A look back at SaaStr Annual, the world’s largest online software conference

by bold-lichterman

From February 3 to 7 was held in San Francisco SaaStr Annual, the great mass of software in SaaS mode.

Bringing together more than 10,000 visitors, it is the biggest event in the world, the CES in the sector.

In the company of our frenchy friends fromAlgolia and Aircall, we decided to go and show the Americans what the woods are for startups on the other side of the pond, and in particular Sellsy. And we were not disappointed. A quick look back at a refreshing week (it was November weather).

WTF is SAAS?

Appeared at the turn of the 2000s, particularly with the creation of Salesforce, SaaS (Software as a Service) consists of distributing software on the Internet.

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Everyone has in mind this famous Salesforce logo, which already condemned the software installed internally on the company’s servers.

It is now a powerful wave, whose most emblematic players are Google’s Gsuite (formerly Google Apps) and Office 365, the online version of Microsoft’s famous office suite.

Around these engines has developed a vast ecosystem, which proposes to replace existing software offers (such as Office for example) or proposes new uses around digital, for example around e-commerce, social networks or relationships customer.

At a time when we are not taking off our laptops and when our uses are becoming more and more digital, SaaS mode is a logical continuation that allows companies to adapt to our new modes of communication, often in real time.

In the heart of San Francisco and a stone’s throw from Silicon Valley, SaaStr Annual brings together thousands of industry players in one place.

Founders, investors, lawyers, CTO, CFO, COO, CEO, C-something: a veritable parade of what matters in the world of online software with always this very US ease of contact.

A large American style barnum

Located in a concert center the size of a Zenith, the conference is above all based on a very business program with many headliners.

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The conferences are split between the main stage, where stars like Michael Pryor, founder of Trello, who has just sold his startup to Atlassian for 450 million dollars, or Mikkel Svane, founder of Zendesk who tells us about his beginnings and the incredible success story of his start-up.

Beyond these celebrity conferences, two other rooms are devoted to very specific themes with many experts on a wide set of topics.

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This is one of the “small” rooms before the battle. A good little football field, packed during the sessions.

The panels are of a very high level and the speakers are often fascinating (well ok, we always find a little bullshit here and there, but nobody’s perfect).

All inclusive

All those who lived the blessed time of LeWeb in Paris will understand the madness of the trick: the performances were of the same order. Breakfast in the morning, bar and buffets for lunch, happy hour from 4.30 p.m. to closing with open bars and petits fours …

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And all this for 10,000 people for three days! The logistics deployed were impressive and flawless. I must have been asked a hundred times if I was “Happy today?”. It may seem too much but when you know the Porte de Versailles.

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Lounge areas were scattered all over the place: very handy for a little work or an impromptu meeting with a local VC.

And of course, the parties were on the same level, with an open bar and petit fours galore.

If the sponsorship of the conference itself was not given, our CFO could only see an abnormally low number of expense reports.

… with his M.Loyal

SasStr Annual has all of the American success story: just 3 years ago, the conference barely brought together 2,000 people.

Behind this success we find one of the gray eminences of the sector Jason M. Lemkin.

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His story is itself the typical example of the successful West Coast entrepreneur: after selling his startup EchoSign to Adobe, he became one of the most respected VCs in Silicon Valley in the field of SaaS and invested in many companies in the sector through its Storm Ventures fund.

Beyond these activities, he is a recognized apostle of SaaS and the articles of his blog are read and reread by all stakeholders in the sector.

And since SaaStr apparently doesn’t take all of his time, he also recently opened a co-working space dedicated to SaaS startups, called (it can’t be invented) CSS (Co-Selling Space). Probably a good way for the investor to spot the next nuggets in his portfolio.

Ideally located 10 minutes from the conference, there were free shuttles to take participants to visit the co-working. In short, when it comes to pulling the string, you can count on Jason!

And our little stand: feedback

Practically unknown in the USA, we decided a year ago to sponsor the conference. We were curious to present our product and to confront the reality of visitors from the USA and around the world.

For the record and without imposing a sales pitch on you, Sellsy is a SaaS solution that can replace up to 15 other SaaS software. A pitch not necessarily obvious in France where SaaS is still starting. The question was: how powerful will our pitch be at the heart of the top of the top of the SaaS ecosystem.

We were not disappointed ! Unlike in France where the sale of software in SaaS still involves a good deal of evangelization on the concept itself, we found ourselves confronted with users who were already completely converted to the subject (“Yeah, I’m using Marketo, Salesforce and Zendesk. What can you do for me? ”).

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We were on the land of Salesforce, which is part of the landscape there and part of the CV just like Excel.

The reception was excellent and we come back with more than 150 leads, which is considerable in our experience, especially also targeted.

Brazil, Dubai, USA, Canada, UK: everywhere our speech seems to strike.

Conclusion: a good adrenaline rush

Another observation verified on the spot: the US sales methods are much more aggressive and bottom line than what we know in France.

The competition rages and does not hide: an electronic signature company does not hesitate to display “Still Docusigning?” in huge numbers on its stand, in reference to Docusign, the leader in the sector.

(It’s also funny how SaaS applications are becoming verbs in the US. Hearing “I’ll slack it to you” is super common).

We were able to work on a much more direct pitch, which we tried to transcribe in the slides below (as long as it’s hot in our heads).

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As you can see, it’s easier to compare directly: in a market where all companies use at least two of the solutions listed, our value proposition is easy to understand.

And see you next year!

When we see this type of event, and as the Web Summit can do, we can only wonder what will be even bigger next year (for those who follow, yes, they are changing the scenery of the big stage every day).

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In any case, we will definitely be in the game and I invite all my SaaS colleagues to ask the question.

It’s expensive, it’s far, but it’s worth it!

Ps: if you are interested in SaaS, I often talk about it on Twitter.

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Alain Mevellec is the founder of Sellsy.

Read also: Planting your box: the real story and how to prepare for it