17 Incredible Quotes from SaaStr Annual 2017
SaaStr Annual 2017 brought together founders, executives, thought leaders, and more for a three-day conference in San Francisco. I attended six sessions on the conference’s second day, and found them to be some of the most instructive, tactical sessions I’ve ever attended at a technology conference. Speakers and panelists were honest and thoughtful, and provided a wealth of knowledge and advice to the thousands of attendees about how to start, grow, and sustain SaaS businesses.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the jam-packed day of sessions.
Build your products and companies strategically
- “Early on, we always had a quarterly plan, but nothing beyond that. We thought, ‘six months from now we could be out of business’. After 1.5 years, we graduated to an annual plan, then a three-year plan, and we are just now starting to create the vaguest of 5 year plans.” -Peter Gassner, Founder & CEO, Veeva Systems
2. “If you want to create an add-on to your initial product, consider these points:
- The next product you build should be bigger than the first product your company built. Otherwise, is it really worth your time?
- Building a second product can break apart product processes from company processes. It’s really hard, and a lot of times you can fail at that. When’s the first time to become a real multi-product company? When you can pick clear, correct markets for that product.”-Peter Gassner, Founder & CEO, Veeva Systems
3. “Write down a plan, execute that plan, and measure yourself against the plan. Over time, every idea gets copied, but execution is enduring. Spend 90%+ on execution.” -Peter Gassner, Founder & CEO, Veeva Systems
AI is now
4. “AI will change the world of SaaS because innovations will happen in the same core categories we’ve seen in the past. You’re selling to support, sales, and product teams. But AI will also broaden out SaaS. Key processes in offline industries will become automated, and there’s huge potential for innovation.” -Tomasz Tunguz, Venture Capitalist, Redpoint
5. “AI is trying to improve productivity, make the experience better and therefore make technology more approachable. I see very interesting use cases in our ecosystem and specifically at the Salesforce Incubator. For instance, AI can be used to automatically generate sales emails, identify unconscious bias within a company, or optimize team formation. Salesforce Einstein technologies will help build AI-powered apps that get smarter.” Ludo Ulrich, Head, Startup Relations / Salesforce for Startups
6. “The key thing with human/robot this interaction is that you need to set the expectation. If you say that a chat bot will be able to answer any question, for instance, humans will use it once, find the limitations, and stop using it. Set the expectation of users appropriately.” -Tomasz Tunguz, Venture Capitalist, Redpoint
Leverage the Salesforce platform and ecosystem to accelerate growth
7. “Integrate with or build on Salesforce. If you have an app, start to integrate. Even if you don’t want to get listed on AppExchange, look at integrating, because your customers will start asking for it. “ -Ian Dunckel, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Salesforce
8. “We waited too long to integrate with Salesforce. All of our customers are pretty much Salesforce customers. When we think about our customer market, and where they going for workflows, we should have had our app integrate with Salesforce earlier. If we’re not in their Salesforce instance helping them with their workflow, we’re missing a huge opportunity.” — Amanda Kahlow, Founder & CEO, 6Sense
9. “I have seen the power of the Salesforce partner program, and AppExchange, when you get the full wheel working. I saw that happen when I was at Apttus. I realized that it’s not just about design, development, or tech. If you can leverage the full platform, go-to-market resources, and the partner ecosystem, you can get that force multiplier that you don’t get building on another tech stack.”- Ray Hein, Founder & CEO, Propel
10. “We had a Salesforce integration for years, and it was pretty deep, but it was not unique. We decided a year ago to go all in and become formal partners. We built a managed package, listed on AppExchange in June 2016, and the results were pretty great. But a lot of work was involved from us. What happened is two-fold: the product is much better, it looks better, and has single sign-on. And all of a sudden, our sales teams came to us and said ‘Wow, this is much better than the typical call center we use, despite the fact we never built for this use case.’” — Gadi Shamia, COO, Talkdesk
Be prepared to scale your entire business when chasing your first six-figure deal
11. “You need to decide where your company is equipped to handle a customer like this. If you don’t have experience, you’re going to have to figure it out as a founder. You will need to own that sales process. Larger enterprises will expect and value it. Little quirks will come up through the sales process, and only you as the founder will have wherewithal to get those things done when they come up.”- Bob Marsh, Founder & CEO, LevelEleven
12. “The key thing is to understand what makes the customer worth a six-figure deal. Is it because you sold an enterprise-wide license? Is it a higher volume of users? Is it because you sold more complex modules? Ideally, when you’re selling to customers and they’re starting to grow, even if they’re an existing customer, they’ll take you to the six-figure deal just as fast as acquiring a new customer at that level.”- Kathy Lord, SVP Sales & Customer Success, Intacct
13. “Be prepared that it’ll be a lot more complicated and take a lot longer. The price doesn’t mean anything until you go through the corporate procurement process, so start your price higher. Your job is to have alignment to take care of the customer. You’ll use the first customer as a reference to get your other customers. I have in-house legal counsel now. Lawyers will ask for everything under the sun and the sun. Don’t agree to give away any IP assignment rights. Make sure it’s mutual indemnification. And under no circumstance should you have early termination for convenience. Understand the things that matter, and forget about the rest.” — John Stewart, Founder & CEO, MapAnything
Your company culture can stay with employees through their careers
14. “As a management team, early on, managers would get together in a room and write down the single most important thing that the company has to do to be successful. You’ll then sit there and compare answers and synthesize that into your values. Every time you do this, you think you’re aligned, but realize you’re all thinking different things. Come back to that process whenever you’re feeling misaligned. Taking time to prioritize, clarify, and get alignment is so critical.” — George Hu, Former COO, Salesforce
15. “I used the V2MOM for my first 90 days at Stitch Fix. The methods section has always resonated with me. I remember Marc Benioff going up on stage when creating our V2MOM and asking what’s more important between different priorities. When you’re on an engineering team, need to be able to make tradeoff decisions.”- Cathy Polinsky, CTO, Stitch Fix
16. “Don’t hire because you have to fill a need. If you have to sell yourself that a person is good enough to do the job, that’s not good for them or you. Be aggressive but patient; there’s nothing more exciting for your team than finding the right fit. Everyone feels it.”- George Hu, Former COO, Salesforce
17. “What stood out about the Salesforce culture is the energy and commitment to get something done. There’s a mindset of, ‘We’re gonna be successful,’ and that raw energy is powerful. Sometimes it wasn’t even the most focused energy; we called it random acts of execution, but Salesforce employees work the hardest to make it happen.”- Tod Nielsen, President & CEO, FinancialForce
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