Getting SaaSier every year #SaaSx #Chennai

With almost 150 SaaS founders, a set of investors, and the volunteers, SaaSx was rocking content-wise from 10am to 9:30pm, with the @Zarget beachside dinner kicking it into the next gear. How do we know it was a good event? Well the NPS score of 76, with 91 responses says it all!

Probably only event that was worth being a part of in the last 1 year. Happy to volunteer next time!

The most earth shaking session every year? After all, “Chumma Adhirudhulla.” is the dialogue of his favorite actor! @mrgirish rocked the stage with his sheer authenticity, wearing his heart on his sleeve, and talking about the challenges in building a business like Freshdesk, the mistakes they made on their journey and the learnings from them. More than one founder approached me later saying, ‘If even someone like Girish makes mistakes while growing the business, then I should not fear my mistakes but grow faster by learning from them’.

Best part was how approachable, upfront, honest and open all the big guys were..

It takes a special form of courage to go (metaphorically) naked on stage in front of your peers. And get critiqued by the best in the business. And we saw that from three very special founders in the Product-Tear-Down. @WidelyHQ  @GetOmnify @99Tests, were three SaaS startups at different MRRs, at different stages of their product/market lifecycle. Read up on their experience at

These three were chosen by the panel from seven initial conversations, from a shortlist of a few dozen startups who had applied. The startups they picked were in different stages, had to be easily understood by the audience, and yet have enough lessons to learn from. The goal was to create teachable moments, and the audience loved it with many founders volunteering to get their products torn down, something we’re working to do at scale. If you’re interested follow @saasxin to get notified.

Fantastic event with priceless learnings.

The constant refrain on the SaaS side has been ‘move up market’. But what does that mean? Well if you were at SaaSx, @Sudheer_Zenoti spoke candidly about their journey from SMB->Enterprise. What’s the largest single $ value sale done on the phone from India, for an online sale product? I nearly slipped off my chair when I heard a 7 digit number. In US Dollars. Whoa! And here we are discussing whether Inside sales can work at $30,000. It must be something in the Chennai water that Arun Kumar, COO Zarget drank over his 13+ years of inside sales experience. Or was it in the product? In India, we have enough developers and product managers, to build any product we need. But as Srikrishnan Ganesan pointed out, ‘Market trumps everything’, and if you are in a bad market, or too early, or too late, then there is little you can do to win. There are many paths to $1M ARR. Some have angels that give you loans, and others take some time to light, but then take off like a rocket. If you were there till then end, Ashwin Ramesh of Synup, and Girish Redekar of RecruiterBox, shared their paths to where they are. The only truth is that there’s no one path, you’ve got to make your own!

SaaSx4 was fantastic. I started implementing few of my learning from Saturday (18th March) itself.

The morning #SaaSFaQ unconference turned out to have some great questions on product/market fit and GTM from early stage startups. Fielded by Shekhar Kirani, Avlesh Singh, Krish Subramanian, there was a great deal of interactive learning concentrated on the floor. Learning for next time, break it up into smaller sub-sections, to get even more interactive and participatory.

In Product Teardown session, it was evident that Bharat’s inputs blowed everyone away.

Do you have more than $1M ARR, facing growing pains in your org and model?? Well, in the morning, the dynamic duo – Suresh and Girish, ran a closed door session for a few founders, getting into serious topics that were only for founders’ ears. What happened inside, stayed inside.

Every SaaSx runs purely on the passionate, high-energy,  super-committed volunteers, themselves serious SaaS founders & thinkers, who create the strictly curated content that makes for a great experience. This year the volunteers were @MrGirish, @SureshSambandam,  @cbKrish, @ArvindParthiban, @Avlesh, @avinashraghava and @sKirani. We sorely missed  the ever-energetic wisecrack @vinod_cc. Like every year @_rakeshmondal did a kickass design and website, bringing SaaSx to virtual life online.


Here’s to an even better #SaaSx5 next time around!

 

Why #SaaSx4 Product Teardown is for all SaaS startups

Whether you’re an early stage, late stage or VC funded startup (pun intended). There is one thing all of us struggle with always and that is ‘Growth’. So, how to keep this repeatable in constantly changing market dynamics?

Acommunity is a great place to learn, unlearn and grow at the pace you never imagined. For SaaS startups in India(bravery award goes to you), SaaSx is a community built by thought leaders for other builders to nail this process in and out. #SaaSx4 was a tech event that provided SaaS founders the opportunity to network and share product insights with other SaaS founders.

How we got into #SaaSx4 Product Teardown..

Widely is an early stage SaaS startup, we’re right now hustling, learning and trying to respond to the amazing traction we’re receiving. While all this was happening, we got a call from Prasanna K to attend SaaSx, that was the first time we heard about Product Teardown and horror stories around it. Imagine your product being grilled down to levels in front of the whole community.

