2011: More of the same. only worse

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

What's new for 2011? Bottom line, don't expect a huge marketing budget windfall in 2011. Not much, really. If you were looking for my "top ten" list of dramatically new trends for the new year, sorry to disappoint you. What I expect is that we'll see many of the same things we've been seeing for awhile in software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketing. only more of it.

What we look for in early-stage SaaS startups

The Angel VC

I recently wrote that investors (myself included) should do a better job of making their investment criteria transparent to founders. Today I'd like to tell you a bit more about what we at Point Nine Capital are looking for in SaaS startups (other sectors are something for another blog post). To put it as simple as possible, the health of a SaaS business is mainly determined by two factors: Customer lifetime value (CLTV) and customer acquisition costs (CAC).

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Bye-bye 2011, hello 2012

The Angel VC

stats about my investment activity in 2011: I've made 14 new investments in 2011, which brings the total number to 28 The new investments are: Lieferheld and Delivery Hero , Server Density , Fundly , Westwing , Shiftplanning , FinanceaCar , Vend , ChicChickClub , Unbounce , Cibando and 3 investments which haven't been announced yet Out of these, 10 were co-investments with Team Europe / Point Nine (see, we dated extensively before we got married) Before 2011 I've had 2 write-offs.

Targeting the Fortune 5,000,000

The Angel VC

I've just read on TechCrunch that Peter Thiel, famous among other things for making one of the best investments in the history of mankind by investing in Facebook in its early days, said that he looks for platforms that are big among small businesses, not consumers. I couldn't agree more.

Where to start with SaaS marketing

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

So you say you want to launch a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. And you need to find some customers. So where do you start? If you're like a lot of folks, your first thought will be about a web site, search engine optimization, and adwords. Or maybe a webinar series or a social media campaign. Any of these tactics might work in your customer acquisition plan, so they may be the place you end up. but they're not the place to start. Why not? Think a step ahead for a moment.

Latst day to vote at The Europas

The Angel VC

Now without further ado, here are the categories that we're nominated in: Best European Startup Accelerator (Team Europe) Best VC of the Year 2011 (Point Nine Capital) Best exit 2011 (Brands4Friends acquired by eBay) Best Angel or Seed Investor of the Year (Yours truly) Here's the link to the voting page. On November 17, The Europas will be held , an annual awards for the Internet scene in Europa.

"Launching a web startup became 10x cheaper."

The Angel VC

In other words, I think the theory surely is that “starting a web startup in 2011 that is competitive in 2011 costs 10x less than it cost to build a web startup in 1998 that was competitive by 1998 standards”, right? (If If the theory was “starting a web startup in 2011 that is competitive in 2011 costs 10x less than it cost to build a web startup in 1998 that was competitive by 2011 standards” that would of course be true, but I think it wouldn’t mean anything.

Greetings from the dark side

The Angel VC

It's not really news any more because we've already announced it a few weeks ago, and TechCrunch and Gruenderszene wrote about it already. But I haven't written about it on this blog up until now, so in case you haven't heard about it yet here you go: I've teamed up with Team Europe to create Point Nine Capital , an early-stage VC which will follow in the footsteps of the highly successful Team Europe Ventures fund, which I've been working together with informally in the last two years.

SaaS Marketing Lessons from ShamWow!

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I've never bought a ShamWow! , but I love their TV ads. The hyper-enthusiastic pitchman, Vince, tells me precisely who should buy the product, what it does, why I desperately need it, and how to buy it. all in 60 seconds! And what's true for super-absorbent towels is often true for software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. Sixty seconds may be all the attention you're likely to get from a prospective customer in your first encounter.

Get your SaaS customers off to a healthy start

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I recently switched to a new health club. It's better maintained, friendlier, and less crowded than my old club. I also like that there's no up-front membership fee, just a monthly subscription. But making a change from my well-worn routine, set in place over 12 years, could have been a difficult jump. New location, new equipment, new people. But all worked out well. Here's why.

