting advice and lessons learned (as well as real hands-on guidance) to the legion of up-and-coming SaaS entrepreneurs that surround them.
And it truly is a community. You’ve got the old guard teaching the new guard in a meaningful way, advising entrepreneurs across a spectrum of issues ranging from how to build your sales or engineering teams to the best way to grow your ARR to 100MN in 3 years. In my 13 years helming two businesses we never had this kind of a resource at our disposal. It’s like having access to a founder’s playbook and the impact is undeniable: Look how effective this community has been in jumpstarting and fostering huge companies from within its ranks all while creating, by some estimates, over 100 SaaS unicorns over the past 10 years.
You’ve got companies like Vox, Stripe and Slack that have all emerged out of this SaaS community over the last 5 years. You’ve also got massive companies like Qualtrics, who recently sold for $8BN to SAP, or Zendesk, that went public and is currently worth $8.2BN market cap (as of 2/13/19) and shows no signs of slowing. The point of this story is that within this SaaS community an awful lot of people are getting to the promised land — not to mention the myriad companies that are sitting in Series D rounds that value them at +1BN.
So why does this decade plus SaaS moment show no signs of ebbing? Why are so many of these SaaS businesses continuing to find such success? In short, what makes SaaS so damn attractive?
Well, part of the reason is that — in a Be Like Bezos World — global enterprises have little choice but to embrace SaaS. There is an existential imperative for them to take on a “software frame of mind“ and they need what these SaaS companies are selling. Even non-tech companies and SMBs are finding it a matter of necessity — even survival — to reimagine their businesses through SaaS. This is not a revelation anymore. It’s gospel.
And these low-tech/no-tech industries and enterprises are actually vital to the continued Golden Age of SaaS. As they adapt and utilize advanced technologies to transform their own spaces it opens up new vistas for SaaS companies to operate in, effectively nullifying the potential for over-saturation or constriction that can accompany fierce completion in a given space. Both of these factors would significantly dampen the SaaS run, otherwise.
You also can’t overlook the fundamental tech nature of these platforms — deploying best in class AI & ML, their ability to parse data very quickly and efficiently (given cheapness of Cloud/data storage), etc. As advanced technologies become the standard across sectors, SaaS’s inherent tech nature makes it a natural extension of these general trends happening across global enterprises, SMBs and low tech/no tech industries and businesses.
And that makes for a unique community where everybody wants to learn and everyone wants to help each other. As a result, we’re seeing this rising SaaS tide lift all boats here. SaaS companies have done away with the necessity for hardware and they answer key business questions for enterprises around scalability, accessibility, specialization and adoption. From martech to logistics to retail and real estate — it just works.
As an investor this is incredibly encouraging. It’s a great space to invest in. In addition to having this built-in need, this runway for growth and this amazing community these companies are leading the way in utilizing advanced technologies to transform business-to-business workflow. Whether it’s companies like Twilio and Twitch or MongoDB and Marketo all of these companies with all of these varied tech layers at work have all arisen from same community in relatively short order and are all having amazing successes, and — as a result — the Golden Age of SaaS shows no sign of turning.