It did seem scary, but we said YES!

Because very often when something scares you, it’s the very thing worth doing.

So, what were our asks?

Initially they were simple, to validate our thought process, marketing channels, and product roadmap, but subsequent calls and discussions with Avlesh Singh, CEO, WebEngage, Bharath Balasubramanian, Director of Design, Freshdesk, and Shekhar Kirani, Accel Partners, made us realize it is an opportunity to deep dive and their critical remarks made us rethink over pricing to customer onboarding.

#SaaSx4 Event Day: The D-Day

This was my first SaaSx & by the end of the day, I was left amused and happy to become part of the SaaSx community. It is by SaaS founders for SaaS founders, hence, the learning becomes easier & straight cut out for us.

UnConference, Product teardown & Fireside chats, also in between meeting Investors (trust me that was not the driving force for anyone joining in there), the energy was to learn and grasp as much as possible. When you hear guys like Girish, Sudhir, & Avlesh talking about their mistakes, you feel confident within.

There comes the Scary Product Teardown

So, how it began?

I was called on the stage, Bharath, Avlesh and Shekhar ready with their inputs. The hall was full of awesome SaaS founders, including those of India’s best SaaS companies, interacting constantly over the good and bad parts of products(Imagine receiving suggestions from the experienced).

Widely Product Introduction
  • Introduction: I went up and gave some context to the audience

Widely helps online businesses to acquire new mobile users, increase conversions and grow user retention with nothing but their existing website by upgrading it into a progressive web app in minutes. Introducing native mobile app features into a website, the plug and play setup with the analytics based dashboard to trigger and customize a Progressive Web App (Mobile Web App).

  • Product teardown segments & Widely’s State

Product teardown was segmented into three sections primarily, Finding Customers, Keeping Customers & What is my market.

  1. Widely’s primary traction channels are SEM and SEO,
  2. Also, our customer segment is a marketer or a product manager.
  3. For us to convert a website visitor into a customer is a simple 2 step process, a signup and then 15 minutes plug & play integration into their website.
Widely Setup Flow

These details were used in teardown, and so teardown was designed in a way to be helpful for others struggling in the similar space.

  • The Teardown began

As an early stage startup with a goal to reach the global audience, we’ve identified search and ads as great ways to go ahead. So, exactly this was the first step, Widely’s SEM at one side works great, SEO is where our keywords don’t match. That was eye opening to me as sometimes while building and selling the product we tend to forget most basic things.

Then came product landing, with few ifs and buts, here we saw our moments of wows & learning, in the form of better representation.

Product Landing Page

Bharath pointed out key areas we need to improve upon during Sign up too, although this is something we’re constantly working upon and rigorously followed making website our best marketing person, but exactly the point, improvements to become sticky for the set of next 100 customers should be the focus.

The Wow Moment

The final step to Setup!

So, out of all signups we get every day there are many who don’t integrate (A huge loss to our marketing efforts), there could be many reasons, we’re constantly using visualizations and website conversion optimization tools to see where our funnel breaks and fix those parts immediately. For us to come at something which we saw next would have taken some next 100 signups we believe,

Current State of Setup Flow using Widely
The whole process

The next step of teardown focused on our claim of no coding required, though that is not required but looking at the setup it feels a coder is required, and for us targeting product managers this doesn’t look related at all.

Suggestions by Bharath for the setup screen

Sign Up After Landing
Easy UX

The designs in themselves speak louder than words and hence, something we loved instantly, apart from great design and user experience inputs. We got great insights from,

Girish — Website landing page heading should initially focus on technicalities, then functionalities and later on the larger message when the brand is big enough.

Ex: Coca-Cola — open happiness.

Ex: We say ‘Upgrade into a Progressive Web App’, this is good for us initially as an early stage startup, segmented only for the crowd who knows.

Shekhar — Asking telephone numbers from our initial customers is a great way to increase conversions rapidly, our signup should have that one field.

The last but not the least, Product Positioning and Market

All the above insights make no sense when we don’t know our market. I did talk about the positioning of early stage startups and how we did it for widely.

As there is this increasing need of brands to be accessible by all mobile users, we get queries from enterprises, brands, services/agencies related to our solution, we’ve been on and off on where to focus and what we should leave. This also made us change our pricing many times.

The last part of teardown was a relief when the founders sitting there, Shekhar & Avlesh made us believe you don’t need to stay at one, until you get where the best market is. All this made sense, as then we could generate higher revenue by understanding our value add to the users.

At the same time, we received Girish’s point of view on growing freemium way and onboard as many users as we can,

So here is the beauty of SaaSx, you get everything, now it is going to be a tough fight within the team to choose a way.

Key takeaways..