The land of a thousand niches

The Angel VC

I just came across a great blog which I hadn't been aware of yet: " VC Matters " (100 points if you get the pun), written by Rory O'Driscoll of Scale Venture Partners. Rory has an incredibly successful track record of SaaS investments, having invested in home-runs like Omniture, ScanSafe, Box.net, DocuSign, ExactTarget and many others.

What do you mean by "marketing?"

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I'm not always sure what people mean when they say "marketing." PR agencies sometimes call themselves "marketing agencies." So do some graphic design firms. Even the outfits that sell tchotchkes - the stuff you give at away at tradeshows, annual sales meetings, and holiday parties - call themselves "marketing firms." It can be hard to tell what "marketing" is or what it's supposed to do. Here's how I think about it: Marketing's job is to help acquire and retain customers.

Naming SaaS solutions and escaping the 1990s

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

One afternoon in the Spring of 1993 in a conference room in San Jose, California I learned that product versions for software are meaningless. Well, not exactly meaningless, but mathematically illogical, as in 1 + 1 = 4. The product manager for Lotus 1-2-3 and I were briefing an influential Dataquest analyst on the forthcoming enhancements to the Lotus 1-2-3 for Windows spreadsheet. It was a major overhaul of the less-than-successful version 1.0 and 1.1 releases of the product.

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Old marketing tools in a new marketing world

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I was talking yesterday with a friend who I know from the old days doing public relations. PR back then was about preparing announcements, backgrounders and glossy photographs, arranging press and analyst tours (usually under embargo ), and pitching stories over the phone. Moderate success was a few column inches and a color screenshot in a trade publication. Big time success was positive coverage in The Wall St. Journal or The New York Times. Things change. but not entirely.

Tired brains are bad for SaaS

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

Thinking too hard can tire out your brain. Research has shown that our brains can suffer from "decision fatigue" after strenuous mental exercise. It's similar to the way our muscles get tired after strenuous physical exercise. Experiments conducted at German automobile dealerships put prospective customers through a kind of mental decathlon. They asked them to choose among four choices of gearshift knobs,13 choices of wheel rims, 25 engine and gearbox configurations, and 56 color options.

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SaaS advantages in a volatile market

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

For the last few years, NASCAR, Indy car, and Formula One drivers have been wearing a special head restraint, known as a HANS (Head and neck support) device. It's designed to prevent severe injuries from violent whiplash when the race car suddenly decelerates, as in a crash. For business folks who have been whiplashed over the past few days by the sudden jolts in the stock market, this device might look attractive for more than just race car drivers.

Feeding the content monster

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

Marketers beware! There's a ravenous beast on the loose in marketing land, and it's hounding us mercilessly - days, nights, weekends & holidays - with an insatiable craving. Feed me. Feed me. Feed me." This beast inhales tasty blog posts for breakfast, devours hearty white papers for lunch, and feasts on entire websites for dinner. And in between meals, it snacks on a bottomless bag of tweets. The name of this voracious beast - the Content Monster.

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The Girl from Ipanema and the SaaS value proposition

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

The girl from Ipanema and Spinal Tap were stuck in my head - an unusual soundtrack that continuously looped through an entire weekend. You know how that happens with a song. You catch a fragment in a supermarket or an elevator. And then without warning, there's a smooth bossa nova swaying through your brain and you can't turn it off. As for Spinal Tap, an announcer on Sportscenter used the phrase, "he turned it up to 11."

Portfolio Update Part 4

The Angel VC

Thank you, Katrin and Alex, and on to a great 2011! Here's the fourth and last part of my 2010 portfolio update. The first three are here , here and here. The last (but definitely not least) update takes me back to Berlin, which is not only home to my portfolio company Momox , covered in the first update , but also to another great company that I've invested in together with XING-founder Lars Hinrichs : samedi.

