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?

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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

Why Blissfully decided to go all in on serverless

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Serverless has become a big buzzword of late, and with good reason. It has the potential to completely alter how developers write code.

They can simply write a series of event triggers, while letting the cloud vendor worry about providing whatever amount of compute resources are required to complete the job. It represents a huge shift in how programs are developed, but it’s been difficult to find companies who were built from the ground up using this methodology because it’s fairly new.

Blissfully, a startup that helps customers manage their Software-as-a-Service usage inside their companies, is one company that decided to do just that. Aaron White, co-founder and CTO, says that when he was building early versions of Blissfully,  he found he needed quick bursts of compute power to deliver a list of all the SaaS products an organization is using.

He figured he could set aside a bunch of servers to provide that burst of power as needed, but that would have required a ton of overhead on his part to manage. At this point, he was a lone programmer trying to prove his SaaS management idea was even possible. As he looked at the pros and cons of serverless versus traditional virtual machines, he began to see serverless as a viable approach.

What he learned along the way was that serverless offers many advantages to a company with a bursty approach like Blissfully, scaling up and down as needed. But it isn’t perfect and there are issues around management and tooling and handling the pros and cons of that scaling ability that he had to learn about on the fly, especially coming in as early as he did with this approach.

Serverless makes sense

Blissfully is a service where serverless made a lot of sense. It wouldn’t have to manage or pay for servers it wasn’t using. Nor would it have to worry about the underlying infrastructure at all. That would be up to the cloud provider, and it would only pay for the bursts as they happened.

Serverless  is actually a misnomer, in that it doesn’t mean there are no servers. It actually means you don’t have to set up servers in order to run your program, which is a pretty mind-blowing transformation. In traditional programming you have to write your code and set up all the underlying hardware ahead of time, whether it’s in your data center or in the cloud. With serverless, you just write the code and the cloud provider handles all of that for you.

The way it works in practice is that programmers set up a series of event triggers, so when a certain thing happens, the cloud provider sees this and provides the necessary resources on demand. Most of the cloud vendors are offering this type of service, whether AWS Lambda, Azure Functions or Google Functions.

At this point, White began to think about serverless as a way of freeing him from thinking about managing and maintaining infrastructure and all that entailed. “I started thinking, let’s see how far we can take this. Can we really do absolutely everything serverless, and if so that reduces a ton of traditional DevOps-style work you have to do in practice. There’s still plenty, but that was the thinking at the beginning,” he said.

Overcoming obstacles

But there were issues, especially getting into serverless as early as he did. For starters, White needed to find developers who could work in this fashion, and in 2016 when it launched there weren’t a large number of people out there with serverless skills. White said he wasn’t looking for direct experience so much as people who were curious to learn and were flexible enough to deal with new technology, regardless of how Blissfully implemented that. – Read more

A Remarkably Large Portion of Businesses Are Still Reluctant to Embrace Cloud Computing

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Even the smallest businesses can benefit from readily available technology, so why won’t they use it?

When entrepreneur Marc Benioff launched Salesforce.com 20 years ago, he adopted an unusual logo for his startup. It featured the word “software” in a circle with a red slash across it. The logo matched Salesforce’s mission, “The End of Software” and its slogan, “No Software.”

It was a quirky marketing stunt, as Benioff himself admitted. After all, Salesforce was then, and still is, a software company. It is now a tech giant that makes it easier for businesses to manage sales and customer relations. But in the early 2000s, Salesforce sought to address a big challenge faced by many businesses: software was so damn expensive.

Back then, using software for your business meant spending a small fortune on computer hardware, including PCs and servers, and on software licenses and maintenance fees. Everything had to be set up on premise, which meant hiring a team of IT professionals or using a managed service.

Only companies with sizeable IT budgets or big corporations could afford such in-house networks. For small businesses, these were luxuries that they would not even consider having.

But then things changed.

It began with the rise of cloud computing, which allowed companies to access computing power through a network of powerful computers and storage devices, instead of spending huge sums on in-house data centers. This trend has been called “utility computing” because it essentially turned computing power into a utility.

The cloud also paved the way to make software more accessible to businesses and consumers. It enabled software developers to transform to a service-oriented business model by deploying their software remotely, in the cloud, and then selling software as a service instead of shipping software packages that customers had to deploy on site.

That’s what Benioff did at Salesforce. He was a pioneer of what has come to be known as software-as-a-service, or simply SaaS.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on hardware and  IT networks, businesses could pay for software the way they pay for a newspaper or cable subscription. They access the software by logging into the Web and pay a monthly or annual fee based on the number of account users and/or the features that come with the package. No more hefty licensing, maintenance fees and expensive in-house IT systems.