An enthralling experience in Widely’s product journey, SaaSx, and product teardown happened to be extremely helpful. In my opinion, teardown is a great way to eliminate blockers and move faster against competition and changing market.

I’d like to end by a note I sent out to Avlesh, Shekhar, Bharat & Avinash.

Thank you note SaaSx

Definitely I’m in awe and I’d like to mention Product Teardown of Omnify & Product Teardown of 99Tests, these were our fellow product teardown startups, they have explained the process extensively to explore further. Hope it helps more SaaS startups growing and hustling.


Anshuli Gupta, Co-Founder @WidelyHQ, My twitter handle @anshulix

What we learned from the Product Teardown of Omnify at #SaaSx4

A week or so before #SaaSx4, I woke up with an early morning call from Prasanna (SaaSx Volunteer) to tell me that they have nominated Omnify for the Product Teardown. Honestly, I jumped out of bed and my first reaction was like Ohh sh*t.. Not the Teardown!!

But then he said that they will select three companies out of the few nominated. So I agreed for a Hangout call hoping that we will not be selected.

So, Why did we do it?

I think, as a startup it’s good to go through “Make & Break” cycles which helps building a stronger product. Incidentally, that week we were sort of doing an internal teardown of our product and our conversion funnel. After the first hangout call with Avlesh, Shekhar and Bharath, I realised that it is indeed a great opportunity to get external feedback as we will be making a lot of effort this year on Product Design and Marketing.

Also, best part about the SaaSx community is the positive environment where no one is judging others and it’s all about learning from each others mistakes. Guys like Girish, Avlesh and Sudhir openly talk about the mistakes and learnings so others can benefit.

So, in the same SaaSx spirit we decided to participate in the Teardown for the benefit of us and anyone who can learn from our mistakes.

About Omnify (to give some context)

Omnify helps small businesses to Sell and Schedule their services online through One, Simple Platform. We have built comprehensive scheduling for Group Classes, Appointments, Events, Camps, etc. which can be easily sold as Packages and Subscriptions through Omnify.

Goal of the Teardown

I had multiple calls with Avlesh, Shekhar and Bharath before the teardown. The purpose of the calls were to have better understanding about Omnify and see how they can help.

After some discussion, we decided to find gaps in our conversion funnel; right from discovery, signup, onboarding to setup.

Discovery

Our major channel for getting customers is Search. Hence this part was focussed on our SEO. Interestingly, we got a thumbs up for this part as we have already put some work into our SEO. There is so much more to do and scaling our Top of the funnel is currently our Top Priority as pointed out by both Shekhar & Avlesh.

The best part about Search is that it shows “Intent” which has a direct impact on your conversion. For SaaS startups (especially at early stages and targeting global market) this should be the most important channel for customer acquisition. Hence, my advice for anyone who has not yet worked on their SEO is to atleast get the basic On-Page optimisation, Major Keywords and URL structuring right. It is a time consuming project but it will be worth your time and effort.

Here is an old, but a simple post on this by Moz.

In case you have no clue where to start, just hire an SEO expert from UpWork for a $100 project to do an SEO Audit of your website.

Action Plan: We are now spending a lot of time on Keyword optimization, Improving on page optimization and figuring out ways to churn good quality content at scale. Will share our learnings with some data once we can.

Website

Next target for the Teardown was our Website (https://www.getomnify.com/)

Bharath did a great job pointing out few key issues in our website that may be affecting our conversion and also did a comparative analysis with our competitor’s website who has probably spent millions of $$ to optimise it for the target audience.

Although we had spent quite a lot of effort on our website as it the most important part of our company and our doorway to customers across the world.

Although, there is a lot of room for improvement but here are a few things that we already worked on.

Trust

  1. Good Design breeds trust.
  2. Simple things like SSL certificate (https) improves trust in your website.
  3. Transparency — About us page with photos and social profiles of the team.

Mobile Responsive

A big chunk of the website visitors are probably coming through mobile, so it’s super important that the website looks and works great on any mobile device.

Speed

Today, everyone has very little patience. So if it takes more than a few seconds to load a page we might lose potential customers. Simple things like image compression, lazy loading, etc can be very effective to improve speed drastically.

Visual Content

People scroll through the pages in seconds, it’s super important to have enough visual content like images and videos to grab their attention.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Our messaging on the landing page should be more targeted and simple to understand.
  2. Improve Trust on our website through customer review, case studies, etc.
  3. Learn from our competitors on targeting.
  4. Content language should be optimised for the biggest market (US in our case).
  5. We should have country specific landing pages for at least our major markets.

Action Plan: We are doing a sprint soon to optimize our landing pages with more targeted content and adding customer reviews + case studies.

We are also going to try Zarget (https://zarget.com) to experiment and improve our website conversions. Thanks for the dinner Arvind! 🍺

Customer Onboarding

This is where we already knew our funnel is broken and although we have already been working on it, we got good critical feedback and suggestions from Bharath.

