I wrote yesterday, about the quarterly numbers for VC investing activity:
If this was a student coming home with a report card, it would be straight As.
Well, I missed something in the data that was subsequently reported on by PitchBook, one of the authors of the report:
Venture funding for female founders has hit its lowest quarterly total in three years.
Firms invested a total of $434 million in Q3—the lowest figure since the second quarter of 2017, according to PitchBook data. The third quarter total also amounts to a 48% drop in funding from Q2, when female founders received $841 million across 132 deals.
I hope Q3 is an anomaly and not the reversal of a trend that has mostly been “up and to the right” in recent years.
We continue to see, and fund, great woman founders so I am hoping that there is not some fundamental change to the market that is hurting women founders. But it is possible that there is and I missed that in my blog yesterday. I will give myself an F for that.
I’ve seen a few replies on Twitter that suggest the same is true for underrepresented minorities. I have not seen the data to back that up but if it is true, that is also a failing grade for the VC sector.
I have been encouraged by what I have seen in the VC/startup sector regarding opening up access to women founders and founders of color. It feels like positive change is happening. But we have to see that in the numbers or it is just talk.
And apparently we did not see it in the numbers last quarter.
USV TEAM POSTS:
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Maybe a Little Less Twitter and LinkedIn, And a Little More SEO and List Building
So I don’t really know as much about digital marketing as I should, and as you might think, but every time I look at our Google Analytics, I learn a few new things:
One small reminder is that, at least for SaaStr, LinkedIn now drives materially more traffic than Twitter. It may be different for you, but it’s a reminder of the growing power of LinkedIn overall and especially in B2B.
But when I pulled up our data from the past few months above, I had one big takeaway: we put too much energy into Twitter and LinkedIn, and not enough into Blogs and especially building our core list and email.
Everyone is different, but for SaaStr, even in Year 10, our Organic Search is still growing 18% a year. That’s pretty good. And “Direct”, which likely is mostly traffic from our email newsletters, is growing 24%. But Twitter and LinkedIn, despite very high engagement and over 400,000 total followers, is growing the slowest at 10%.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be tweeting and marketing on LinkedIn. You should. It’s just a reminder that it’s such low effort to Tweet. You can even automate it.
But writing 30 truly epic blog posts? And spending the time to build a list of 10,000 true believers? That’s a lot of work. A lot more work than some social posts.
Don’t ignore it just because it’s harder. It’s almost certainly more valuable. It is for us. Even 10+ years in.
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A Few Thoughts on How to Handle a Tough Board Meeting
So it’s the season where there are … some tough board meetings. Plans are missed, which is tough enough. Worse, cash sometimes gets tight. Look, this stuff is stressful.
So don’t make it even harder on yourself. First, whatever you do, don’t stop sending regular investor emails — at the same pace. Don’t stop sending them on the 1st of the month just because the news isn’t great. Don’t hide from Bad News. In fact, run to it. And investors are wired to get some bad news. They get much more worried when the updates stop coming. Then they fear that maybe, the founders are hiding from bad news, rather than running toward it.
- Ok, so first, keep sending prompt investor updates. Acknowledge the miss, share what’s working, and just summarize the plan. Most folks will be cool with that.
- Then, expect a tougher board meeting than you’d like. Just expect it. It won’t all be back-slapping, Zoom waves, and high-fives. Even if that’s all board meetings were for 2021 and into early 2022. All High Fives.
- Third, have your team’s back. The best of them will know how to handle tougher times. But if they say things that don’t make sense, or try to obscure bad news — help them. Help everyone see the context. “Yes, it was a tough quarter on sales, but Linda and Jill hit 120% of quota. They showed us it can still be done.” An example. Sometimes, your team will struggle here.
- Fourth, remodel and reforecast religiously. Don’t let this go. Reforecast your Zero Cash Date, and importantly, present a Last Four Month Rolling Plan. I.e., a plan that projects future growth based on growth and burn for the last 4 months. Even if you don’t like what it says.
- Fifth, have the really tough conversations in a closed session. Do include your team in 90% of all the tough news. But not 100%. Save that for a closed session with just your lead investors, after the team has presented.
- Finally, talk to that one board member that pushes you the most — beforehand. Before the board meeting, or any other group meeting. Hopefully, they push you in a good way, to do even better. Oftentimes, this is the investor that actually cares about you the most. But you know the one. The one that challenges you and pushes you on area that are weak. You need the feedback. You want that feedback. But don’t force them to provide all of it in front of everyone. Talk to them, not after the board meeting but critically before it. At least that one. At least before the Tough Board Meetings.
VCs and investors aren’t always the kindest in providing feedback, and in fact, they can be a bit grouchy sometimes. Many were never CEOs themselves or never managed teams. Others, like myself, perhaps aren’t as patient in delivering feedback and squishy as they used to be. And at a more practical level, VCs and board members can feel pushed to provide feedback ASAP, given that they aren’t there every day. This can often force them to be more blunt and direct than others might be.
