The Top 15 SaaS Influencers revealed

A small influential group hold sway on an entire industry

There’s a small, exclusive and highly influential number of people who are setting the standards and best practice for the entire SaaS industry. So who are they?

When we were developing the CloudKPI algorithms, which automatically formulate key SaaS metrics within our solution we engaged with hundreds of SaaS leaders, writers and investors to see what metrics and which formulations lead the way. From these we have chosen our own CloudKPI Top 15 SaaS Influencers, people we think are leading the leaders. They’re not necessarily running SaaS companies (some so do and some have in the past) but they are all big thinkers on what is the future for SaaS. Understandably, with the largest concentration of SaaS companies based in California, many are located in and around Silicon Valley, but other regions are beginning to catch up.

Byron Deeter

What you need to know

Byron Deeter is one of the most important thought leaders/investors in SaaS and cloud-based technologies in the US. Author of the annual Bessemer ‘State of the Cloud’ reports (alongside Kristina Shen and Anna Khan) and Bessemer’s ‘10 Laws of Cloud Computing’ Byron provides insights into industry trends, valuations, and benchmarks.
He leads BVP’s cloud computing practice and has invested in ServiceTitan, Glnt, Gainsight and SendGrid and others.

Twitter: @bdeeter Followers: 12.5k

CloudKPI favorites: State of the Cloud; State of SaaS 2018

Reid Hoffman

What you need to know

Reid Hoffman is an internet entrepreneur, VC at Graylock Partners and author. Hoffman is a former CEO, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn and Executive VP at Paypal, as well as sitting on numerous boards including Airbnb. Investments include Chairman Mom, Blockstream and Airbnb among others. Reid writes about a broad range of subjects from entrepreneurship, civics to intellectual life. Many of his posts focus on leadership and highlights include 4 Lessons to Prevent your Startup from becoming the next Theranos, How I work and How Studying Philosophy helped him become a better Entrepreneur. and the Future of Work. A true cloud-based tech Renaissance man. (you heard it here first folks)
Twitter: @reidhoffman Followers: 511k

CloudKPI favoritesGrowth Lessons from the Downfall of TheranosThe Future of Work

Christopher Janz

What you need to know

Christopher Janz has been seminal in defining the formulation of SaaS metrics and establishing best practice used by SaaS leaders and investors to scale, track performance and establish benchmarks. He co-founded Point Nine Capital and has invested in more than 20 SaaS start-ups including Zendesk, Clio and FreeAgent. According to Christopher he lives and breathes SaaS, everything from “A as in AI-enhanced B2B software to Z as in Zendesk”. He co-founded DealPilot.com and Pageflakes. He’s       the author of the fantastic “SaaS Funding Napkin” which provides a matrix of key requirements by investment stage (seed and upward) SaaS companies should meet before being deemed investible www.saasnapkin.com

Twitter: @chrija Followers: 24.5K

CloudKPI favorites: The Angel VC: A KPI dashboard for early-stage SaaS startups; The SaaS Funding Napkin

Lauren Kelley

What you need to know

Lauren Kelley, Founder and CEO of OpexEngine, the definitive source of benchmarking data for SaaS. She is former CEO of Synopia Inc and senior VP of ww Sales at the Art Technology Group. She has many detailed posts on subjects including CAC and the Difficulty in Calculating it, what SaaS Boards are Thinking and how SaaS Companies Count their Customers. You’ll find most of Lauren’s posts on LinkedIn and her website.

Twitter: @OPEXEngine Followers: 11.1k

CloudKPI favorites: SaaS Benchmarking; Why CAC Matters

 

David Kellogg

What you need to know

David Kellogg is former CEO of Host Analytics, SVP/GM at Salesforce, CEO MarkLogic and CMO Business Objectives. He has worked in various capacities with ClearedIn, FloQast, GainSight, MongoDB, and Tableau. David’s blog is an analytics-focused deep-dive into data-driven strategies based on his vast experience in scaling SaaS businesses. Be prepared to put your thinking cap on, but you will walk away a lot wiser and with the knowledge of how to implement what you will have learned. Astute questions such as, “When should my growing start-up be Rule of 40 compliant?” – rather than assuming the rule applies at all times and in all scenarios. David explains all, lucidly.