Signup

Interestingly, this is one of the most ignored pages for most startups (including us).

Even small things here can increase drop-off or conversion.

In our case, I think we got away with small ux issues as Omnify is a business product and the value of a Free trial outweighs the effort of the signup. But, needless to say we are making it simpler.

Onboarding & Setup

To give more context, our current onboarding process is a wizard that appears on Home page of the Dashboard for new users and stays there until completed. One major issue with this is that once you navigate away from Home there is very little hand-holding.

This is how it works currently:

  1. Setup Business: Basic information and contact details.
  2. Setup Services: Comprehensive and a little time consuming.
  3. Website: Auto-created but valuable only after a few services are setup.
  4. Attach Payment Gateway: Connect Stripe or Paypal.
  5. Add/Import Clients

Design Suggestions

Bharath suggested a simple 2 step onboarding process for Omnify.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Our Onboarding needs more customer hand holding.
  2. Setup needs to be simpler or create Website with Sample Services for Instant Gratification.
  3. Auto-fill wherever we can.

Action Plan:

We believe in fast iteration and are already redesigning our onboarding and setup. I will share a detailed post on our Onboarding redesign later but for now, here is a Sneak peak on what we are upto (Still iterating):

Market and Positioning

Last part of the Teardown was about understanding the target market and our positioning.

There were 3 points that were discussed.

Understanding our Target Customer

Omnify can be used by anyone who provide services and scheduling is an important part of their business. Most prominent segments are fitness, wellness, sports, kids activities and recreation.

Horizontal or Vertical SaaS

This was one of the hot topics at SaaSx and I am hoping for more content on this from the community.

In case of Omnify, we started as a vertical SaaS product but went through a customer discovery process thanks to Inbound Marketing and pivoted to Horizontal SaaS.

Since we didn’t have control over who was signing up, we thought we might as well turn it into an experiment to understand demand and gaps in the market. After working with hundreds of customers across different categories and 50+ countries, we learnt that we are solving a core problem for a wide set of customers who behave very similarly.

Hence, our view of the market changed to horizontal.

Target Geography

While it’s extremely important to choose the right geography if outbound is the core channel for customer acquisition, businesses like ours who run on Inbound Marketing have an advantage of understanding different geographys at due to lower cost. Saying that, we are currently picking up few key geographies with better volume and conversion rates to put our efforts on.

Key Take-away:

Leveraging existing market segments is easier than creating new segments.

Last words..

Overall, product teardown was a great experience and we would recommend other startups to do both, internal and external teardown of your products regularly. It’s a great tool to find gaps in the product so we can iterate fast and grow faster.

Big shout to Avinash, Avlesh, Bharath, and Shekhar for putting so much effort into the Product Teardown.. taking calls at 8am on a Sunday, spending time going through our product demos, etc. Thanks guys, it was super helpful.

Also, it is truly a pleasure being part of such an amazing community of Entrepreneurs and I would like to thank everyone who worked hard for making SaaSx possible. Already looking forward to the next one.

Keep Hustling..

Manik Mehta

Founder & CEO, Omnify Inc.

Say hi @manik_me

P.S. It was the first SaaSx for my Co-founder, Kabandi and she can’t stop talking about it 🙂

Key Take Aways from #SaaSx4

The SaaSx conference took place in Chennai on March 17th. Most top companies from the Indian SaaS space were part of the conference. I had made some notes for myself which I think might be useful for other startups as well. Many of these thoughts are not my own and may not express my views.

On marketing

– Tailor your marketing material based on your audience. For example, if you are targeting product managers, then using a term like “White-labelled Mobile Apps” is too technical. You can use something like “Tailored Mobile Apps”.
– Trust is everything
— Showing trust is extremely important. Use testimonials (with name, company name, designation, domain) to build trust.
— Having a local number increases trust among companies. Everyone prefers a company which is present locally. It’s fine if it redirects to your local number to begin with.
— Adding names & photos of your real support team helps build credibility.
– Use a keyword planner to see what kind of traffic your website is attracting. If the keywords are incorrect, then you need to tweak your copy as the traffic you are receiving is not relevant (read: will not convert).
– On your landing page, you can have three kinds of copy: Emotional, Functional, Technical. Established brands like Coca Cola can use an emotional copy like “Taste The Feeling”. For everyone else, a functional copy (i.e. talking about the benefits) along with a little technical information is the way to go. An example would be “Enable your users to collaborate with each other” or “Increase your user engagement” would be the functional copy and “Add voice, video and text chat to your site/app” or “Add chat using our simple APIs” would be the technical copy.
– If you want to target a country like USA, then your UI/UX must be absolutely perfect. If you are unable to achieve that, then targeting a country like India is easier, where UI/UX is not priority.
— For example, in a signup form, you cannot have “Create your account” as the title of the form and “Create my account” as the signup button. When a company is spending hundreds of dollars on your product, they look consistency.
– In order to be effective for enterprise sales, your complete pricing should not be available on your website. In other words, you need to have a logical separation. For example, you can have a plan which says “Enterprise” and add a “Contact Us For Pricing”. The features of this “Enterprise” plan can be those which are infrequently asked for by SMBs.
– Look at avenues like trade shows and sponsoring events. They may not provide direct leads but help in building brand value.
– Focus on a single country instead of multiple countries. You may continue to receive sales from different countries but your marketing (copy, ads, campaigns etc.) should ideally target a single country in order to be effective.
– Using media friendly terms in copy is essential. For example, Salesforce did a press release saying they launched “Lightening UI” instead of “New UI”.
– If your marketing is designed for product managers, then your on-boarding should be for product managers as well. For example, you cannot ask for API keys during signup to a product manager. Instead you can show a “Send this information to your developer” link so that a dev can input any additional information required.

