Should I use in-house or SaaS tools to develop APIs?

My Post121.jpgIt’s perfectly viable to approach API development using either in-house or SaaS-provided tooling, but each path has its place. Learn how to choose between these two methods.

Many of today’s software teams are faced with this question: Should you develop APIs with your own in-house tools, or use third-party SaaS API development tools? Ultimately, your choice probably won’t impact the intended features or capabilities of the API — it’s just a matter of the preferred platform in which to write that API.

 

An API is an interface that allows external programs to use services an underlying application provides, but still shields the underlying application from outside users. Typically, developers don’t develop APIs using the same language or format used in the associated application. For instance, many APIs operate over the internet by design. They employ a conventional HTTPseries of GET, POST, PUT, DELETE and other HTTP methods based on languages such as Python.It might make perfect sense to develop APIs on premises when the API can use existing software development toolchains, processes and staff. The additional costs and learning curves associated with outside API services may simply not be worth it. – Read More

How can you land a big client as a SaaS that no one has heard of?

My Post120.jpgSolve one of their top pain points, for real — that no other vendor is solving.

If you haven’t sold to the F500 / Global 2000 before, you’ll be somewhat surprised to learn that between the CIO’s office and functional heads, at most huge companies, there is a clear goal to bring in a handful of new “innovative vendors” into the company each year.

In fact, almost all the best run large enterprises know they have to seek out new gems in software to help their businesses run faster and better. Otherwise, their stack and approach will ossify. So they have budgets and often even innovation departments to work with emerging vendors.

But here’s the thing — they can only process so many each year. Each new vendor means a lot of business process change, even for a small deployment.

So that means big enterprises often only being in 1 new vendor per year per department, and maybe another handful at the CIO level. More than that is too many and too much to process. – Read More

5 founders share 5 sales strategies for SaaS startups

My Post114.jpgIn 2011, the famous investor Marc Andreessen wrote an essay titled “Why Software is Eating the World.”

Seven years later, SaaS is a billion-dollar industry.

But to lead the pack in SaaS, founders and startup teams should master sales. So, I spoke with five founders on how to sell a SaaS product based on their experience over the years.

1. Growth hack using Quora and SEMrush

With over 12,000 users, Funnel CRM is a sales tool helping businesses, agencies, and freelancers.

According to the company’s CEO Muhammad Gohar Shafique, Quora is one of the most useful resources to understand customer pain points. 

Whenever Shafique maps out a new content strategy, he usually goes through Quora to find the problems that his prospective buyers are asking. From there, he thinks of solutions to the problem and answers them on the site.

The opportunity is simple: getting traffic to your content by commenting on questions that your content actually answers.

Here’s the hack they use:

  • Step 1:  Log in to SEMrush and do a search on Quora.
  • Step 2: Navigate to the “Organic Research” tab under “Domain Analytics.” You’ll now have a list of top-ranking questions on Quora.
  • Step 3: Run a search for a keyword related to your content (e.g. “SaaS”).
  • Step 4: Sort the results in descending order by search volume.

Another simple hack is paying attention to customer support. “We provide 24-hour support and trained our support team to respond to messages within two minutes,” says Shafique. This approach led to a 43 percent increase in leads.

The company also makes it a rule that engineers and founders have to spend at least six hours per week as a support agent. “Why?” Shafique asks. “To understand customer pain points and then iterate the product faster to stay relevant and avoid being just another bloated SaaS product.”

2. Onboard the biggest players in the industry

Y Combinator-backed Cashfree is a technology platform digitizing both inward and outward bulk payments for 3,000+ merchants and brands.

A strategy that worked well for them, according to its co-founder Akash Sinha, is signing up the largest businesses in a given sector. “We spend most of our energy in getting the largest player, and once they come onboard, the rest of the players follow,” he says.

It’s also important to talk with the right decision makers. If your product is helping businesses improve their customer experience, for example, then talk with a product or marketing head. Scheduling meetings with department heads is way more helpful.

