Does prospecting really work?

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Across 30+ SaaS investments, I can say the answer is Always, as least in SaaS.

But how much, and when to phase it in, varies.

Prospecting and outbound is an art. What is hard is it to get outbound and prospecting going with (x) a founder with no passion for it, and/or (y) with sales reps that have only done inbound.

If you have only done in-bound, then prospecting and outbound will seem incredibly tedious, very slow, and frustrating. You’ll likely never close anything.

But I’ve yet to find a category, from contact centers to search to voice to software testing to fleet management to recruiting to training and more, where outbound didn’t work — at least once you had someone doing it with some experience and passion around it.

The next question then is, if it works, will it work enough?

Certainly, the lower your price point, the harder it is to make traditional prospecting work. With bigger deals, it’s easier to target named accounts, take the time you need to personalize the outreach, and invest what it takes to get there.

Second, the % of revenue from outbound can vary widely. In some start-ups, it’s an “extra layer”, another 10%-20% growth. In others, it’s the primary acquisition channel, at least until the brand really takes off. There’s always more revenue to be had through outbound.

But in the early days, you do need to stick to what you are good at, or at least, the least bad at. If you are scared to do prospecting and/or can’t bring yourself to it, find a way to otherwise generate demand. Then hire someone later to own it. – Read More

Facing the new build vs. buy problem in application delivery

How to make better strategic sourcing decisions for your software supply chain

The market for application components delivered in the cloud using a subscription model is exploding—it spans the software supply chain and it is growing constantly.

Given the high quality of these component services, it can be difficult to determine how to source your parts—should you use a supplier, or build it yourself? There are many different ways to cut this problem, but a valuable mental model that can help you make your decision is to look at code as a liability.

The natural inclination is to think of code as an asset to the business. It’s something you invest resources in to build, and it drives the growth of your business. But an alternate line of thinking looks at writing code as creating risk, as a necessary evil to create value for the business.

Similar to financial debt, the idea goes something like this: You take out a mortgage to buy a house, you only want the house, but not the mortgage. So you minimize the mortgage as much as possible, keeping it around only long enough to obtain the value (the house). And if you move to a new house, you don’t take the mortgage with you. The debt—the liability—is a means to value.

You can think of code the same way: You don’t actually want the code, you want the value it creates. Code has ongoing costs to understand it, to maintain it, to adapt it over time. Those costs are the same as making the interest payments on your house. The scrum master, the two-pizza teams, the agile ceremonies—all are required, but all are simply paying down the interest. And unfortunately, when you move to Version 3 of your application, that Version 1 debt will still be hanging around—you can’t get rid of the principal!

If you have come from a background as a development or technical leader where your role has been biased toward building your own software and systems, thinking about code as a liability is a great way to view your decisions from a business perspective and make good strategic decisions. Applying the model to the build-versus-buy problem, four key areas for consideration emerge. – Read More

Is it possible to build a successful SaaS B2B business in the UK/Europe, or should you move to the US to maximize your success?

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This is a more nuanced question than it was a few years back.

The vast majority of the very successful European SaaS CEOs from one SaaS generation ago will tell you coming to the U.S., and in particular, SF, was critical to their success.

I’ve also invested in a ton of SaaS companies from Europe that came to the U.S.: Algolia, Talkdesk, Pipedrive, Automile, Front, PlatoHQ, Gorgias.io, Voxeet, etc. and they have benefited tremendously from coming to SF/U.S.

Why? Talent and capital. The experienced VPs, and the big venture checks, are still centered in SF.

But it’s more nuanced now. First, venture capital is more distributed. There still is much more of it in the U.S. for SaaS, but there is probably 20x-50x more of it in European funds than just 5 years ago. So you can raise all the capital you need in Europe now, even if it’s still easier to grab it in the U.S. It used to be you almost had to come to SF after your seed round. Now? Not so much.

Talent still remains an issue. There are still far more VPs to hire from Box, Salesforce, Twilio, AppDynamics, wherever to lure into your startup if you come to SF. This is still a huge accelerator. There just aren’t as many senior SaaS veterans in Europe that were Director+ level and above with tons of core responsibility.

But the more SMB you are, the less that probably matters. If you have a $99/month product or $299/month, hopefully anyone with good training and script can sell that on the phone. And there are at least more veterans than there used to be. – Read more