On product

– How many of us are riding a wave? Are you in a good or hard market? Tweak your product to ride the wave. It’s easier. For example, if AI/NLP is in, tweak your product so that it is in line with the latest trends.
– B2B categories are very difficult to establish. Marketing automation and communication & collaboration are a new wave in B2B. Creating a new category altogether is extremely tough. It’s easier to target an existing budget.
– Even breadcrumbs are worth millions in certain categories. For example, if you build a product similar to Salesforce, then the market is big enough such that the customers that don’t end up using Salesforce will still be significant.
– The customer should be asking why they should buy your specific product versus why buy any product at all. For example, they should ask why buy a Panasonic washing machine versus why buy a washing machine. Educating customer about a whole new category is hard. It’s easier to just compete at a “mine vs yours” level.
– Customers only care for features (including price) while media cares for difference. If you have a similar product to the competitor, you can easily sell it as long as you have a better price. Media cares only if your product is different from your competitors.
– To decide what feature to add next, think if the feature will bring 2X the amount of sales. Adding customer requests is also important as you do not want to disregard your existing audience’s requests. However, do not let customers drive the road map; it is important that you stay true to your vision.

On sales

– If you plan to build an Indian sales team, it is advisable to make sure that your marketing does all the heavy lifting. Consultative selling over the phone from India is very tough. The sales team should effectively assist and not consult.
– It is easier to have local partners for non-English speaking countries. If you plan to sell to non-English speaking countries, your website/product should also be multi-lingual.
– For enterprise sales, it is better to have a separate deals team.
– A pre-sales team can be used for giving demos and technical information.
– A separate reseller team can be built if required.
– Building a customer happiness team is essential. If you are not invested in your customer’s success, you will not grow, if they do not grow.

On hiring

– Hire people who look up to their role. Do not hire people who think of it as a favour to join. Invest in freshers if you cannot afford great talent.
– For sales, it is better to hire engineers. Many fresh engineering graduates are not interested in programming and would prefer an allied job. But that gives them enough technical knowledge so it’s easy for them to handle technical products.
– For customer support, it’s easy to hire from BPOs. Most do not like BPOs due to timings and they already have the required training and empathy to speak to customers.
– If you hire a great designer to build landing pages, he will leave. You need to give employees the work they deserve. If you cannot keep them interested, they will not stay for long.
– Each team member should have a “key to respect”. In other words, every member must have a reason why his peers should respect him.
– Scale your engineering team before your scale your sales team. Otherwise, your engineering team will not be able to handle the load.

On doing business (and everything else)

– It’s very important to have a closed feedback loop between sales, marketing & product. The product team should have the capability to say no to sales & marketing (e.g. for adding X feature for a client).
– The focus of marketing should be to increase leads, the focus of sales should be to increase sales.
– If a feature request fits the overall roadmap of the product, only then undertake it. Avoid any customization which do not help the product grow. In the short term these deals may be tempting, but in the long run, they will have a negative factor on the growth of your product. You may lose business because of this, but that’s part of building a product company.
– Prioritization is a key role of product manager. He is bombarded by customer requests, investor requests etc. He needs to be able to take a call as to what fits in the product and what doesn’t.
– Celebrate each and every team. For example, your design team cannot celebrate sales/revenue. You should find something that they can celebrate, say UI. Celebrate craftsmanship in every department.
– Managers have a responsibility to understand business goals and then encourage activities which are aligned with the business goals.
– Squads give you agility and tribes give you wisdom. Squad works on a single goal. Tribe consists of members who have specialised knowledge. For example, QA, design & SEM are tribes. Putting a design team member in a development team is of no value. He should be together with other designers. A squad can move fast. A tribe is a shared resource. If product knowledge is not so important, then the member should be part of tribe. But dedicated people should be part of a tribe if the product is big. Tribe has no priority w.r.t. products. As much as possible put people in squads. Tribal members in squad can go for weekly knowledge sharing sessions.
– It’s important to focus on the problem. People in your organization will constantly have issues (with each other). It’s important that you solve the problem instead of taking sides.

