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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:  *

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. The greatest value from this post will come from downloading the model and inputting your own variables. Where is this applicable This model is applicable to any recurring revenue business that uses a sales force.This model does NOT apply to SaaS businesses that don’t use a sales force. Scaling the Business Ramping Sales Hiring The model shows that the worst loss is $190k per month, and that the first profit comes after 21 months.

The 5$ SaaS The the relatively recent rise of two big types of software pricing & distribution is a opportunity to notice how different things in markets interact in these markets. If you spend your career in software you forget how weird an industry with n marginal costs is. An app store lends well to $1-$10 apps creating a demand creating a supply. Web based Saas lends well to $5-$50 apps creating a demand creating a supply. If you need a sales consultant or a long decision making process you need to go into the 5-6 figures realm. These things didn't happen because consumers really wanted smartphone apps that happened to cost around $1 or webapps that happened to cost $5 per month. Consumer webapps need to be sold as monthly subscriptions. B2B web apps/services were able to crack into a price range that was inaccessible before. $1500 one off payment for a shrink wrap version is too expensive for self service sales & too small for a sales teams. $99 p/m with 30 days free isn't.

Startups and financial models for SAAS companies The other day I met with an entrepreneur I was advising as he prepared to raise his next round of funding. In the meeting, he wanted me to narrow in and focus on his financial model. Financial models for startups are important from a big picture perspective, but I never like to get mired in the full details as things always change in the early stages. Given my experience with SAAS based companies like GoToMyPC (Citrix Online now) and LivePerson (Nasdaq: LPSN), we also spent some time discussing key financial metrics for SAAS businesses that he should pay attention to as he ramped up his business. 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. The smart companies will have built a bottom up model that shows how making certain investments in sales and marketing will lead to the top line number that they are looking for. (For an example of how a model like this might work for a SaaS business, take a look at the model included with this blog : SaaS Economics). To help you prepare for your investor meetings, I’ll talk about how I, as a board member (or potential investor), would go about questioning you to validate your 2011 revenue forecast. Let’s look at a three examples to see how this works:

SaaS Metrics - A Guide to Measuring and Improving What Matters This blog post looks at the high level goals of a SaaS business and drills down layer by layer to expose the key metrics that will help drive success. Metrics for metric’s sake are not very useful. Instead the goal is to provide a detailed look at what management must focus on to drive a successful SaaS business. For each metric, we will also look at what is actionable. There is an updated (re-written) version of this post available here: SaaS Metrics 2.0. Before going any further, I would like to thank the management team at HubSpot, and Gail Goodman of Constant Contact, who sits on the HubSpot board. Let’s start by looking at the high level goals, and then drill down from there: Key SaaS Goals Profitability: needs no further explanation. Two Key Guidelines for SaaS startups The above guidelines are not hard and fast rules. In the next sections, we will drill down on the high level SaaS Goals to get to the components that drive each of these. Three ways to look at Profitability Other Metrics

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 elastic.io, 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 There are multiple resources that you simply HAVE to read before doing any financial planning for SaaS. After that I would recommend Christoph Janz‘ blog. In March 2012, Christoph published a couple of blog posts about financial planning for SaaS, which we studied intensely. This sample financial plan is pretty detailed and you can read it on Christoph’s blog, so I won’t go into it again, but after we studied it, we still had a few unanswered questions about it. Is a cheaper SaaS product always easier to sell? Unfortunately, according to Christoph, this is just not true.

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. 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. There are some tools that help us judge how customers as a whole are behaving on-line, but so far those tools have not allowed businesses to analyze customer behavior at the individual level. Why should you care? You might ask why would you care about how individual customers are behaving? There are also additional benefits: How do you measure Customer Engagement?

Why Churn is SO critical to success in SaaS Summary: Illustrates graphically why churn is a huge problem a SaaS company gets larger. It also looks at a very surprising factor that can massively accelerate SaaS growth: negative churn. (This article is applicable to any recurring revenue business, not just SaaS.) Introduction As a SaaS company becomes larger, the size of the subscription base becomes large enough that any kind of churn against that base becomes a large number. The red and yellow lines show the lost revenue due to customers cancelling their subscriptions (churn). Looking at the graph above, we can see that Churn is really not that big of a number in the early startup months. The graph below shows the impact on Total MRR (monthly recurring revenue) of each scenario, which is fairly substantial. The Impact of Negative Churn It is possible to run a SaaS, or any other kind of recurring revenue, business in such a way as to get what I call Negative Churn. The result is quite shocking. It’s an amazing result.

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.

Multi-axis Pricing: a key tool for increasing SaaS revenue Scalable pricing is a powerful tool to grow revenue in a SaaS or software business. It allows you to capture more of the revenue that your customers are willing to pay, without putting off smaller customers that are not able to pay high prices. It also provides a great way to continue to grow revenue from your existing customers. This post looks at how to create scalable pricing using multiple pricing axes, and discusses the different types of axes that can be used. Introduction Many SaaS startups begin life with one product that has a simple pricing model. However as time progresses, they may hear comments like: “I would have been happy paying far more for your product as it provides such great value to me”“I didn’t consider your product as it was too cheap, and didn’t look like a credible option to handle our more advanced needs”“I only needed a subset of your functionality, and your product was too expensive” Let’s look at these to items separately: Emotional Willingness to Pay 1. 2. 3.

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