Twitter: @kellblog Followers: 10.9k CloudKPI favorites: SaaS Metrics; Ten Non-Obvious Things About Scaling SaaS

 

Nathan Latka

What you need to know

Nathan Latka Podcast Top Entrepreneurs is one of the best available sources of private SaaS benchmarking data, along with  David Skok’s SaaS benchmarking survey. Nathan asks tough questions and manages to get answers from CEO’s who can’t believe he asked (full disclosure, CloudKPI has featured, but only because we’re worth it!) and that they answer! His podcasts give answers to the many questions around ARR growth rates, tipping points and tips to accelerate growth, ‘pivots and pains’ and so, so much more. If you need inspiration take a listen to this treasure trove of real-life experiences in scaling a SaaS business.
Twitter: @NathanLatka F

ollowers: 70.1k

CloudKPI favorites: How Ignoring CAC Works for <$100m ARR, David Barrett ExpensifyInterview Bernadette Nixon, Alfresco’s CEO

 

Jason Lemkin

What you need to know

If you don’t know Jason Lemkin, you don’t know SaaS. Jason is founder and CEO of the most important get together in the SaaS annual calendar, SaaStr, a three-day SaaS love-in. Jason continues to expand the SaaStr footprint with similar events in Europe and the Far East. The event gathers together the most important founders, leaders, investors and innovators on the planet,   sharing insights, best practice and personal SaaS journeys. Jason’s blogs and tweets are SaaStr on steroids, shared by a 500k community. By following Jason you can continue to love and learn well after the events are over. His pithy comments and personal observations come from his own experience as a founder and senior executive with companies including Adobe.

Twitter: @jasonlk Followers: 62.8K

CloudKPI favorites: What 3 mistakes did you make in your SaaS that you wish you could go back in time and fix, to accelerate growth?; State of SaaS with Tomasz Tunguz 2018

 

Mark MacLeod

What you need to know

Mark MacLeod was CFO of some of the most successful SaaS companies yet (FreshBooks, Shopify, Tungle) and as a SaaS investor, Mark knows exactly how important metrics are in driving growth. He’s a former GP with Real Ventures where he led investments in SaaS companies including Unbounce before he founded Sure Path Capital to guide start-up founders on how to fund, grow and exit.

Twitter: @markmacleod Followers: 12K


CloudKPI favorites: 
Platforms and Exit Strategy; Takeaway from Mindbody Acquisition

 

Nick Mehta

What you need to know

Nick Mehta, CEO Gainsight, writes extensively on customer success in both his book ‘Customer Success’ and his blog mehtaphysical.com Highlights include ‘Managing Customers throughout their Lifecycle’ and ‘14 Things We Learned From 800 Survey Responses’. Nick is another entrepreneur who is generous with his time, sharing his knowledge, helping his fellow entrepreneurs.

Twitter: @mrmehta Followers: 11.1k

CloudKPI favorites: The Right Financial Metric for Customer Success; Creating a New Industry Category: Customer Success

 

David Skok

What you need to know

 

David is one of a small number of SaaS entrepreneurs and investors who are setting the global SaaS metrics formulation “standards” for how SaaS companies measure, grow and benchmark their success. David has earns his stripes and credibility in writing about SaaS as both a founder, publisher of the annual private SaaS benchmarking survey with the KBCM Technology Group (formerly Pacific Crest Securities) and as an investor. Before joining Matrix Partners he founded four companies. Successful exits as a      VC include: HubSpot, JBoss, AppIQ, Tabblo, Netezza, Diligent Technologies, CloudSwitch, TribeHR, GrabCAD, OpenSpan and Enservio.

Twitter: bostonvc Followers: 51K

CloudKPI favorites: 2018 SAAS Private Survey Results – Part 1; Managing Customer Success to Reduce Churn

Hiten Shah

What you need to know

Hiten Shah is an investor and entrepreneur (founded Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, Quick Sprout and FYI). He is as passionate about SaaS as he is about sharing his knowledge to help others be successful. His blog Hitenism feels like a series of highly accessible case studies because they are practical, directly applicable and based on his vast and recent experiences. His honesty and direct approach is refreshing and sometimes a little scary because he keeps on reminding you to go back and do the important stuff, like validating your ideas FIRST before hiring your sales team.

Twitter: @hnshah Followers: 221.5K

CloudKPI favorites: How to Build a Brand From Nothing; The 3 -Step Marketing Framework for a Startup

 

Harry Stebbings

What you need to know

Harry is the founder of The Twenty Minute VC podcast which claims over 100,000 listeners He’s a regular contributor to Techcrunch and works with SaaStr founder Jason Lemkin to build out their content platform. His podcasts are engaging as they are interesting. He covers topics from start-ups to VCs. The word on the grapevine (boom, boom!) is that he’s prone to

a mojito or three. Allegedly.