On the Indian landscape

– Check out the Indian SaaS survey by iSpirt to see how your business is doing in comparison to others.
– There are approximately 750 SaaS startups in India.
– It typically takes 2–4 years for $1 million in ARR

On tools being used

Full Contact
Enterpriseready.io
Prospect.io
Hunter.io
99tests
Nerdydata

Guest Post by Anant Garg, CometChat

My first SaaS experience in Chennai #SaaSx4

My first SaaS experience and boy, amazing amount of insights and learning on what it takes to build successful SAAS companies based in India. Below are some of my notes and what I learned and observed from the entire day.

What a way to spend close to 18 hrs amidst some of the most inspiring and motivated people – Entrepreneurs and Founders .

We went in as a startup that has its product at a MVP stage figuring out a Product Market Fit.

SAASx in its 4th edition is curated and managed and executed by a bunch of volunteers with a passion to  “GIVE Back” to the ecosystem and enable budding entrepreneurs learn quickly from success SAAS entrepreneurs and thrive in the industry.

We had a SAASx bus from BLR to CHENNAI, and the journey started off by a 3 hrs introduction session of each startup and their asks from the fellow founders, this enabled starting conversations with the right people. This was held at Minjar Cloud Solutions office.

We reached Chennai the next day. The event was held at Intercontinental resort and hotel at ECR Road Chennai, had the leading SAAS founders and entrepreneurs from all over the country attend the event. The audience had over 150+ founders and investors all eager to learn and share their views on what is working and whats not working in today’s digital world.

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Some of the key themes of discussion

Money  on the table – Take it! – As a bootstrapped startup if there is a  market or customer opportunity to make money in alignment to your product, do take it as its critical for cashflow

Focus vs Diversion – Several early stage founders had this dilemma on retaining focus on their key market  & product vs diversifying to other allied sectors (where they need only a portion of their product with customisation etc), Stay focussed and learn to say NO. A key difference between gaining momentum and problem discovery. If the pond has enough fish, then continue to FISH there before you venture to a new pond. Think of Winning big in One Market and/or Sub-Market.

Co-Create products with one of your large clients. Sell First build later in such cases. Find that 1 client who believes in you and willing to wait

Niche Vs Generic – Figure out what you are building. Are you in a niche market bottom up or top down. Very important if in niche market to win big and having the ability to integrate with generic solutions to sustain and win through collaboration. Amit from Interview Mocha had some very interesting points to share and seek answers to their growth plans

Product is either Revenue Focuses or Operations Focused – Understanding this helps in messaging, positioning, pricing etc

Teardown’s

  • Website Communication – Home page – Get the messaging right for the Customer to get your message in 3 seconds.
  • Have right Call to action
  • Simplify the Signup Process
  • Avoid Tech Jargons, Keywords for Non-Tech users
  • Do basic search on Competitors website
  • Have SEO Keyword analysis to enable the revenant content to be ranked higher
  • Website homepage messages should always be an Emotional Appeal message or Functional message
  • Use tools like Hotjar/Zarget to understand where the users fall off
  • If you are collecting email id, use Frrole/Full Contact to get mobile numbers for follow up calls

Some of the key questions a startup should find answers

  • Who is my customer
  • Who could have been my customer
  • What characteristics of my customer makes them like my product
  • If Im successful, who will come after me
  • How do i Protect my business

Selling into US from India

Arun from Zarget shared his experience of selling in the US regions from India from 2003 to 2016. Few anecdotes and examples of how a single sale of USD 1.2Mn to a Customer gain 3x as the the customer kept changing jobs and kept buying the same product each – Advantage of Enterprise Sales

Transforming from SMB to Enterprises

Zenoti focused initiatively in India market and later pivoted to the US (still selling in India). Now they sell their Wellness management SAAS Platform to large wellness brands in US.

Founder doing Sales and getting all the basics right before scaling sales. US sales very different than India Sales as customers were mature to know what they want and open to experiment.

In the initial days, the founders visited several high brand wellness centres and used their services to understand the service levels, customer satisfaction levels, customer support, how data is managed, loyalty programs etc, which enabled them to understand the market, customer pain pants, workflows and more.

When reaching out to clients, they used these data points based on their experiences to the CEO’s and pitched Zenoti’s solution to solve those challenges. Invariably the CEOs would respond within a few hrs of receiving this email.

Zenith’s solution was a fully integrated system and the most expensive solution in the market. Yet the customers would buy as the competitor Mindbody would be suited up only for non-enterprises

Enterprise sales timeline 3-4 months, while data migration from existing systems was overlooked and often ran into challenges

Data migration strategy key for enterprise SAAS products and have them thought and defined over as it impacts the sales and pricing models.