So just manage a Tough Board Meeting differently. We’ve all been there. They come, and with the best startups, later they go.
A related post here:
And if you aren’t having board meetings at all, here are a few good reasons to have them:
The post A Few Thoughts on How to Handle a Tough Board Meeting appeared first on SaaStr.
The Secrets to Aligning GTM Teams & Finance to Scale by 10X with Subskribe Founder Prakash Raina and Okta VP Finance Leslie Hui (Video)
What is the secret to aligning go-to-market teams and finance teams? These two departments are a SaaS company’s most important; without their alignment, there is no growth or scale. Prakash Raina, Co-Founder of Subskribe, and Leslie Hui, VP of Accounting Operations and Finance Transformation at Okta, break down the secrets to unifying SaaS teams, processes, and systems.
The evolution of SaaS business
Before we get into the dynamics of alignment, let’s briefly review the evolution of SaaS. Throughout the past few decades, we have witnessed different eras of SaaS:
Era 1, SaaS 1.0: Starting in the early 2000s, SaaS 1.0 was pretty simplified, mostly made up of annual or monthly subscriptions.
Era 2, SaaS 2.0: From 2010 until 2015, the SaaS world was becoming more complex with the introduction of static bundles and recurring revenue as an addition to the annual/monthly subscription model.
Era 3, SaaS 3.0: Today, we are in the third era of SaaS, or SaaS 3.0. While annual/monthly subscriptions still exist, they are more complex than ever. We are seeing more agile packaging and pricing methods, dynamic deals, ramp-up revenue, and consumption and usage. SaaS 3.0 is an adaptive system, and companies focus on strategies to help them achieve 10x growth.
Common SaaS strategies for 10x growth
Achieving 10X growth results from the repeated execution of common SaaS growth strategies. Look at the four common strategies to explore for your SaaS business:
- Expanding to new markets. This may look like moving from a mid-market business to an SMB, and eventually to an enterprise. Another strategy we often see is moving from a PLG model to a sales assistive model with a more established sales team that can sell the product to the customer.
- New service offerings. One strategy for growth is launching new product lines and expanding the prospects who need your services. With a new product launch, you may shift from a flat monthly subscription fee to a consumption-based pricing model.
- Geographical expansion. Are you able to take on moving to new territories? Is your business ready for multi-currency or multi-entity? Expanding the business’s territory lines is expanding the number of people who will be interested in the business.
- Mergers and acquisitions. As SaaS businesses expand, we are seeing more technology, business acquisitions, and inorganic growth.
The secret to aligning GTM & finance teams
Prakash Raina explains that it’s no secret that alignment is critical to success. The people, processes, and technology within a business must all be on the same page.
“Success requires a healthy balance between finance and GTM teams.” -Prakash Raina
It’s important to establish the right roles and responsibilities. A business may own the process, but technology owns the systems. While enabling your go-to-market teams, you must be mindful of the future state of scaling. Strategize so you avoid over-customizing a monster system that you won’t be able to scale in the future. Find the balance between enabling your GTM team and monitoring the long-term systems teams and back-end office teams who also have a role in that decision-making.
Governance and compliance are core to alignment. Governance is a critical component of how you grow and scale. Flexibility is important, but never at the cost of control. Established roles, permissions, and governance are vital as your business grows and scales.
Create an end-to-end strategy. Define and recognize all the key stakeholders within a process, then think through the entire life cycle of the process. Who will live with the burdens or upkeep of that process? For example, after a GTM team signs on a customer, the customer success team, finance team, and systems team will live with that order. Set them up for success.
“Maintaining healthy partnerships between organizations, departments, and teams within a company is absolutely critical.” -Leslie Hu
Hire ahead of the curve. The first person you should hire should be the person with the experience you will need. You won’t reach 10x revenue without the experience of reaching 10x revenue. Hiring for where you are going, not necessarily for where you are now, can get you the right person to take you where you want to be headed.
- Build your technology and process on a flexible foundation. Your system will become complex, and your needs will change with growth. Having flexibility is critical from day one.
- Align on success metrics. Make sure your go-to-market teams and sales and finance teams align on success metrics. This is critical for the business to achieve the growth they are looking for.
- Hire for where you want to be. Your company should aim to hire someone who has seen how similar companies have operated on a much larger scale. Think about where you want to be in 5-10 years down the line instead of where you are right now. Over-hire who will help you not only get there but achieve there.
- Aim for unified, not siloed, processes and systems. When you have a problem, consider how it will impact all teams, from sales to GTM to finance. Break down every part of the process to ensure all teams are set up for success. The journey to 10x growth will be much simpler and smoother if you can unify systems and processes.
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