Phew. I imagine a lot of you in the SaaS industry, like me, are playing catch up after a very full week last week at the SaaStr Annual 2016 conference.
Last week's event in San Francisco marked the 2nd annual conference from Jason Lemkin and Aaron Ross. For those not familiar with it, SaaStr Annual is designed around all things sales and marketing (no product) in SaaS.
Jason was the founder and CEO of EchoSign which he sold to Adobe in 2011. Aaron was a very early employee who developed and built the sales team at Salesforce. The conference fell out of their work documenting the challenges and strategies of building SaaS companies at SaaStr.com.
Because of their backgrounds, their focus is very much on building and scaling large companies – as demonstrated by the slogan of the conference which was “The First $100M is Always the Hardest.”
My reflections on the conference:
1. Starting with the slogan, the whole event had an air of being very ‘Silicon Valley’, complete with the 'Unicorn' art car from Burning Man at the Epic After Party. This was much more pronounced than last year.
2. More silicon valley: There was a “Meet the VCs 1:1” day. I’ve spoken with several executives and none of their experiences were good. VCs were late to the meetings and/or the feedback was along the lines of “We’ll only take a look if you’re growing at xx% in a $xxbillion market.”
3. Some of the discussions on the “Tactical Stage” were indeed tactical, but we heard that most of the presentations on the “Strategy Stage” were fairly ethereal and high level. Most folks we talked to were looking for more in the trenches advice and metrics, and less aspirational unicorn fluff. To this point, the Kauffman Foundation reports that only 20 technology companies founded in the US each year make it to $100M in revenue - far more companies in attendance were looking for advice to grow from $1 million to $10 million than $100 million to $1 billion.
Also, the Tactical Stage was separated from the expo floor by a curtain, so really noisy – that was just unfortunate logistics.
In summary – the SaaStr Annual is a fantastic event for anyone working in the SaaS industry, as long as you can swallow a healthy dose of Silicon Valley Unicorn Dust.
Lastly, the event featured a ‘scavenger hunt’ of a dozen life-size cardboard cutouts of SaaS industry leaders – SaaS Capital portfolio company Indinero CEO Jessica Mah (photo above) was one of them! Although Jess’s cutout wasn’t life size… she’s taller in real life ;)
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