For those concerned about Covid, know that SaaStr Europa, like its Silicon Valley namesake, is a primarily outdoor and open air conference. I spoke at SaaStr Annual in Silicon Valley last September and between the required entry testing and the outdoor venue felt about as safe as one could in these times. Earlier this year, the folks at SaaStr moved the Europa venue from London to Barcelona to enable this primarily outdoor format.
After historically focusing a lot of my SaaStr content on the start-up phase (e.g., PMF, MVP), this year I thought I’d move to scale-up, and specifically the things that can go wrong as you scale a company from $10M to $100M in ARR. Even if your company is still below $10M, I think you’ll enjoy the presentation because it will provide you with a preview of what lies ahead and hopefully help you avoid common mistakes as you enter the scale-up stage. (If nothing else, the rants on repeatability and technical debt will be worth the price of admission!)
Without excessively scooping myself, here’s a taste of what we’ll talk about in the presentation:
Premature go-to-market acceleration. Stepping on the gas too hard, too early and wasting millions of dollars because you thought (and/or wanted to believe) you had a repeatable sales model when you didn’t. This is, by far, the top scale-up mistake. Making it costs not only time and money, but takes a heavy toll on morale and culture.
Putting, or more often, keeping, people in the wrong roles. Everybody knows that the people who helped you build the company from $0 to $10M aren’t necessarily the best people to lead it from $10 to $100M, but what do you do about that? How do you combine loyalists and veterans going forward? What do you do with loyalists who are past their sell-by date in their current role?
Losing focus. At one startup I ran, I felt like the board thought their job was to distract me — and they were pretty good at it. What do you do when the board, like an overbearing parent, is burying you in ideas and directive feedback? And that’s not mention all the other distraction factors from the market, customers, and the organization itself. How does one stay focused? And on what?
Messing up international (USA) expansion. This is a European conference so I’ll focus on the mistakes that I see European companies make as they expand into the USA. Combining my Business Objects experience with my Nuxeo and Scoro board experience with both Balderton and non-Balderton advising, I’m getting pretty deep on this subject, so I’m writing a series on it for the Balderton Build blog. This material will echo that content.
Accumulating debilitating technical debt. “I wear the chain I forged in life,” said Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol and so it is with your product. Every shortcut, every mistake, every bad design decision, every redundant piece of code, every poor architectural choice, every hack accumulates to the point where, if ignored, it can paralyze your product development. Pick your metaphor — Marley’s chains, barnacles on a ship, a house of cards, or Fibber McGee’s closet — but ignore this at your peril. It takes 10-12 years to get to an IPO and that’s just about the right amount of time to paralyze yourself with technical debt. What can you do to avoid having a product crisis as you approach your biggest milestone?
For those in attendance, we will have an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session after the presentation. I’ll post my slides and the official SaaStr video after the conference.
I’m revising this post because I learned today that I’ve been named not once (as I thought yesterday) but twice to the SaaStr All-Time Top 25 List of podcast episodes (see Top 1-12 and Top 13-25). Apologies for the confusion, but wow, what an honor. This puts me in the company of legends like David Skok, Mark Suster, Nick Mehta, and Tomasz Tunguz — and dare I say that by my quick tally only two people made the list twice: David Skok and me.
Thank you to everyone who listened and helped drive my episodes to the top of the charts!
SaaStr is my favorite conference and I’ll be speaking there again this year on Monday, Sept 27th at 1:00 PM Pacific with a session titled A CEO’s Guide to Marketing. I will be doing the speech live, I’m not sure if they’re live broadcasting or not, but they will certainly record it and make it available as they have done in years past.
I chose this session title because I find that in my work with founders and C-level startup executives that people are, well, just not entirely comfortable with marketing. I spend an increasing amount of time explaining the basics of marketing to founders and startup execs, because most of them don’t come from marketing backgrounds and too many marketing leaders either deliberately hide behind marketing complexity or are just plain not good at explaining marketing.
Either way the result is the same, and e-teams often hearken back to the old WC Fields quote when thinking about their marketing:
“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.”
In this fast-paced session, I’ll:
Explain how product founders are often surprised to find themselves running distribution business.
Tell you the scariest thing a CEO can and does hear in every quarterly business review (QBR)
Discuss the reasons why marketing is confusing and misunderstood
Present the 5 things every CEO and startup exec should know about marketing
Provide concrete actions I think companies should consider taking
Include “pro tips” on managing funnels and thinking about models
Share my “magic secret” of marketing messaging
Discuss CMO hiring and pillar profiles
Provide 3 pages of links to resources and 5 recommended marketing books in the appendix
I look forward to seeing you there! Here’s the session link.
For a taste of my presentation style and/or to dive into my previous content, here are links to my prior SaaStr presentations:
I’m Dave Kellogg, advisor, director, consultant, angel investor, and blogger focused on enterprise software startups. I am an executive-in-residence (EIR) at Balderton Capital and principal of my own eponymous consulting business.
I bring an uncommon perspective to startup challenges having 10 years’ experience at each of the CEO, CMO, and independent director levels across 10+ companies ranging in size from zero to over $1B in revenues.
From 2012 to 2018, I was CEO of cloud EPM vendor Host Analytics, where we quintupled ARR while halving customer acquisition costs in a competitive market, ultimately selling the company in a private equity transaction.
Previously, I was SVP/GM of the $500M Service Cloud business at Salesforce; CEO of NoSQL database provider MarkLogic, which we grew from zero to $80M over 6 years; and CMO at Business Objects for nearly a decade as we grew from $30M to over $1B in revenues. I started my career in technical and product marketing positions at Ingres and Versant.
I love disruption, startups, and Silicon Valley and have had the pleasure of working in varied capacities with companies including Bluecore, FloQast, GainSight, Hex, MongoDB, Pigment, Recorded Future, and Tableau.
I currently serve on the boards of Cyber Guru (cybersecurity training), Jiminny (conversation intelligence), and Scoro (work management).
I previously served on the boards of Alation (data intelligence), Aster Data (big data), Granular (agtech), Nuxeo (content services), Profisee (MDM), and SMA Technologies (workload automation).
I periodically speak to strategy and entrepreneurship classes at the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley) and Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris (HEC).