But the downsides of this strategy is that it requires patience. Since bigger clients take longer to make decisions, your overall momentum may take a hit.

Sinha’s advice is to chase both bigger and smaller prospects at any point in time. While it’s alright to focus on the larger companies, don’t ignore the smaller clients completely.

3. Don’t focus just on your product

SendX is a remarketing and retargeting SaaS solution that uses email, browser push notifications, and social media ads to drive more revenues.

Its founder Varun Jain shares their sales strategy: Before a product demo, the team researches about the prospect by looking at their latest news or events and their sessions on SendX. This allows them to understand the prospect’s background.

The team then does the demo, focusing on the prospect’s specific problem. They will typically only talk about SendX’s capabilities 10 to 20 percent of the time. – Read more

JPMorgan Licensing Its Trading Software: Could It Be The Next Big SaaS Company?

My Post106.jpgThe investment market is becoming increasingly automated, forcing the leading Wall Street firms to come up with out-of-the-box ways to differentiate.

Taking a page from the software as a service market, JPMorgan Chase has started licensing its trading software to third parties outside of the company.  It’s not a new strategy–BlackRock began licensing its risk analytics program Aladdin in the late 1990’s–but it is one that is growing as the industry gets much more competitive and technology plays a bigger role in investing. One only has to look at the advent of robo advisors as one example of how technology can disrupt a traditional market.

JPMorgan Already Has 208 Clients Licensing Its Platform

Dubbed Investment Analytics Platform, JPMorgan’s head of global custody and fund services Teresa Heitsenrether told CNBC in a recent interview that the bank has already signed on 208 large investors and has an additional 42 customers in the pipeline. Those contracts are expected to be inked by the end of this year.  The trading program, which is known as Athena after the Greek goddess of wisdom internally, provides investors with the ability to test and run analytics on their own investment strategies. While these type of programs are commonplace in large investment firms, pensions, endowments, and insurance companies don’t have the budgets to spend a ton on technology. After all, they are tasked with investing but also doing it at a low cost.  That’s the market JPMorgan is eyeing with the platform. Heitsenrether told CNBC that the bank views the custody business as a growth one and by offering unique services it thinks it can get more of that business. JPMorgan credited its custody business with the company’s ability to generate $3.9 billion in revenue in 2017, which marked a 9% increase year-over-year. Revenue in the business has increased by 11% so far in 2018, according to CNBC figures. While JPMorgan is starting with its trading program, the executive said it could launch other offerings such as risk management for banks, noted CNBC.

Technology Makes Custody Services Cheaper

The move on the part of JPMorgan Chase comes at a time when the financial services industry is embracing technology to automate processes and procedures that have long been the domain of the Wall Street banks. Thanks to technology, custody services are becoming cheaper to offer and as a result, the big banks are focusing on those products and services that rivals can’t easily imitate.  They are aiming to become one-stop shops to serve all of a client’s financial needs.

The launch of the trading platform places JPMorgan Chase at odds with MSCI and Bloomberg, two players in the industry that licenses platforms to manage trading and risk among other things. While the New York bank wouldn’t say how much revenue it expects to make from the offering, it is being viewed more as a tool to lure more custody business its way. It’s Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, said in the 2017 annual report that its market share in custody stands at 8% but that he thinks it can “grow significantly” by adding bankers, building better technology and developing more products. “In this business, while you make large initial investments in order to grow when you gain clients, they usually stick with you for a long time,” he wrote at the time.

JPMorgan isn’t alone in licensing out its software to outside parties. In the fall of 2016, Goldman Sachs began licensing its Securities Database software program otherwise known as SecDB, that helped its bankers make money off of ideally timed trades and avoided losses by making costly mistakes. It is reportedly able to calculate 23 billion prices covering nearly three million positions each day. The platform is credited with the investment banking weathering the Great Recession better than its peers. Goldman had long resisted licensing the platform but did an about-face after the recession when new regulation blunted the edge it had over rivals. It now uses the platform to lure more business its way.  It’s something JPMorgan and undoubtedly other big investment banks are looking to do more of. – Read more

Scaling Your Business Without Losing Your Culture

My Post105.jpgAside from “innovation,” few buzzwords carry as little real meaning in Silicon Valley and the broader tech sector than “culture.”