Market triumphs everything

Amazing journey share by Srikrishna-Hotline on how they built a a product that was way ahead of its time and how HOPE (every entrepreneurs best friend) kept them alive which finally resulted in their acquisition by Freshdesk.

Girish from Freshdesk chipped in with some key insights and shared a key view point – In a commodity market, Innovate and create differentiator

Fresh sales is now pitched against Salesforce. For a customer evaluating solutions, its very important for the Product to be in the “Consideration Set”, else you would just loose out. Once you pitch yourself against the competitor you become a relevant alternate. Breadcrumbs of Salesforce is also worth $100mn!

Lessons Learnt

This one was one of the most passionate and an honest experience share by a CEO of a fast growing company, a startup that has made great progress and still believes that they have a long way to go and have just scratched the surface

  1. Always hire people who look up to their role
  2. Focus on the problem and not on person
  3. Prioritisation is the most important job of a Product Manager
  4. Feature based Team/Squads for executing the prioritisation
  5. Global Eagle List – Master List of priorities
  6. Unless its someone else’s job, it never gets done
  7. Everyone on the team should hold a “Key to Respect” for others to respond in an organization
  8. Sailing Sales without Scaling Engineering
  9. Squads give agility, Tribes give wisdom
  10. Making Biryani – The art of celebrating great Craftsmanship in every department, team that aligns with business goals
  11. Getting a leader to settle down
  12. Finally – Which Cow, which Ditch – Give time for a new leader to settle down and help them manage one cow and one ditch at a time

ZERO-ONE mn($) in 9 months – Synup

  • Lessons learnt from 1st 18 months critical for the next 9 months to achieve $1Mn
  • Smart use of SEO against the Leader
  • Usage of google knowledge box for SEO as well
  • Figure out the threshold to HIRE Sales Rep against the leads you have to manage your business
  • Synup figured out the magic number and helped in their Sales

Almost everyone was living their dream or were about to start their journey in building world class SaaS companies from India. Single agenda on everyones mind was How to Sell, to US/International, How to Grow from where they were, How to Scale, How to manage the org in scale

The evening ended up with a great dinner beach side sponsored by Zarget.

A day well spent at Chennai, Heart and mind goes out to all those involved in making the entire Saas Ecosystem Thrive through knowledge and embracing the new!

Cheers to these few and many more who worked hard  – Avlesh, Shekhar, Krish, Suresh S, Girish M, Prasanna, Avinash, Arvind P, Rajan, Kesava, Pritesh and many more behind the scenes

Guest Blog post by Bimlesh Gundurao, Aguai Solutions

5 reasons why you should NOT attend #SaaSx4

SaaSx4 is here! It is an event for SaaS founders, by SaaS founders.
SaaSx

Generally, event invites to entrepreneurs focus on why it is imperative to network and learn at the event.

SaaSx is different though. Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t attend the event!

You hate criticism!  

SaaSx is all about learning. The speakers and mentors at the event will be honest and brutal in the feedback they dish out about your strategies. All their experience combined is out there for you to take! If you won’t be comfortable with that, you should skive it off.

SaaSx2

You like the Status Quo

  • Entrepreneurship is all about taking risks, calculated ones that pay big dividends. There are a lot of people who prefer playing it safe and do make good progress.SaaSx4 is about how ‘Survival is not enough’ and if you do not wish to explore uncharted territories of SaaS entrepreneurship, SaaSx might not be your cup of tea.

SaaSx4 home

You don’t love networking

  • If all you wanted to do was learn, a webinar or even a YouTube video would suffice! Events are all about networking with people and gaining contacts and SaaSx is the best place to meet like-minded entrepreneurs from all over the country.
  • saasx3

Have you figured out your product, have a scalable plan for your company and sorted out your marketing roadblocks? If not, there is a good chance that you can learn a lot from SaaSx4.

You know the whole nine yards!

Some like fun learning, some don’t! If you fall into the later category, you will feel out of place at SaaSx. Here, we believe in infusing a learning opportunity with every opportunity for fun. If you hate the crowd and getting social, you might not fit it at SaaSx.

You don’t like mixing work and fun

Of course, if any of these reasons seem inappropriate you must get on a SaaSy ride to Chennai on the 17th of March to experience SaaSx4 in all its glory!SaaSx4

Guest Post by Arvind Parthiban, Zarget

Survival is not enough: #SaaSx4

Note: SaaSx is an invite only event, for SaaS founders, by SaaS founders. 

Are you ready to push beyond SaaS survival?

Are you all set for Chennai on March 17th?

The SaaS world is changing. Niches are breaking out, the number of SaaS startups is increasing by the day. Competition is fierce and being SaaS is not sufficient.

