San Francisco SaaStr 2018: The Latest Trends in Software As A Service

by bold-lichterman

Phew, no bullshit!

Already, first satisfaction, SaaStr does not look like those endless events where the whole ecosystem comes to congratulate itself and tell itself that it is doing really great things. For me, one of the key criteria was also not to find a “French park”. Here everyone is mixed, there are no “country delegations” and that’s good. Immersed in the 10,000 people present, we chat in bulk with people from all over the world, and it’s refreshing. Some French people took stands or made interventions (Algolia, Front, Sellsy…) in the middle of the others. Overall the event is broken down into a multitude of parallel sessions of 30 minutes, all packed to the brim, around strategy, marketing, sales, HR, customer success, product and financing. On the one hand, hyper-specialized sessions on specific subjects, on the other, sessions with an “inspiring” vocation given by icons of the sector (such as the boss of Atlassian, who acquired Trello). What also to benchmark! Conclusion?

State of mind, corporate culture, ambition

The “inspiring” sessions especially inspired me that we didn’t have much to envy on the subject. The globalization of good practices in this area has happened there. It’s always interesting and motivating to listen to the stories of entrepreneurs on the subject, but frankly we are doing quite a bit on this with our means in France. I’m one of the people who thinks that you can do meaningful things without settling in Silicon Valley, without becoming a unicorn, but by writing a story here, by creating jobs in France (not just but already in France it’s a good start). We are not lacking in ambition, what is certain is that cash flows differently from one continent to another, and we have to get used to it. I was also struck by how much this schism also existed in the US, between entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and those who had built their businesses in other states. They were telling stories ultimately quite similar to ours (not like this guy from the Valley explaining how he had just raised $ 11M on a Powerpoint, I had not heard such arrogance since the 2000s).

SAAS metrics

These are the sessions that I found the most successful – maybe because at Sociabble we are huge fans of this subject. The gurus came to give their lessons, in “we are getting into the hard” mode. And they are not totally wrong. ARR, Churn, Live Time Value, etc. : seeing the polls carried out by a show of hands in the room, we quickly understand that only a few% of the audience really explored the subject thoroughly, the others are tinkering. And there is plenty to do, so the churn calculation can be complex, to cite just this example.

In the same vein, a breathtaking sequence on the pricing of SAAS, a fundamental subject and ultimately little discussed. It’s Blake Bartlett and Kyle Poyar, two specialists in the subject who start their session by: “you spend your time doing A / B testing on your interface, your ads, but why you don’t do it on the price? ? the subject is not important enough? ” – I love. Subscription against billing for consumption: we finally see that there is a way for both options, and that against all expectations the switch from one to the other can generate catastrophes or on the contrary global successes.

Customer Success Management

Customer Success Management is customer support to ensure that the software is used correctly, that the customer is satisfied – so that they renew their subscription. The thorny subject of tackling “Churn” was probably dealt with first in Silicon Valley, as much of the SAAS industry started here, and therefore faced the problem first.

No wonder then to see how the treatment of churn reaches an extreme level of sophistication, often far from what is practiced in the rest of the world. A plethora of software solutions designed to facilitate the CSM profession have flourished (the software industry’s ability to sell software to itself is fascinating). On these subjects, I admit I learned as much by having a few beers with specialists as by listening to dedicated sessions.

A recurring pattern: industrialization and speed of execution

These two examples of metrics and Cutomer Success Management are actually quite representative of what one feels in the different areas when listening to the sessions given. The difference between Silicon Valley and the rest of the world is played out for me in the industrialization of business. An ability to roll out a massive, structured, processed, equipped, monitored plan to accelerate sales. From engineering applied to business. Not super complex, but well done. This remains, I think, one of the big cultural issues in France, where business is still seen by engineers as “the dark side of force”. French business needs engineers to massively industrialize marketing and sales, in the face of countries where the fact of selling poses no metaphysical problem to anyone. Let us be clear: this industrialization requires significant financial resources. Recruitment, tools, performance management, etc. funding is key. Especially if you want to maintain a high speed. A friend summed it up for me as follows: “when you need ten salespeople, you recruit ten, I recruit 30 because in the end I know that only a third will hold the road”.

The jungle of Europe

This massive industrialization model, if it works well in the US, finds its limits in Europe. Through the sessions presenting global developments, we feel the underlying difficulty. All these countries speaking different languages, with different laws, different cultures, a need for proximity in customer relations, it remains complicated for Americans used to a massive and fairly uniform market. This is something that has not changed over the past twenty years. This remains a major asset for European companies, used to this jungle.

The expert:

Carrefour Monoprix Toys “R” Us… What strategy for Retail versusSince 2003, he has been Chairman of Brainsonic, digital agency, and CEO of Sociabble, an Employee Advocacy and Social Selling solution present in Paris, Lyon, London and New York. He is also co-founder of Novathings (connected objects). Author or co-author of several books including Extreme Programming (Eyrolles), he works as an Advisory Board Member at Ecole Centrale Paris Executive Education.