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SaaS Economics - Part 1: The SaaS Cash Flow Trough

SaaS Economics - Part 1: The SaaS Cash Flow Trough
This post provides SaaS entrepreneurs with an Excel spreadsheet model and graphs that show the cash flow trough that happens to SaaS, or other subscription/recurring revenue businesses that use a sales organization. These kinds of SaaS businesses face a cash flow problem in the early days, because they have to invest up front in sales and marketing expenses to acquire customers, and only get payments from those customers over a delayed period of time. I refer to this phenomenon as the the SaaS Cash Flow Trough. The model also compares the cash flows of businesses that charge monthly to those that are able to charge their customers for a year’s payment in advance. The greatest value from this post will come from downloading the model and inputting your own variables. The Excel Spreadsheet and associated PowerPoint file can be downloaded by clicking here. Part 2 of this series can be found here: SaaS Economics – Part 2: Scaling the Business. Where is this applicable The Cash Flow Trough

Related:  Financial Planning for Saas

Financial planning for SaaS startups A few people who read my recent post about financial planning asked if I could provide an example for a good financial plan, so I'd like to post one here. The plan is very similar to the one that I created in the very early days at Zendesk and re-used a few times in the meantime, but I had to make a few adjustments to make it more generic. It's a simple plan for an early-stage SaaS startup with a low-touch sales model – a company which markets a SaaS solution via its website, offers a 30 day free trial, gets most of its trial users organically and through online marketing and converts them into paying customer with very little human interaction. Therefore the key drivers of my imaginary startup are organic growth rate, marketing budget and customer acquisition costs, conversion rate, ARPU and churn rate. If you have a SaaS startup with a higher-touch sales model where revenue growth is largely driven by sales headcount, the plan needs to be modified accordingly.

SaaS Economics - Part 2: Scaling the Business This is the second part of a 2 part series that discusses the cash flow trough that happens to SaaS, or other subscription/recurring revenue businesses when they decide to scale their business by ramping sales and marketing. These kinds of SaaS businesses face a cash flow problem in the early days, because they have to invest up front in sales and marketing expenses to acquire customers, and only get payments from those customers over a delayed period of time. The first part of the series can be found here: SaaS Econonics – Part 1: The SaaS Cash Flow Trough.

Will your 2011 Plan stand up to investor scrutiny? We have just gone through the time of year when startups present their 2011 plans to their boards for approval. In many ways, these meetings are very similar to the meetings we have with new startups that have projections for how they believe their revenue will grow. What I always find interesting in this process is looking at how the management team came up with the bookings forecast, and what steps they took to validate the number. In a lot of cases, the bookings target is determined using some rough top down logic like “We should be able to easily double the business this year” or “We’re similar to successful startup XYZ, and they hit $8m revenue in their third year, so we should be able to do the same.” What is surprising is how few companies do the work to validate their top down forecasts. Not surprisingly these are usually the companies that miss their forecast.

The Trend that is Changing Sales - Steve W. Martin by Steve W. Martin | 1:00 PM November 4, 2013 Over the past several decades the structure of sales organizations has remained largely the same. Financial planning for SaaS Startups: Q&A with Christoph Janz I quit my day job with my friend Igor I started a new company called, a solution that helps people connect cloud API’s without programming. One of the major hurdles we faced when starting our company was how to do the financial planning for our SaaS startup. Since we thought this might be useful for other entrepreneurs, I wanted to share with you what we learned. Financial planning for Saas resources

SaaS & the Art of Software Pricing. A decade of AWS & Twilio experience in one hilarious hour. Beware! Jeff knows a lot of words that could offend some. It doesn’t stop him giving one of the sharpest talks on Software Pricing we have ever seen at last year’s Business of Software Conference. He is also an expert in drawing owls and can teach you his patented method… Learn about the simple, universal pricing formula that is used by many SaaS providers and how to measure value and put a price on it.

SaaS CEOs: Measure Customer Engagement - Increase Conversions & Lower Churn The goal of a SaaS CEO should be to increase the profit they make from each customer (LTV), and lower the costs in sales and marketing that it takes to acquire each customer (CAC). Measuring Customer Engagement is a key tool that will help you achieve that goal, as it will allow you to increase your trial conversion rates, which directly reduces CAC. And it will help you lower your churn rates, which directly increases LTV. (There are also other significant benefits that are described below.) How customer engagement has changed in the on-line world In the old world, most of the ways that companies engaged with their customers would involve human interactions either face-to-face, or over the phone.

Peter Levine It may sound a bit ungrateful, especially coming from someone who invests in these things, but many early SaaS companies in many ways have been successful in spite of themselves. SaaS customers have had their pick of great software products, all available from the cloud, and without the long, tortured installation efforts of previous generations of software. On the back of these frictionless software deals, SaaS companies have been growing like mad, and often without any formal sales effort. But if they haven’t already, these up-and-to-the-right companies are about to hit a wall. The reason is that early deployments and usage do not necessarily translate into sustainable revenue growth.

SaaS Metrics 2.0 – A Guide to Measuring and Improving what Matters “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it” – Lord Kelvin This article is a comprehensive and detailed look at the key metrics that are needed to understand and optimize a SaaS business. It is a completely updated rewrite of an older post. For this version, I have co-opted two real experts in the field: Ron Gill, (CFO, NetSuite), and Brad Coffey (VP of Strategy, HubSpot), to add expertise, color and commentary from the viewpoint of a public and private SaaS company. My sincere thanks to both of them for their time and input.

Doubling SaaS Revenue By Changing The Pricing Model Most technical founders abominably misprice their SaaS offerings to start out. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, so I wrote up my observations about un-borking this as The Black Arts of SaaS pricing a few months ago. (It went out to my mailing list — sign up and you’ll get it tomorrow.) A few companies implemented advice in there to positive effect, and one actually let me write about it, so here we go: Aligning Price With Customer Value