Are you in India/SaaS, and not at #SaaSx2? You missed transparent mind-blowing insights

SaaSx event is a meetup organized by a bunch of SaaS entrepreneurs for all SaaS entrepreneurs in India. SaaSx Chennai event enables SaaS start-up founders to learn and share tribal knowledge from SaaS (software-as-a-service) start-ups in various stages of the evolutionary ladder.  Every participant registered for the event and was vetted for fitness with theme of the event. (Do events really have qualifying criteria for participants beyond collecting money?)

A good number of us going from Bangalore to Chennai climbed SaaSy bus early in the morning. For everyone who climbed the bus, our learning started in SaSSy bus from Bangalore to Chennai. Entrepreneurs got comfortable with each other quickly and most seem to be in the mind-set described by Yamini “Running a company becomes a lonely job after a point. Super excited to meet other co-founders”.

After crossing to Tamil Nadu, we had breakfast and climbed back to bus. This followed with ice-breaker session where everyone self-introduced themselves and shared 2 things that worked for them and 2 things that did not work for them. Sharing brought the journey to end in Chennai. Some attended private roundtables, followed by lunch, SaaSX2 event started. FireSide Chat was kick-started with Aneesh Reddy of Capillary Technologies on ““The Nuances of Enterprise SaaS” by Ahi and Asha Satapathy.

  • Lonely initial start-up days when it was not cool to work on start-ups. That was okay and they got time to work focused.
  • Shared their approach to balance developing a product and customization needs of customers, how they make decision whether to do customization or not and when to actually execute customization.
  • Shared the challenge to collect money from customers after delivering service and the approach they took to streamline the same. For delays with large enterprise customers, one needs to evaluate whether it makes sense to follow with customer for smaller payments.
  • Shared being lucky not to take hard calls of firing people in India. He thinks firing makes it very difficult to hire senior people at some point of time.

Asha made Aneesh to share personal life tips by asking his advice to young entrepreneur’s to find life partner, which Aneesh coolly as “If you are entrepreneur or plan to be one, marry daughter of business man. She would be able to relate to you as she is already used to relate to her father”. The Next FireSide Chat was started by Sumanth Raghavendra with the man who has mapped SaaS growth from seed funding to Series B and beyond. Yes, Girish Mathrubootham. Earlier he welcomed us sharing his inspiration from thalaivar (leader) Rajinikanth, Tamil film actor. For me, Girish story is very similar to Rajinikanth movies, film world made real in software world.

Girish set context of his learnings and insights might contradict with Aneesh by sharing the difference between order ticket sizes in their individual business. Some of insights shared were

  • Focus should not be just about features in product, but any user must get value in 20 minutes without help from anyone.
  • B2B SaaS is never a winner takes it all market. There will always be a set of 2 to 3 credible players.
  • Decision to spend $40K money earned through Microsoft Hackathon to explore different marketing channels and evaluate their effectiveness. Required courage to spend on marketing against conventional wisdom of boot-strapped start-up booking the money for other purposes.
  • When customer land on the website, product experience starts right at that moment. The customer needs to like what he sees and when he signs, he needs to get value out of the website. If customer ends up saying atleast a vow, there is more probability that the customer might spend time in the next 30 days evaluating your products.

In between sessions, I loved the concepts of #onething at conference where entrepreneurs are asked to share one thing as response to a quick round of questions. Here are few fresh in my mind.

      • #onething “Simplify and communicate “helped team to scale was awesome #communication among team members. The context was the presence of start-up team across multiple geographies.
      • #onething “Should we change focus from Minimal-Viable-Product (MVP) to Billable-Viable-Product(BVP) ?” No money flowing is opinion but cash on table is fact. The Value of BVP: After 30 days of trial, will we get revenue on day 31?
      • Today internet earnings are migrating from advertising to commerce. With more commerce happening, product information is core to the future of brands and market.
      • Choice of Cloud in 2008 enabled us to establish India ecosystem for health management /diagnostics technology products and created a whole new SMB market of SaaS offerings.

Dorai moderated Unconference session. The session started with narrowing down to 3 topics based on audience preference of topics. It just happened that first topic “Inside Sales for SaaS products” took most of the time. It was nice to see exchange of folks with challenges asking questions and folks who cracked challenges sharing their insights. It was nice to see Suresh and Girish stepping up to share their inputs for most of the questions. May be this is exactly how real knowledge sharing should happen.

iSPIRT continues its focus to encourage learning and sharing among entrepreneurs as support for their journeys and here is second event in 2015 to demonstrate their commitment. Here are my thoughts after the event

  • Each questions of entrepreneur’s comes from real world challenges. The answers are not in text book and the answers have to come from real world experiences and are not available in textbooks or class rooms.
  • Learning from SaaS start-ups is tight connected with the context where SaaS start-up operates. Without context of the start-up, insights are of little or no help to entrepreneurs, as learning of SaaS start-up in first context contradicts with the learning of SaaS start-up in second context.
  • No one tried to create good impression. All were open to share their mistakes and what they learnt in the rough way. Indirectly saying that “Failure is first step towards success”.

Here are #bigMistake heard from Bangalore entrepreneurs in #SaaSyBus

  • Sold to friends & thought we were good, product ended up weak. Should’ve sold to toughest customers 1st to make prod strong
  • Hired for start-up experience and skills. Should have hired for attitude and culture fit.
  • Build the product along with sales. First few paying large customer got pissed off and jumped away.
  • Following templates for success does not work. Need to find your own path and your own means to succeed.
  • Took a lot of money from investors and became complacent. Will bootstrap next time.
  • Build a product for a market that was 2small. Now moved to a bigger market and trying hard.
  • Corporate experiences and start-up life are poled apart. Do not worry about other, competitors.
  • Being too passionate when things get hot. Need to step back and take a hard dispassionate look and face reality.
  • Trying to hardsell. Now we just do demos, show the value, if they see the value they will buy.
  • Selling operational cost efficiencies in a fast market does not work.
  • Customer say wants, not need. Product roadmap cannot be based on customer inputs, must come from deep within.
  • Delaying product launch to polish it. Need to launch fast and get market feedback and face reality.

Guest Post by G. Srinivasan