Good news & bad news about SaaS

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

The good news about the SaaS subscription model: long-term paying customers. The bad news about the SaaS subscription model: long-term paying customers. With the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business model, vendors can build a sustainable source of long-term, predictable revenue. As long as the subscription fees cover customer acquisition expenses and other costs, the model should support a profitable, growing business. So far, so good.

SaaS marketing, baseball and the batting order

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I recently read " Three Nights in August, " a wonderful book about the "game inside the game" of baseball. The author, Buzz Bissinger, shadowed St. Louis Cardinal manager Tony La Russa through a three game series against the Chicago Cubs. Bissinger chronicles in detail the manager's thought processes and decision making through 27 innings. It's not a story about dramatic home runs, sparkling pitching, or spectacular defensive plays.

Saying "no"

The Angel VC

Being an angel investor is a fantastic job. Every day you meet great new people, cool products, exciting technologies and interesting new business models. Nothing (in business life) is more exciting than seeing a company grow from two-guys-in-a-garage stage to become a relevant or maybe even dominant player in a large industry sector, and as an early-stage investor you have a realistic chance to be part of some of these success stories.

Marketing numbers can lie

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I barely passed an accounting course in college. The only thing I remember was a joke about "debits by the window and credits by the door." I didn't understand the joke then, and I'm still confused by T accounts now. Thankfully, in a stint as a bank credit analyst, I did finally gain some fluency with business numbers. I learned to cope with, if not exactly love, current ratios, inventory turnover, and return on equity calculations. This experience with numbers can come in handy in marketing.

The Amazon outage and SaaS marketers' response

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I'm sure the recent service outage at Amazon Web Services (AWS) had lots of engineers scurrying around, looking for a fix. I've been at a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider when the solution's gone down. The operations and support people work through the night and weekends. Marketing people aren't completely off the hook, though. They should be doing some scurrying around too. It's not all bad news First, though, some good news on the reaction to the AWS outage. There's concern, but not panic.

SaaS, Flexibility & Office Furniture

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I learned something recently about software-as-a-service (SaaS) from a table. This isn't just any table. This is a bivi table made by Turnstone , a division of Steelcase that specializes in office furniture for small, innovative organizations. This table starts as a work surface. With an add-on "back pocket," it becomes a workstation. Drag two of them together and it's a shared work area. Push four into a group and it's a conference table.

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Portfolio Update Part 3

The Angel VC

Here's the third part of my 2010 portfolio review. If you're new here, please start with part 1 , move on to part 2 and then (hopefully) return to this post. The next stop is Crakow in Poland, home of inFakt.pl. inFakt.pl was founded in 2008 by two extremely sharp students of the Cracow University of Science and Technology who wanted to build a simple, easy-to-use, web-based invoicing and billing application for small businesses in Poland.

Building connections to your SaaS customers

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I'm one in a million. Actually, I'm number 172,370 in a million. So says the thank you note I recently received from Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn, as a way of showing his appreciation to me and the other first million LinkedIn users.

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Developers, developers, developers…developers, developers, developers

The Angel VC

If there’s one thing that all fast-growing technology startups have in common, it’s that they’re constantly looking for great developers. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer got it right: My portfolio companies are no exception, almost all of them are looking for engineers in various roles right now.

Please don't sell me stuff I don't need

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

My regular readers can skip the next two paragraphs. I need a minute to talk to my brethren in the PR community. privately. To the PR folks who have been pitching me on stories about computer viruses, streaming music to cars, online advertising solutions, and 3D mice, please stop. If you've read my blog or newsletter , you'd know that I do not write about these topics.

Social media is a good fit for SaaS

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

NPR's Fresh Air host, Terry Gross, recently interviewed Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter. She asked him, once the founders created Twitter, how did it catch on. Stone's candid answer, "Well, it didn't at first." He explained that for the first nine months of the product's existence, the only people using it were friends and family. Most people they talked to about it decided that "Twitter is not useful" and "it's the most ridiculous thing we've ever heard of."