The cloud and SaaS made access to sophisticated software programs affordable for small businesses, including mom and pop shops.

But many small business owners are still reluctant to embrace the cloud completely. A new Gallup poll found that only half of small business owners surveyed believed technology and digital platforms are “an overall plus for the businesses.” The poll also found that roughly 40 percent didn’t think upgrading their small business technology would have a significant impact on business. Another report in 2017 published by Deloitte also found that many small business owners are “not fully embracing the digital age.” – Read more

Website builder Strikingly raises $10M Series A+ to continue growth in China

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Almost exactly one year after announcing its Series A, website building platform Strikingly said today that it has raised a $10 million Series A+. The new round was led by Cathay Capital, with participation from CAS Holding, the lead investor in Strikingly’s  Series A. This brings Strikingly’s total funding so far to $17.5 million.

Co-founder and CEO David Chen tells TechCrunch that the funding is “technically a Series B level round for us,” but the team wanted to call it a Series A+ because the capital will be used to continue the momentum of products launched around the time of its Series A, including a mobile website editor and a reseller program, as well as its growth in China. (Series A+ rounds are also more common in China, where Strikingly has an office in Shanghai and is one of the most popular website building services).

“The A+ is a natural continuation of what we’ve been doing since our Series A,” Chen says.

Founded in 2012, Strikingly doubled the size of its team over the past year from 150 to 300 employees. The reseller program, launched in early 2017 after the company realized many Strikingly customers use the platform to build sites for other people, now has users in 70 countries. This year, Strikingly’s goal is to continue growing the program in Asia and introduce more features to help resellers with customer acquisition. The reseller program allows them to buy websites in bulk and gives them a dashboard to manage their clients’ sites. While Strikingly’s core product will continue being its website builder, Chen says its reseller program has helped boost its growth in many markets, particularly Southeast Asia. – Read more

How early on should I be able to detect scalability problems in a SAAS business?

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Pretty early.

Even today, with much more elastic systems than just a few years ago, I see resource contention, downtime, and other issues start to pop up constantly with hacked apps around $500k – $1m in ARR.

In other words, just as you are finally figuring it out and getting to Initial Traction.

In the beginning, the customers will forgive you when the app is too slow here and there, or unavailable for a bit … you are a new vendor after all.

But they won’t forgive you for that long. You get about 3 chances.

Then they move on, if not literally, then in their hearts and minds. – Read more


6 tools to conquer multicloud management

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Scalr, RightScale, Red Hat, Pivotal, Morpheus, and Embotics take aim at multicloud deployment, management, and cost control

Life changed for programmers and operations teams when the cloud arrived. Instead of waiting weeks, months, and sometimes more than a year for new hardware to be purchased and provisioned, the cloud of servers makes it possible to get a new idea up and running in seconds with just a click or three.

Alas, every great leap forward usually comes with some backsliding. Now that anyone can start up a server in seconds, everyone is doing just that. The number of machines is proliferating and our jobs are now dominated by the task of herding the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of machines. Where we once could keep everything straight with a clipboard or a checklist in a Word or Excel document, now we need serious tools to juggle everything.

[ InfoWorld explains: What is multicloud? The next step in cloud computing. | Get started: Going multicloud? Avoid these 3 pitfalls. • Understand the multicloud management trade-off. | Keep up with the latest developments in cloud computing with InfoWorld’s Cloud Computing newsletter. ]
Programmers have solved this challenge as they solve everything: by creating another layer of code that stores bits in another set of tables in another database. In this case, the code is a hydra-headed tool sometimes called hybrid cloud manager that can connect to all of the clouds out there, create and destroy machines on its own, and at the same time fill its own database tables with lists of the machines and where they are.

These so-called multicloud or hybrid cloud management tools keep track of our machines and make it possible to orchestrate hundreds or thousands of instances so the work gets done by the cheapest, fastest, and best-configured option. They also make it possible to blend multiple public clouds with in-house servers to lower overall costs, improve security, enhance redundancy, and support world-wide operations.

Do you worry about “cloud lock-in?” That your code may run only on one cloud, leaving you with no alternatives? These hybrid cloud management tools are designed to prevent that from happening. Your developers should be able to ask for a cloud machine for a particular purpose, and the multicloud manager will deliver the best fitting option, whether it’s in your local hardware or in any of the supported public clouds. – Read more