While countless startups and established companies alike have seized upon the idea of corporate culture as a vehicle of employee attraction and a way to differentiate themselves in crowded markets, culture remains one of the most crucial aspects of your organization.

So how do you cultivate and maintain a strong, ethical corporate culture when you’re trying to scale?

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what companies actually mean when they talk about culture, as well as ways to foster your corporate culture as a direct reflection of your company’s brand values.

First, let’s talk about what culture really means.

Healthy, Productive Cultures Don’t Just Happen

Perhaps the most important thing to realize about culture—at least as it pertains to companies and brands—is that, even if you do nothing, a culture will emerge across your organization. Once we understand this, it becomes easier to see that culture is a result of actions, decisions, and direct actions.

Put another way, strong corporate cultures don’t just “happen.” We have to make them happen.

This is surprisingly difficult even in the early stages of small companies. Think about it for a second. If workplace culture is an extension of a company’s brand values, who decides what those values are? Once that’s been figured out, how do you actually disseminate these ideas and values across your organization?

You could be forgiven for thinking that the CEO or founders are responsible for identifying and shaping a company’s values as well as ensuring that every employee understands these principles. The problem with this approach is that it’s up to a single individual to arbitrarily decide what the entire company’s values are and adopt a top-down approach to implementing those values. This is fine if your company aspires to be the personal fiefdom of a control-freak CEO, but for companies that want to cultivate and nurture genuinely meaningful corporate cultures, it’s completely, wildly unrealistic.

What We Really Mean When We Talk About ‘Culture’

One way to think about culture is to see it as “our way of life.” As you can probably imagine, this covers virtually every single aspect of a company and its operations, from large, intangible brand values to how your customer support teams answer the phone or respond to email.

Culture encompasses big and small things, such as:

  • The products we build and how we ship them
  • The way we communicate internally and externally
  • The messages we choose not to send—and why
  • The incentives we use to motivate our staff
  • The behaviors we exhibit every day
  • The boundaries that, if crossed, have meaningful consequences
  • The speed at which serious problems are escalated to someone who can solve them
  • The speed at which those problems are acted upon
  • The way we dress and the symbols we display
  • The ways in which we celebrate victories
  • The things that make us proud, and the things that bring us shame
  • The things that upset us, and the things that bring us joy
  • The things we do to grow as individuals and as teams
  • The way we perceive ourselves and our role in a company

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the things that fall under the umbrella of corporate culture. It is, however, a way to start thinking beyond Casual Fridays and ping-pong tables as being representative of the cultures we create.

Our companies—and our people—deserve better.

Action + Communication = Values

One of the major challenges to establishing and maintaining a strong, cohesive corporate culture is the fact that many companies rely on at least partially distributed teams. It’s hard enough to foster and cultivate an inclusive culture at a growing company without tossing remote workers and asynchronous communication into the mix. – Read more

Seva snares $2.4M seed investment to find info across cloud services

My Post (5).jpgSeva, a New York City startup, that wants to help customers find content wherever it lives across SaaS products, announced a $2.4 million seed round today.

Avalon Ventures led the round with participation from Studio VC and Datadog founder and CEO Olivier Pomel.

Company founder and CEO Sanjay Jain says that he started this company because he felt the frustration personally of having to hunt across different cloud services to find the information he was looking for. When he began researching the idea for the company, he found others who also complained about this fragmentation.

“Our fundamental vision is to change the way that knowledge workers acquire the information they need to do their jobs from one where they have to spend a ton of time actually seeking it out to one where the Seva  platform can prescribe the right information at the right time when and where the knowledge worker actually needs it, regardless of where it lives.”

