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

Is it possible to sell a SaaS product without a well established brand?

My Post (8).jpgWell of course it is 🙂

The question is, how do you get past the brands? Brands are incredibly powerful because they are the default choice.

But there’s good news: there are veteran buyers in every space and category in SaaS now.Veterans who have already bought and deployed applications in your space … and found a critical gap they want filled.

Something they really, really need a core product to do that the leaders don’t do.

And a subset of those veterans will search out an emerging vendor that maybe is pretty so-so at most functions, is quite lacking in some key areas … but solves their #1 gap in the space.

They’ll buy from you if you solve their problem. And if you let these veterans know who you are — through PR, blogs, podcast, press, SEO, SEM, events, tradeshows, outbound, cold calls, emails, WhatsApps, Slack Channels, try everything — some will reach out to you. If you really solve that critical gap in a critical problem / solution. – Read more

4 areas of SMB operation that benefit the most from SaaS

My Post (7).jpgSmall to midsize businesses move towards Software-as-a-Service in a digital-first landscape.

Today’s competitive business landscape has companies looking to technology to find some advantage. Many are compelled to undergo digital transformation to become more efficient in their business processes. But even newer companies often struggle to determine what components ought to comprise their “tech stacks.”

For smaller ventures, this process can be especially overwhelming. With limited resources, leaders and IT officers of these smaller operations have to effectively manage how they adopt and implement various digital solutions. This forces some to keep things analog or make do with the limited functionalities of traditional on-premises and offline solutions.

Fortunately, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud computing have lowered the barriers to powerful features previously found only in enterprise-grade, custom-developed software. Today, the maturity of the SaaS ecosystem allows businesses to simply subscribe online and get immediate access to apps, instead of having to invest significant capital upfront, purchasing the necessary infrastructure, software licenses and setup services.

For legacy SMBs that are especially strapped for resources, or that are especially skeptical about the value of these tools, it’s also possible to incrementally and selectively migrate processes to SaaS. The diversity and functional specialization of the apps available allows companies to experiment with and get accustomed to digital workflows, one operational aspect at a time. This also enables them to identify and cherry pick the business areas where these solutions have the potential for the most dramatic immediate impact. – read more

How much would you pay an affiliate to your SaaS product and for how long?

My Post.jpg

A rough rule of thumb is it’s a good deal for both sides if you pay an affiliate what it would cost you to acquire that lead on your own.

An approximately way to think about that:

  • 35%-40% of first year ACV (Annual Contract Value) if they bring you a closed, signed lead. It would cost you that much to acquire and close that lead yourself.
  • 15%-20% of first year ACV if they bring you a true Opportunity. I.e., if they do the marketing part, but not the sales part.
  • 10% or so for a Lead. Much more than this, without deep qualification of the Lead, gets expensive.

And generally speaking, note you probably need to pay your sales teams on even “closed” leads send to you (i.e., the first category), so the real cost will be higher to you.

And of course, this model assumes a long customer lifetime. These numbers are too high in a higher-churn environment. But you can just adjust them there to a shorter customer value (instead of ACV), and keep the percentages about the same.

In the end, affiliates are a marketing channel. Pay them what you’d pay your own marketing team and you probably come out ahead. Tweak from there. – Read more