Panel Q&A| Industry & Economic Insights for Optimism - SaaSGrowthLive

So we've got Alex Thea from SaaStock. Alex is actually the founder and CEO of the largest community of SaaS founders and VCs in Europe, and he's been running a conference business after being a sales leader in the past annually in Dublin. I've been able to experience it, it's inspired a lot of what we've achieved at SaaS growth over the last few years and I think what Alex is great at doing is getting the founder perspective and why the founders are so interesting is because us as sales and revenue leaders go and join these companies. So it's it's great to have you  share some of those insights from SaaStock remote which you recently ran Alex. Thomas is dialling in from San Francisco, he's the founder of FE International which provides advisory services for mid-market SaaS e-commerce and content businesses. Now he's been an advisor for almost 500 acquisitions over the last 10 years or so. So this is an individual that understands why companies exit, what the outcomes are, but they also run their own conference and SaaS magazine, so I recommend you check out SaaS magazine and SaaStock.

So guys thanks for being here today  excited to have you share your insights, I'll start with you Alex and then Thomas if you can pick up. The first question I've got really is that you've yourself have interacted in your own event a few weeks ago, with tens of founders and VCs; what's your recent observations from your conversations about what is happening in SaaS that should give us some optimism as sales and revenue leaders for growth?

Yeah thanks James excited to to speak at my first SaaS growth event. So yeah I think observations are like if you're in SaaS right we're in a in a good place, we're in an overall a good industry to be, so you can be very optimistic about that. SaaStock remote which we held a couple of weeks ago had a couple of thousand you know founders and investors there from across the world, we learned  many things that made me very sort of bullish you know about being in the SaaS industry and probably continuing to sort of ride the wave there. We learned, and we heard that you know the the digital adoption you know and acceleration that we've seen in the last couple of months has has been equivalent to almost two years worth of adoption within within a couple of months, so like owing to covid. We're seeing a time where really kind of cloud has come to the fore, where software is pretty much you know eaten the world. And and now again because we're enabled to you know work remotely you know work from home and you know I think all these sort of companies that didn't think that their teams could work from home you know have realized that actually you know they can, and can save a lot of money there and you know in many cases the companies be productive. We can shop safely, you know we can learn from home via you know events like growth and other type of e-learning events. So very bullish around it you know, I think the future of work you know is playing out now and if you're in SaaS you know it's a great place to be. On the most part there are going to be winners right there always are right and winners that were clear winners that we've seen in companies like zoom, companies like Shopify, companies like miro, notion you know doing pretty well out the back of this. If you're a you know working at a startup that perhaps is newer, you know maybe it's you know at the kind of the earlier stage, your growth perhaps, your revenue growth, may have taken you know a hit , but there will be a recovery, so I believe that you can be optimistic around that.

That's great to hear and it's great to hear that you know which a lot of us rely on whatever our opinion is of the venture capital investment continuing during this climate. Once there was an assessment I kind of felt that you know there was a lot of board meetings happening, emergency board meetings, and things were frozen for a moment or you know there were some immediate pains and cuts but clearly in this market, there's an understanding that companies need to have enough runway to see themselves through it, and I think as an industry probably in a bit of a bubble we've benefited more than than of course a lot of others.Thomas what's your what's your views and observations over in the valley?

Yeah, so I mean we work with companies all over the world in the in the south space. I think firstly main positive signal is M&A is still happening, people are still buying companies. I think when like many companies when the the pandemic first hit, we weren't really sure, we didn't know if investors would continue to have confidence, and if anything it's we're on track for our best year yet, things are looking good in that space. I think in the world of SaaS themselves and the businesses we've seen, a lot of them have just continued to grow and maybe their original forecasts were not so optimistic once things hit. And I think Alex already mentioned a couple but one we've seen in particular is a lot of businesses are now trying to move online, whether they had a retail store, or people who have lost their jobs just trying to sell products online; so platforms like Shopify have become really popular, and then off the back of Shopify there's a whole like world and sort of infrastructure of companies built around the platform, so we see a lot of Shopify app businesses, where effectively you build an extension for Shopify to help someone’s store make more. Those businesses are really popular we've seen a lot of those businesses go from maybe growing two three percent a month, to twenty thirty percent a month, just because of the influx of kind of new users onto the platform. So I think a lot of people look at like the public markets so if you look at say the stock price of Shopify, it's done really well, but often those things can be driven by lots of factors, but what we see I guess is the inside information which is the actual people building around the platform, and almost all of those businesses have had a great say three to six months at this stage, and that's just one example platform, I think Alex mentioned zoom, we've seen lots of kind of e-learning and collaboration platforms that most of you would never have heard of, but they've still done really well. Some of these companies have gone from we saw one recently ago from about ten thousand dollars MRR, so relatively small company, they're now about a hundred thousand in a few months with a team of two people. So there's a lot of like really interesting growth stories out there in businesses that previously you probably never really known anything about, but their platforms have suddenly become essential for businesses. So I think what this really done this year is kind of driven the adoption of SaaS probably faster than I think a lot of companies are making decisions faster whether that's signing the IPO, or kind of self on boarding for a smaller or kind of easier to get on board.