Twitter: @harrystebbings Followers: 15.2K

CloudKPI favorites: Learning to Love the Art of Sales as a Technical Founder; Talking Fin Analytics with Co-Founder Fin, Sam Lessin

 

Claire Suellentrop

What you need to know

Claire Suellentrop is a writer, broadcaster and blogger who works with SaaS businesses to help them achieve sustainable growth. Former Director of Marketing and #2 employee at Calendly, she is co-founder of Uselist.io and Forget the Funnell both of which  are focused on scaling SaaS sales and marketing. Claire’s blogs help companies get inside customers’ heads and to use those insights to create compelling landing pages, high-converting websites, smooth signup flows and sticky onboarding experiences. Claire is author of ‘Websites that Convert’.

Twitter: @clairesuellen Followers: 3.8K
CloudKPI favorites: The Customer Research Process; How to Truly Understand your Customers

 

Tomasz Tunguz

What you need to know

Thomas Tunguz is a former Googler who was product manager for Google’s social media monetization team, including the Google-MySpace partnership. He managed the launches of AdSense into six new markets. He co-founded Perquimans Systems and is currently principal with Redpoint Ventures where he focuses on SaaS investment. Previousl investments include Looker, Kustomer and Electric Imp. Thomas is co-author of ‘Winning with Data’ that explores the cultural changes big data brings to business and shows how to adapt an organization to leverage data to maximum effect. His regular blogs cover a wide range to SaaS related guides, tips and insights and he is particularly strong on what investors seek in metrics.

Twitter: @ttunguz Followers: 71.3K

CloudKPI favorites: Why Your Startup Doesn’t Invest Sufficiently in its Differentiator; Why Fast Learning Curves are so Important to Startups

Tien Tzuo

What you need to know

 

Tien Tzuo is a subscription evangelist who founded Zuora in 2007. His easy to remember book title, “Subscription”, is seen by many as the definitive guide on how to succeed in the subscription economy, a term he coined. Tien says the world is moving away from products and toward services. Billions of digital consumers increasingly favor access over ownership which he believes will see subscriptions based business continuing to grow at an explosive rate. Follow his blogs and tweets for clever insights and practical advice around customer success. He’s a straight-talking guy, easy to follow and is someone who really knows what he’s talking about.

Twitter: @tientzuo Followers: 6.8K

CloudKPI favorites: The “cancel my subscription” bill; The Subscription Economy

 

CloudKPI is an analytics solution specifically designed for SaaS companies. Sitting on top of existing solutions (financial, CRM etc) it automatically formulates, visualizes and reports on SaaS cross-business metrics for investors and C-level decision makers.

Every SaaS business needs to know who their most valuable customers are

Every SaaS business needs to know who their most valuable customers are if they are to sustain high growth. To find out they need to be able to join revenue with sales, pipeline data, marketing, and product usage metrics.

Dublin’s CloudKPI is helping fast-growing software firms make sense of their data

image description
BY JONATHAN KEANEREPORTER, FORA
MAEVE KNEAFSEY HAS seen her fair share of challenges in the world of business.She’s the chief executive of Dublin’s CloudKPI, working alongside co-founder Brenda Jordan.

It is her fourth company, having previously run digital marketing agencies and a marketing software firm called MarketFinder. Kneafsey is also a former chair of the Irish Internet Association.

However the latest business, a data analytics platform that measures client firms’ metrics, was borne out of common frustrations she encountered in her various enterprises.

“We did a lot of work in using analytics to help people to drive decisions, and we were using (business analytics software) tools, for building visualisations and metrics, like Klipfolio and Tableau,” Kneafsey tells Fora.

“An awful lot of work falls back on the user in terms of formulating the metrics and understanding how to do them correctly. There has to be a better way of doing this.”

Her co-founder, whose background is in accountancy, was in a similar boat, Kneafsey says.

“She had been looking at automating and generating financial metrics and also realised that you’ve got to get the right audience for the product.”

The duo felt that companies needed a “360-view of sales, marketing and revenue metrics”.

The result was CloudKPI, which gathers data from companies’ various software systems and generates insights on how the company is performing.

Maeve Kneafsey and Brenda Jordan Co-Founders CloudKPIMaeve Kneafsey & Brenda Jordan
Source: CloudKPI

Kneafsey identified that software startups that are beginning to scale, especially those operating on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, could benefit from a better platform for working with data.

“We have a version of our product that anybody can use because we’re pure analytics, sitting on top of systems that businesses are using to drive the business,” she says, adding that understanding all the data was vital in helping firms to make the right decisions.

Clients

According to Kneafsey, CloudKPI had a good idea of the issues that software firms face, but it needed to get closer to potential clients.

While there are plenty of possible customers this side of the Atlantic, CloudKPI was keen to dip its toe into the US market as quickly as possible.

