6 Takeaways from Veeva, the Biggest Vertical SaaS Success Story of All Time

Looking back on SaaStr Annual 2017

I’ll conclude my recap of SaaStr Annual 2017 with a summary of the incredible keynote session on Veeva, the biggest vertical SaaS success story of all time. This session featured a conversation between SaaStr’s Jason Lemkin and Veeva Founder and CEO Peter Gassman.

Note: I’ve paraphrased Peter’s quotes below.

Background

Peter has a 30-year background in enterprise software. Before founding Veeva, Peter was Senior VP of Technology at Salesforce, where he had responsibility for building the Salesforce platform including product, marketing, and developer relations. Ten years ago, Peter leveraged the Salesforce platform to build Veeva. Without question, that decision accelerated the product launch. “Your step one is another pure stack play’s step ten.” Veeva is now a multi-product, Life Sciences cloud company with a whopping $600M ARR.

1. Fundamental Drivers

“Don’t follow the herd. Who are you trying to be like? I’m not trying to be like anybody. When trends are early, everyone thinks you are wrong. When 99 out of 100 people think your idea is bad, that’s where you have an opportunity. Don’t be discouraged. Combine all this with experience and you can win.”

2. Adjust Your Plan with Growth

“In the first year, I only had quarterly plans. Why bother when you could be out of business? In the second year, plans became annual. Only now after 10 years, do we have a five year plan. Everything else is wasted effort as you must prove you can deliver short term first.”

3. Dealing with Adversity Around Early Sales and Pricing

“At times of challenge when you don’t have a brand, sell yourself and your passion first. Try to get the right value vs. the most value. Not knowing the value is not OK and it starts with the CEO. Are you going to make something that’s great? Don’t give it away. The better your team, the more you should anchor high. The price you set for your product establishes how good the product is. If you have customers paying a premium, your team will be able to justify the additional effort to make sure everything works. I can’t accept anything with the product being wrong because it’s a premium product that demands the highest quality.”

4. When to Add Product Lines

“At the outset, your product is your company, and your company is your product. However, the second product should be bigger. You are breaking the company’s DNA from the first product so you must do it at the right time. At a minimum, you must start with a clear market opportunity. The worst part? You won’t know if you were right until later. Becoming a multiple product company was a big decision . We’d either crash the car or become a billion dollar company. Now the challenge is solving bigger picture challenges.”

5. Startup Financing — You can be Frugal & Successful

“You need enough money to hire some great people. Get to a dozen great people as quickly as you can and then worry about what comes next. We raised $7 million but only used $3 million. VC’s pressured us to spend more and said I ‘just didn’t get it, was too conservative.’ But I didn’t feel that extra spend would help. Don’t waste any money on hiring. Be frugal. Get the product out quick, and sell it for a good price to as big a customer as you can.”

6. Don’t Give Away Your People

“Everyone wants to give away professional services to go with the product. We didn’t do that. If people are valuable, customers will pay for that value. You must create more overall value for the customer than either just the price of the product or the services.”

Final Thoughts

Veeva is a true SaaS phenom, with a rocket trajectory that has no end in sight. It’s the result from a founder with deep enterprise expertise and savvy business acumen. We feel fortunate to have heard Peter Gassman’s straight-talk firsthand. This is the kind of knowledge you can’t get anywhere else. We had a blast at SaaStr Annual 2017 and look forward to 2018.

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originally posted on codescience.com