How not to calculate a SaaS marketing budget

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

I hear this question often from software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers: "How much should we spend on marketing?" If these marketers have experience working in the traditional, on-premise licensed software world, they're usually familiar measuring marketing spend as a percentage of annual revenue. That metric is often used to allocate and track marketing budgets for licensed software companies, and they typically spend somewhere between 5 and 8 percent of annual revenues on marketing.

Geckoboard – Your Business in Real-Time

The Angel VC

I’m thrilled to announce that together with Robin Klein at Index Ventures , Dave McClure ’s 500 Startups fund and my friend and former Atlas Venture partner Alexander Bruehl I’ve made an investment in Geckoboard. Geckoboard is a beautiful real-time status board that lets businesses keep an eye on all the indicators that matter to them.

SaaS makes a mess of the org chart

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

SaaS messes up organization charts. It takes those boxes that represent separate departments and it smushes them together. Let me give some examples. Marketing & Sales : The marketing organization and the sales organization used to work separately, though they'd occasionally meet to cast blame back & forth. Your leads are worthless; Your sales guys don't follow up," ad nauseam.

To ask or not to ask (for the user's credit card), that is the question

The Angel VC

I've just answered a question on Quora and thought it might be worth cross-posting it here. Just in case there's still someone who isn't using Quora yet (admittedly unlikely given their current growth rate which is absolutely incredible). The question was: "For web apps, is it better to ask for the credit card before their trial starts (e.g., on the signup page) or after their trial expires?"

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2 Takeways From the CarrierIQ Situation

Aber Law Firm

2 Takeways From the CarrierIQ Situation, from a SaaS Attorney. Ok this CarrierIQ situation is really crazy, but there are some things (from a SaaS Attorney’s perspective) that every software or SaaS company should think about. 1) Who is really at fault here: CarrierIQ or the carriers?

2 Takeways From the CarrierIQ Situation

Aber Law Firm

2 Takeways From the CarrierIQ Situation, from a SaaS Attorney. Ok this CarrierIQ situation is really crazy, but there are some things (from a SaaS Attorney’s perspective) that every software or SaaS company should think about. 1) Who is really at fault here: CarrierIQ or the carriers?

2 Takeways From the CarrierIQ Situation

Aber Law Firm

2 Takeways From the CarrierIQ Situation, from a SaaS Attorney. Ok this CarrierIQ situation is really crazy, but there are some things (from a SaaS Attorney’s perspective) that every software or SaaS company should think about. 1) Who is really at fault here: CarrierIQ or the carriers?

2 Takeways From the CarrierIQ Situation, from a SaaS Attorney

Aber Law Firm

Ok this CarrierIQ situation is really crazy, but there are some things (from a SaaS Attorney’s perspective) that every software or SaaS company should think about. 1) Who is really at fault here: CarrierIQ or the carriers? While this is a complex question (and as of today all of the facts are not known) what we do know is Carrier IQ is the software provider and the carriers have licensed their software for use on mobile devices for sale to consumers.

3½ ways to lose customers in 2011

Practical Advice on SaaS marketing

If you’re marketing a SaaS solution and have had enough with year-end wrap-ups, predictions for the new year, or sure-fire tips for success in 2011, here’s the antidote: 3 ½ ways to lose customers in 2011. Ignore them Once you’ve won a customer, consider your marketing job complete. Focus on the prospects, not the ones who are already sending in a check every month. Leave them out of the loop on product and service enhancements, and ignore their suggestions for improvements.

Power Laws: A Look Back To Where 20 SaaS Break-Out Companies from 2012 Are Today

SaaStr

Let’s take a look back at where HubSpot, Upwork, and others were in 2011 GAAP revenue — and where they are today. Learnings for this year, for 2011 GAAP revenue (Inc. in 2011 GAAP revenue. in 2011 GAAP revenue. in 2011 GAAP revenue.