The company was incorporated in 2012, but it wasn’t until two years ago that it joined the Access Silicon Valley programme with Enterprise Ireland to get the ball rolling on its first product.

The State-supported scheme helps Irish startups to access mentoring networks in the US.

With her experience in building a software business, Kneafsey knew some of the pitfalls that could await CloudKPI but she and Jordan were keen to explore the US market as soon as possible.

“We both knew that to get it right in the early stages, you really do have to know your audience,” she says.

“If we build a product in the UK or an Irish product initially, it’ll possibly be for companies that aren’t the leaders in SaaS, so why don’t we go to where the leaders are and understand what are they doing at the moment?”

The experience was eye-opening for CloudKPI. Through the Enterprise Ireland trip, it found that many scaling SaaS companies were having trouble with keeping track of their metrics and analytics.

Companies were often using ineffective manual tools or were trying to build their own software, which was distracting from work on their main products.

“What the programme gave us was access to the right people. What we learned very quickly was that there was a problem, but you have to pick the company at the right stage in their growth,” she adds.

This opportunity lies with companies that are growing and scaling. For a newborn startup, the metric problem doesn’t quite exist yet, Kneafsey explains, as the metrics are basic and relatively easy to monitor.

It’s when a company starts generating significant revenues, signing partnerships and launching multiple marketing campaigns that things get complicated.

maeve-kneafsey
Maeve Kneafsey Co Founder CloudKPI

This is the sweet spot for CloudKPI – companies that have revenues of €4 million all the way up to €50 million.

“It’s when you start to grow really quickly that it becomes hard work to try and manage your metrics and you need them fast because you’ve got to make some decisions,” Kneafsey says.

“You have investors and everybody else that expects you to grow really fast.”

MVP to full product

After the Silicon Valley experience in the summer of 2016, CloudKPI got its first minimum viable product together and, in June of this year, released the first full version of the product.

To date, it has four paying customers and is in the middle of hammering out a partnership with another organisation that “would give us fast access to a lot of SaaS companies in this space”.

CloudKPI is not without its competitors – including legacy systems in firms that hadn’t moved far beyond Excel sheets, Kneafsey says.

However established tools like Tableau and PowerBI are targeted at a much wider, general pool of users, she adds, while other tools may only focus on sales analytics.

“The customer knows that they need to look at not just revenue, but they need to be able to join revenue with sales, pipeline data, marketing activity and activity in the product to find out who are their most valuable customers,” she says.

“You can’t get that just by looking at revenue, and you can’t get that just looking at sales.”

CloudKPI has ambitions to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to help give its product an intuitive edge.

To achieve that, it is raising an investment round of €1 million to hire more developers as well as expand its sales teams. It has already raised around €125,000, according to company filings.

“We’re doing a seed round at the moment to allow us to get that (artificial intelligence) functionality built into the product. We started off building our predictive models, and now we need to actually incorporate them into the product.”

There are three developers currently on the Sandyford-based team with Kneafsey and Jordan.

“The developers are here in Ireland and that will probably always be the way, the development will be focused here.”

That said, the company will continue to make its big sales push in the US, Kneafsey says.

“It is of course really important because there are so many (companies) there and a concentration of SaaS companies.”

https://fora.ie/cloudkpi-metrics-4230472-Sep2018/?utm_source=more

Building your SaaS startup? Forget about comfort zones

Visiting Airbnb San Francisco with Erin Anderson and Women’s Startup Lab 

The minute you start to grow a SaaS business, particularly where you are moving into a new previously uncharted market, you’re out of your comfort zone. Susan Hayes and her Savvy Women podcast interviews are full of great insights from lots of brilliant business women. So CloudKPI was thrilled to get a chance to share our experience of moving into the US market with our SaaS Insight Engine via San Francisco.

Fresh from two weeks intense incubation with the Women’s Startup Lab we know the benefit of being helped by people like Ari Horie, Joff Redfern, Mari Baker, Andie Rhyis, Matt Cameron, Chris Yeh, Andrea Persily, Bill Joos, Erin Anderson and many more sharing their expereince and insights. So we hope our slice of advice about breaking into Silicon Valley helps others.

 

Should your SaaS company be taking growth supplements?

Grow baby grow

Anyone who knows the SaaS sector knows how erratic company growth rates can be.  Growth rates also vary enormously depending on the stage your company is at in its lifecycle. Growth rate expectations also differ depending on who you talk to: investors, industry practitioners and entrepreneurs or subject matter guru’s! As a result we can’t give you a black and white answer, but we can provide some insights to allow you set realistic targets that reflect where you are in your growth trajectory.

