Last week, we had the amazing opportunity to attend SaaStr Annual in San Jose, California. SaaStr Annual is the largest non-vendor SaaS confab in the world with over 12,500 SaaS executives, founders, and VCs.
The 3-day conference was jam-packed with over 200 sessions and 300 speakers on all-things SaaS related. We also had the opportunity to participate in mentorship workshops, attend braindates and pitch VCs.
SaaStr was unique to many conferences we’d attended before. There were amazing art displays, live DJs, a dog rescue play area, a churro and chocolate bar, and cool video games in different lounges. Our team had a great time and left with 4 major takeaways:
1. Founder Stories are Important
The SaaS space is growing quickly with companies scaling right and left. The exciting thing about SaaS is its power to scale exponentially. It’s truly motivating to hear founders share their stories about how they got to where they are today.
For example, Sallie Krawcheck, the CEO and Co-founder of Ellevest, shared her experience being reorg’ed out of Bank of America while she was running Merrill Lynch. She learned that the investment industry was run “by men for men” and was not nurturing women to reach the top. After this experience, she was inspired to shake up the industry as someone with lots of experience in the investment space. Sallie launched Ellevest, a digital-first, mission-driven investment platform for women. Her story was one of many powerful stories we heard over the course of the conference.
2. Customer Experience is the Future
No matter how wild and different each startup story was, the founders continuously stressed the value of putting customers first. Hubspot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, claimed that we are not in a competition of technology, but in a race for winning our customers’ hearts.
Many of our mentors have shared that if we are doing something good and solving a problem for people, then the money will follow. Henry Ford said, “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money…It is the customer who pays the wages.” We must always remember to be customer-centric.
3. Advice on Teamwork, Sales, and Mission
During the sessions, we were given practical advice on how to grow our business through better teamwork, strong sales techniques and by doing good with technology.
Advice #1: Take the time to get to know the various personalities on your team in order to effectively collaborate together. – David Kellogg (former CEO of Host Analytics)
Advice #2: Invest in your sales team and offer team quotas to enhance collaboration. Make pricing as easy as possible for your customers and start high with pricing because you can always bring it down. – Whitney Sales (General Partner at Accelerprise), Jeanne DeWitt (Head of North America Sales & Growth at Stripe), and Aliisa Rosenthal (VP of Mid-Market Sales at WalkMe)
Advice #3: Care about your customers and the valuable work you do for them. It is important to know the major gap and purpose your business is filling; you must find ways to articulate it. You also can’t move the needle and make an impact without the support of allies. – Sallie Krawcheck (CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest), Mallun Yen (COO of SaaStr), and comments from All Raise
4. Great Swag = Memorable Experiences
Socks are apparently the newest and most fabulous swag. Our team came back #sockgamestrong with a colorful array of socks printed with tech logos from companies such as Dialpad, Futurist, Pendo, and Profitwell.
We also learned about a startup disrupting the swag industry called Printfection, who gave away bluetooth water bottles! You can’t put it in the dishwasher, but it’s one of the coolest swag items we’ve received at a conference.
A couple of other companies featured live caricature artists in their booths, such as the digital artist from Pendo and a napkin artist from Zendesk. Personalized art is a great form of swag that people might even keep at their desks to serve as daily reminders of your company.
While many companies handed out inedible items for swag, Brex offered free breakfast burritos as people signed in to the conference. Accompanying the burrito was their napkin, which had a promo code to waive all of their credit card fees for life.
CTO Nikita Gupta also won a Fitbit Charge 3 at Silicon Valley Bank’s booth. SVB and Lighter Capital recently partnered up to provide pre-venture funded tech startups with access to capital and banking services.
As a part of getting all this cool swag, we listened to founders and sales teams pitch their products. We learned a lot about how we should be talking about Symba and areas we could improve our pitch.
We are excited to attend SaaStr next year and look forward to staying in touch with all of our new friends. Until then, we will be rockin’ our swag and applying all of our great learnings!
By Ahva Sadeghi, CEO