That's very interesting I think you know there's a lot of sales you know this is a predominantly sales leadership revenue leadership audience that are responsible for reps that have got close deals fast faster, and I think what we've taken today we are definitely at least in the UK, seeing an opening of, you know the the coming out of the lockdown, and think people's moods are lifting, but from a you know a kind of dirty business deal perspective deals are still getting done a lot in SaaS industries, and therefore I think maybe it's always difficult you know if we're collectively in this excuse together, it's a mindset shift and we're going to be talking about mindsets in the afternoon and how to coach your team. Look some industries particularly from a press perspective you know brick and mortar, retail, travel, you know. industries have been really hard hit. Have you seen and you've mentioned some SaaS companies, but like those industries that are thriving Alex, what are notable from what you've been hearing?

I mean there's a few you mentioned obviously e-commerce is doing really well, the obvious ones you know I think video conferencing, you know collaboration sort of tools, and I mentioned some of those companies again I mean we only started using miro for instance, we only found out about it when we we went remote we needed to do a quarterly planning day, we needed you know a collaboration sort of like white boarding tool, found miro, and we're like wow you know this is great and you know and and seeing that then finding out that you know this is a company that you know really is a rocket ship right. Something I think pretty obvious, I want to talk an industry that want to talk about online event tech right. I think you know beginning of this year not a space that I was you know, super interested in although perhaps it should have been, you know, conferences I wouldn't be able to tell you that many you know online event tech company names. But look at what we're using now you know company Hopin for instance you know rushed out beta you know earlier this year you know raise the six million rounds in February, a seed round a couple of months later, or I mean well this month they've just raised a 40 million series A, you know and apparently you know, their growth is is something that you know many VCs just haven't seen in a very very long time right so we're we're seeing you know companies certainly in online event tech where supply cannot match demand and they're having wait lists and it's just like yeah it's phenomenal growth. So that that's a super interesting space to be will be interesting to see what happens like when we're using online event tech now because we kind of have to, but we're also seeing the benefits of it as well. But like next year when you know all being well, you know Covid is more under control and people want to go back to you know in-person events can these online event tech platforms sustain this hyper growth that they're experiencing right now.

Yeah you know that's really relevant; I'm definitely been persuaded, I've settled into today so far so I'm actually enjoying this experience a lot more I'm just we're coming up on the break Thomas are we going to get a final parting thoughts from from yourself.

Yeah I mean we spoke a bit about e-commerce so I won't talk about that again, we've spoken a bit about remote events, but one thing we've seen a lot of is tools that help enable remote work, so not necessarily with your clients, but internally. I think a lot of leaders and managers are trying to figure out how to manage a remote team probably for the first time, and I think a lot of things required to manage that it's not just kind of collaboration tools like zoom, like Microsoft teams, slack or whatever it might be, it's also ways to help incentivise those employees, and kind of keep them motivated and engaged. So we've seen quite a big growth that maybe we wouldn't have seen a year ago of platforms that help facilitate that remote work and things like employee perks. So for example our team when we're in the office we have a company Uber account, and a company seamless web account that lets you order food after say 8pm if you've been working late, but when people are at home that's not really a thing. So we've had to look for other perks so we've seen for example a subscription box business that supplies kind of snacks to your office, they've pivoted to suddenly going to send it to your employees, or your team member's house, or your clients house so lots of different businesses like that which have kind of grown quite significantly, because of the need for managers and sales leaders to motivate their team and keep their clients engaged.

Thank you for that, and in smary and this is why I mean we should feel, while we've all had our personal challenges we should feel bullish, as Alex talked about, about what the opportunity is for us. You know of course there's the obvious like service security, and financial services, and Robbie from clickfunnels made the point earlier you know you just got to understand what pain you're solving for your buyer, or what pleasure you're bringing them, and and remain positive that we can still build. And I think it's great to have you guys I'm driving the audience, I'm grateful for you to be participating so I'm going to wrap this up for the break and we're going to go network and I will catch you guys very soon.