Eyewatering

Very early stage start-ups can have extremely volatile growth rates. The lucky ones, and believe us they are in the minority, hit their product market fit early and can experience very high growth rates in the first couple of years. Two female founded SaaS that more recently hit the ground running are Frontapp and Meet Edgar. They reached almost $3m in under 2 years and $4m in 3 years respectively.

 

TwilioWorkday, and Zendesk managed to get to $100M in ARR in 6-7 years. They also kept growing at a rate of approx. 50-70% year-over-year after reaching $100m ARR. Outliers like Slack, reached $100M in ARR in just 2.5 years and Dropbox founded in 2007 reached $15m in 3 years and $116m in just 5 years.

Planet earth calling

Let’s bring things back down to earth. The reality is that the bulk of SaaS companies will never reach the growth rates and scale experienced by the Slacks of this world. But hey that does not mean a SaaS company will fail. Far from it, there are lots of cases where lower rates of growth and scale result in very profitable, successful SaaS businesses run by the original founders. Founders who manage to hold onto a good chunk of their companies equity, enjoy personal wealth and more than satisfy their investors.

Early stage

Ehtan Latka’s podcast interviews with early stage SaaS start-ups illustrate how growth rates after 3 years can be as high as 275%, but the medians are in the 40-60 percentile.

Scaling SaaS

But then can comes the good news. Scaling SaaS where the sales model has been established, particularly with ARR’s between $7m and $15m (median 65%), can experience explosive growth.

 

Source: David Skok Pacific Crest Survey 2016

That level of growth is great news, but can be very difficult indeed to manage. Of course, that pace of growth for the majority of SaaS businesses is unsustainable (unfortunately!) but many of the larger companies we have studied are still showing growth of between 25% and 34%.

Outliers

And before you say it we know that there are always the outliers – companies that almost defy gravity. Some of the more mature SaaS companies like Xero (founded 2006) and Shopify (founded 2004) continue to grow at 41% and 48% respectively.

So what’s the new normal?

Calculating your Net MRR Growth Rate is critical not only for your team to know where you really are in terms of revenues and growth and what to aim for, but it is one of the most important metrics for investors. A poll carried out by Profitwell found that 40% of SaaS companies were excluding or including incorrect metrics when they calculated their MRR.

0 – 100 in 7 years

The growth expectations are growing. From what we learnt at Jason Lemkin’s Saastr in Feb 2017 companies going from $1m ($83k MRR) to $100m ($8.3m MRR) growth rates look like this:

  • For the top 25% the expectation is they reach $100m in just 5.3 years
  • For the middle tier (50%) the time it takes to reach $100m is 7.3 years
  • For the bottom tier (25%) the period extends to 10.6 years to reach $100m ARR.

According to Pacific Crest 2016 survey of Private SaaS companies (with outside investment) growth rates are as follows:

  • $417k MRR ($5m ARR) on average takes 3 years
  • $830k MRR ($10m ARR) on average takes 4 years
  • $1.6m MRR ($20m ARR) on average takes 6 years
  • $3.3m MRR ($40m ARR) on average takes 8 years

 Benchmarks

VC’s as we know are more demanding when it comes to benchmarking growth rates. It’s in their interest/DNA to demand the businesses they invest in scale fast. They need a quick return on investment. BVP growth benchmark categorizes SaaS ARR as Good, Better and Best. Despite their high expectations the benchmarks they suggest for “Good” SaaS growth rates are more or less in line with actual growth rates reported by the private SaaS with investment.

Good = $83k MRR ($1m ARR) – $830k MRR ($10m ARR) in 4 years

Good = $83k MRR ($1m ARR) – $8m MRR ($100m ARR) in 10 years

 

Better = $83k MRR ($1m ARR) – $830 MRR ($10m ARR) in 3 years

Better = $83k MRR ($1m ARR) – $8m MRR ($100m ARR) in 7 years

 

Best = $83k MRR ($1m ARR) – $830 MRR ($10m ARR) in 2 years

Best = $83k MRR ($1m ARR) – $8m MRR ($100m ARR) in 3 years

Conclusion

The rate at which you grow your Net MRR is always going to be based on your growth stage. However, the benchmarks provided should give you some parameters to work within and of course to allow you to set realistic goals for your internal teams. As well as enabling you to back-up your position with outside stakeholders.

Subscribe to our blog for more information on growing your SaaS business.

Saastr 7 – 9 Feb San Francisco

We’re off to Saastr San Francisco on 7 Feb 2017 to launch CloudKPI Trinity giving Saas teams a 360° view of their core business metrics. Say hello to the team who made it happen.

L-R Caitriona Harvey, Eva Keyes and Ailbhe Conway + Maeve Scully (not pictured)