If you’re not the best in your market in some way that your customers deeply care about, it’s no longer enough to just survive.

So welcome to Singara Chennai, the SaaS capital of India, where you may find some answers you seek! Apply here for an invite, limited seats remaining.

Are you solving the right problem? Are you targeting a good enough market? If you’re at an early stage, @cbKrish @ArvindParthiban @Avlesh and @sKirani are hosting an unconference on getting the basics right.Be ready to participate, sitting quietly is not an option!

For startups that have reached product-market fit, with at least a million dollar ARR, are you ready to dial it up to 11? A small closed-door round table with @MrGirish & @SureshSambandam might help you get on track to build a world class organisation (and biz model too).

Post lunch, on stage we tear into the problem+discovery+UX+market of a couple of brave founders, in the early stages of product-market-fit. We’ll have @Avlesh @sKirani @Spinfree break it down for you, so you can build it back again. See http://pn.ispirt.in/every-product-needs-a-good-teardown/ for what went down last time around.

Want to increase ARR? You could increase your lead velocity or your ACV. Want stickier customers? You could improve product or move up market. Vertical SaaS for enterprise is getting hotter and hotter, and we have @Sudheer_Zenoti talking about making the move from SMB customers to Enterprise customers, and the pitfalls and perils thereof.

Do you know what it really takes to go from $0-100K-500K-1M ARR? Well here’s where we get a peek behind the curtains. We have a couple of entrepreneurs sharing their stories of growing from scratch to initial scale. This is a session which will NOT be recorded or replayed. Only for those who are in the room!

Wouldn’t it be great if we could keep taking the perfect steps on the path to $1M ARR? Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone could just tell us which steps are mistakes to avoid? Well @MrGirish is going to do just that, talking about what they did in their early days that didn’t turn out just quite right.

And after a long day of SaaS-talking, when you want to tune out of ACV, CAC, LTV, CMRR, LVR, … tune in to the soothing sound of the Bay of Bengal, and lose yourself in dinner and conversations. (We won’t judge you if the topic stays SaaSy 😉

So come right over, sign up now, there’s no place where your love for 3-letter acronyms, business customers, and software, will feel more at home, than Chennai on the 17th March.

See you there!

Secure your spot before 10th March 2017 to get a seat at SaaSx4

Survival is not enough if you are a SaaS founder in India

In an explosive SaaS market with entries from all over the world, survival is not enough. “Survival is not Enough” is the theme of #SaaSx4, scheduled for 17th March in Chennai, and like last time we are heading to the beach. 🙂

SaaSx is a community for SaaS founders by SaaS founders, so if you are just contemplating starting a SaaS business, this event is not for you. This is the 4th edition of the event where all the SaaS founders come together to share notes, network and go back with a lot of lessons.

SaaSx4 home

Take a look at the previous editions here where founders have shared their learnings and also had lots of fun.

Here’s a sneak peek into what’s in store for you (some of these are subject to change):

  • We’ll start with an Unconference session on “Getting the basics right: Right problem, Right market”. This session will help those on the quest for the right product-market fit, and how to get there quickly and efficiently. Experts who have been there will share their stories of how they set the right foundation for their growth. This is meant for folks who are in the early stages of their SaaS journey.
  • For SaaS founders who have crossed $1MN in ARR, we have a Org/Growth teardown for 5-8 growth stage startups. This is a closed door session and you will need to get an invite after your registration is confirmed. If you don’t hear from us then please assume we couldn’t accommodate you.
  • If there is enough interest and companies in the range of $300k-1M, we might run a Metrics workshop on the cards.
  • Like last time, we will have Product Tear Down sessions where 3 founders will get an opportunity to talk about their product and get feedback. Take a look at the previous edition to see what it is like. This is a great opportunity for new startups to have their product analysed by an expert panel from various angles such as opportunity, UI/UX, funding, etc.
  • If you are wondering “How do I make Biryani, i.e. building a differentiated product?”, we are also planning a session to list popular examples and tear them down by “aspects of differentiation and moat”. We’ll discuss the “Aha” factors of your SaaS product and will also do a Biryani teardown for startups that have crossed $300k ARR.
  • We will have a dedicated session on “What is the right org/model that needs to be put together for diff types of SaaS biz”…Our community has been buzzing with many such questions lately and SaaSx3 might be a great way to address some of the questions here.

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Apart from these sessions, you will have ample opportunities to network with some of the leading SaaS founders from India. If you are coming from Bangalore, the sessions start right from the bus!

We only have seats for 150 founders, and we’ll have to give a heavy-hearted “no” to lots of disappointed people!
If you would like to be part of this, reserve your slot right away!

Register now if you would like to be a part of this fun-filled, unconference!

See you in Chennai soon and let’s get high on SaaS!