The Value of Being Top 3 in a Market

Recently an entrepreneur asked me why we didn’t raise venture capital at Pardot. My immediate response is always that we did the spreadsheet jockeying to see if was worth it, and it wasn’t (the Value Multiplier to Raise VC Money is 5 and 99% of Entrepreneurs Shouldn’t Raise Venture Capital). Only, in hindsight, there was another element that we achieved, yet I didn’t understand the importance: we needed to be one of the top three vendors in the market to stay relevant. Luckily, we were able to stay relevant without venture capital, but for SaaS startups that need to be in the top three of a market, venture capital is often required.

Here are a few thoughts on the value of being top three in a market:

  • Growth – The top vendors grab a disproportionate share of the market, and grow faster than the market. Ultimately, growth is what defines a startup, so being in the first tier of vendors is required (see A Startup is a Scalable Growth-Focused Company).
  • Brand – More customer wins results in more word of mouth referrals, more customer stories, and more money for marketing, all critical to building a brand. Success and scale help the virtuous cycle of building a brand.
  • Acquirers – If the entrepreneur does decide to sell, acquirers, of which there are very few (see Odds of Raising Venture Money and Selling for $100M+) want a leader in the market. Being in the top flight of vendors significantly increases the odds of a successful exit.

Entrepreneurs would do well to figure out how to be one of the top three vendors in the market. Most markets aren’t winner-take-all or winner-take-most, but the top three vendors often win an out-sized share of the market.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the value of being in the top three in a market?

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