SaaStr Annual 2019 was a little Burning Man, a little United Nations, and a lot of great ideas and sessions to help scale your business. Our team enjoyed networking, learning, and evangelizing how billing and revenue recognition can become a source of joy for businesses (not a hodgepodge of manual processes and disparate systems).
Four top takeaways from SaaStr 2019
1. SaaS is strong, but legacy applications are a bit creaky
We had many conversations with business leaders who invested in the first-generation of SaaS billing products. Maybe they were just politely telling us what we wanted to hear, but it seems many business are outgrowing rigid billing services, aren’t experiencing the benefits they were sold, or are still layering manual processes and workarounds to make things work. Some examples of this:
- Companies are having to use too many products to get the visibility into their business that they want. It’s hard to see all relevant financial transaction and account data in one place.
- Reporting on various aspects of your business is difficult unless you are satisfied with out-of-the-box dashboards.
- Usage-based billing is a struggle for many and is limiting creativity in the way businesses create products for their customers.
Check out how we’re building the next generation billing and revenue automation platform.
2. Performance-based pricing derived from consumption or usage is gaining popularity
The performance economy is rearing its head as more and more companies want to add a usage-based component to their pricing. One startup we talked with even wanted to break out Twilio usage as a line item on their invoice to their customers to encourage transparency with their customers. We also heard from companies that monitored impressions across ad networks and had dynamic pricing based what their customers used during their billing period.
3. Business is booming, people are hiring, but few want to invest in operations headcount.
Take a look at the job board from SaaStr. Sales, marketing, product/engineering boards are all filled to the brim. You can see only a handful of positions posted in the Operations field.
SaaStr Annual 2019 job board
Now this could be a representation of the type of business that attends SaaStr, or it could be representative of the larger trend towards investing in the core of your business, and finding automated or “buy” solutions (in the build/buy decision framework). We believe it is a sign that teams that attended SaaStr Annual 2019 fundamentally believe that organizations should focus on what they do best. For most, they want to leave the rest of their operations (billing, accounting, marketing automation, etc) to teams that have built platforms that outpace what internal teams, without domain expertise, can do on their own.
Thursday’s session “Build It or Buy It: How to Tell If It's Time for an Acquisition from Dialpad and Work-Bench” with Jessica Lin from Work-Bench, and Craig Walker and Dan O'Connell from Dialpad dove into the literal “buy” portion of the equation. While that is the extreme position, we believe the SaaS model can also solve many problems without needing to fully acquire a portion of your value chain.
4. Traceable intelligence is key
The sponsor exhibit hall was filled with organizations who help companies make sense of all the data at their disposal. Businesses today struggle with all the signals in their midst. It’s becoming increasingly clear that all organizations need to understand and make sense of trends (in our world ARR, MRR, etc). This is the reason why so many reporting and visualization tools exist. That said, we heard from many people, both attendees and sponsors alike, that access to the underlying data and the ability to slice and dice their underlying data is vital.
Dwayne Bragonier, CITP, a chartered professional accountant and founder of BAI Bragonier & Associates Inc, noted, ”Key tasks center on providing and interpreting ‘dashboards’ or reports that deal with value. The real job is rising above the details and seeing meaning in information the company holds.”
People don’t want black boxes, and are beginning to expect visibility into the methods and data used to present the overall trends.
We had four main takeaways, but maybe our strongest was that we picked the wrong profession... The corporate DJ gig seems to be pretty solid in the Bay Area.
Corporate DJ at the SaaStr Annual 2019 conference