Seva, which is currently in Beta, certainly isn’t the first company to try to solve this issue. Jain believes that with a modern application of AI and machine learning and single sign-on, Seva can provide a much more user-centric approach than past solutions simply because the technology wasn’t there yet.

The way they do this is by looking across the different information types. Today they support a range of products including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive,, Box, Dropbox, Slack and JIRA, Confluence. Jain says they will be adding additional services over time. – read more

Why are SaaS companies so hot right now?

My Post (3).jpgIt just took Wall Street a while to fall in love with recurring revenue for business software.

You can see Aaron Levie, CEO of Box, sharing how Wall Street viewed SaaS in 2015 at SaaStr Annual right after they IPO’d in this quick video: “Did institutional buyers understand SaaS?” “A: They’re working on it”

Box was early to IPO of the next generation of B2B leaders, though.

The power of high customer revenue retention for 10+ years COMBINED with the fact that SaaS actually allowed companies like Adobe and Microsoft to dramatically increase the lifetime value of the customers (by getting more money in years 3–10+ while trading off less in years 1 and 2) … just took a while for everyone to get their arms around.

It’s Years 3–10+ of the customer lifetime where the power of SaaS recurring revenue business models starts to show up in the top line, and often Year 10+ in the cash flows.

It was harder to see all this in 2015 if you weren’t deep in the trenches yourself.

I wrote this in 2014 and the world laughed: Box Will Hit $1 Billion In Revenues Before You Know It

But now they all get it.

SaaS is a 20+ annuity. If you do it right.

Wall Street loves this now. – read more

Best Practices in Customer Success in 2018: Maximizing Revenue, NPS and Happiness

My Post (4)This session with leaders in the customer success space discusses best practices for your customer success teams in 2018.

They talk about when to hire your VP of Customer Success, qualities to look for in your team and how to ask for feedback at the best times in the customer journey. After all, Jason Lemkin says 90% of your revenue goes into customer success. – read more

 

What is the best way for a SaaS company to deal with long sales cycles?

  • My Post (2).jpgShorten them up a bit.
  • Don’t fear paid pilots or smaller deployments. Prove yourself and put a few nickels in the bank.
  • And then — just get used to it.

$100k+ deals often take more than a quarter to close.

$1m+ deals often taken more than a year.

Bigger deals generally take longer. But a great VP of Sales with enterprise experience will help — and perhaps shorten sales cycles 30%. That will make a difference.

Ultimately, while long sales cycles are super stressful in the early days — you want to put points up, and cash in — in the long run, they don’t matter that much. Eventually, you have 10, 20, then 100 bigger deals all in the pipeline. You’ll close them in a staggered fashion over the coming quarters. And you’ll even be glad to have a high visibility pipeline. And it will be OK. – read more

Celonis brings intelligent process automation software to cloud

My Post.jpgCelonis has been helping companies analyze and improve their internal processes using machine learning.

Today the company announced it was providing that same solution as a cloud service with a few nifty improvements you won’t find on prem.

The new approach, called Celonis  Intelligent Business Cloud, allows customers to analyze a workflow, find inefficiencies and offer improvements very quickly. Companies typically follow a workflow that has developed over time and very rarely think about why it developed the way it did, or how to fix it. If they do, it usually involves bringing in consultants to help. Celonis puts software and machine learning to bear on the problem.

Co-founder and CEO Alexander Rinke says that his company deals with massive volumes of data and moving all of that to the cloud makes sense. “With Intelligent Business Cloud, we will unlock that [on prem data], bring it to the cloud in a very efficient infrastructure and provide much more value on top of it,” he told TechCrunch.

The idea is to speed up the whole ingestion process, allowing a company to see the inefficiencies in their business processes very quickly. Rinke says it starts with ingesting data from sources such as Salesforce or SAP and then creating a visual view of the process flow. There may be hundreds of variants from the main process workflow, but you can see which ones would give you the most value to change, based on the number of times the variation occurs. – Read more