18 Ideas to Accelerate the City’s Entrepreneurial Trajectory

Last week I put out a tweet to collect ideas for accelerating the entrepreneurial trajectory of Atlanta, and received a number of excellent ideas. Now, none of these ideas are limited to Atlanta and most are needed in all cities.

Here are 18 ideas for accelerating entrepreneurship in a city:

  1. Run a billboard campaign highlighting local startups
  2. Provide free training and courses for local founders
  3. Develop and support free/subsidized office space for startups like the Atlanta Tech Village
  4. Organize an accelerator program like Y Combinator
  5. Launch a YouTube video channel of local startup stories
  6. Connect local mid-to-large companies with startups
  7. Get large companies to commit to working on their procurement process to accommodate a certain number of startups
  8. Drive a public relations campaign to spotlight local entrepreneurs
  9. Coordinate an “after hours” program for entrepreneurs that have full-time day jobs
  10. Facilitate formal internship programs across startups
  11. Engage with local K-12 schools and get kids involved in entrepreneurship at an early age
  12. Run speed dating events between entrepreneurs and angels
  13. Partner with the local universities to help more students build businesses while in college
  14. Educate potential angel investors so that they feel comfortable investing more
  15. Bootstrapping programs to help startups do more with less
  16. Curate entrepreneurs-in-residence that help startups
  17. Find local mentors that want to help startups with no ulterior motive
  18. Acquire housing options for startups

Wow, that’s a great list. I’m really excited about the ideas and eager to help accelerate the entrepreneurial growth in our community.

What else? What are some more ideas to accelerate a city’s entrepreneurial trajectory?

The Simply SaaS Forum – Network and Learn from SaaS Pros

Next month we’re hosting the first of many Simply SaaS Forums in the Southeast. Taking a page from Jason Lemkin and SaaStr Annual, we’ve set out to build a community for SaaS entrepreneurs and professionals that want to network and learn from other experts. The faster you learn, the faster you grow.

As for the structure, it’s a 4.5 hour event from 1-5:30pm with an optional dinner afterwards. Being in Atlanta, we have direct flights and short drives for more than 80 million people in the Southeast whereby you can travel here in the morning, get a tremendous amount of value in the afternoon, and be home that night without having to even get a hotel room. We understand the grind and are providing a program and format to take actionable insights across a variety of functions for SaaS pros.

As for the program, we’ve broken it out into sales, marketing, product/engineering, and people/culture followed by a founder discussion on scaling from $0 to millions in recurring revenue. Here’s our first lineup:

  • Tonni Bennett, VP of Sales at Terminus – Tonni will share her lessons learned as a sales leader growing Terminus from $0 to tens of millions in ARR.
  • Tami McQueen, Co-founder of 31south – Tami McQueen, formerly of SalesLoft, will share marketing lessons learned when growing SalesLoft into one of the largest sales engagement platforms on the market.
  • Hubert Liu, Engineering Lead at Atlanta Ventures – Hubert Liu will share experiences from his time as CTO at Rigor about what it takes to grow a product from $0 to Inc. 500.
  • Karen Houghton, VP of Atlanta Tech Village – Karen has been with Atlanta Tech Village since the beginning and will share lessons learned on building great culture for startups.
  • Craig Hyde, CEO of Rigor – Craig is the founder/CEO of Rigor and was recognized last year in the Inc. 500 as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States.

Overall, we’re on a mission to connect the Southeastern SaaS community with great content and programs to ultimately increase our quantity and scale of success. Please join us on our journey.

Venture-Backed SaaS Must Have a Fast Path to $100M Revenue

Rory O’Driscoll just published an excellent post titled Understanding the Mendoza Line for SaaS growth where he argues that the minimum requirement for a SaaS company to raise venture capital is a path to $100 million of revenue growing at least 25% at that milestone. Of course, as a startup grows the law of large numbers kicks in and fast growth becomes harder and harder. Historical data from SaaS companies that have gone public (considered best-in-class) shows that they typically grow between 80 and 85 percent of the prior year once past $10 million of revenue.

From the post, here’s an example with numbers:

  • Year 1 – Grew 120% from $4.5M to $10M
  • Year 2 – Grew 98% from $10M to $19.8M
  • Year 3 – Grew 81% from $19.8M to $34.8M
  • Year 4 – Grew 66% from $34.8M to $59.6M
  • Year 5 – Grew 54% from $59.6M to $91.9M
  • Year 6 – Grew 44% from $91.9M to $132.8M

SaaS entrepreneurs need to understand the calculus for raising venture capital and have the requisite growth rate to make it worthwhile.

Want to learn more? Head over and read Understanding the Mendoza Line for SaaS growth.

State of the Cloud 2018

Byron Deeter of Bessemer Venture Partners has an excellent slide deck titled State of the Cloud Report 2018. Byron and his team do an excellent job reviewing trends in the industry and predicting the next big areas for cloud-enabled B2B software.

Some notes:

  • Five largest companies in the world by market cap are tech companies
  • IPOs are sill below historical norm
  • Public cloud companies outperform the overall market
  • Many private companies are getting premiums compared to public companies due to faster growth rates
  • VC-backed startups exits have gone down the last three years
  • ARR growth rate from $1M to $10M is a major indicator (best is doing it in two years)
  • ARR Multiple divided by Year-over-Year (YoY) annual growth has stayed constant
  • Example: 10x ARR multiple divided by 150% YoY growth would be an ARRG value of 6.7x
  • Best valuations for SaaS startups as follows:
    • CARR revenue growth of 200% (e.g. tripled ARR in last 12 months)
    • CAC payback < 12 months
    • Churn is net negative
    • Cash flow efficiency > 1
  • Predictions:
    • Rise of serverless computing
    • API’s drive innovation
    • Blockchains finds a home in the enterprise
    • Payments-as-a-service
    • The move from system of record to system of results
    • The screenless software movement
    • Values create value
    • The cloud is flat; innovation outside the Valley

Interested in SaaS? Head over and read State of the Cloud Report 2018.

25 Principles of Adult Behavior by John Perry Barlow

John Perry Barlow passed away yesterday leaving a strong legacy as the founder of EFF. Many years prior, at the age of 30, he defined 25 principles of adult behavior that are excellent. Enjoy!

  1. Be patient. No matter what.
  2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.
  3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
  4. Expand your sense of the possible.
  5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
  6. Expect no more of anyone than you can deliver yourself.
  7. Tolerate ambiguity.
  8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
  9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
  10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
  11. Give up blood sports.
  12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.
  13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
  14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
  15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
  16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
  17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
  18. Admit your errors freely and soon.
  19. Become less suspicious of joy.
  20. Understand humility.
  21. Remember that love forgives everything.
  22. Foster dignity.
  23. Live memorably.
  24. Love yourself.
  25. Endure.

How to Help an Entrepreneur

Every day I’m lucky enough to get to meet with entrepreneurs and look for ways to help. Occasionally, there’s no clear way to be helpful but most of the time there are one or two things — an intro here, a lesson learned there — that can be really useful. Here are some of the most common ways to help an entrepreneur:

  • Customer Discovery Concepts – Most entrepreneurs have never heard of customer discovery and the idea of getting deep customer input before even building a product. Start with the basics and see where they are on the learning curve.
  • Available Meetups – Entrepreneurs crave community. Share the local meetups on SaaS, IoT, big data, health IT, or whatever the area of focus.
  • Specific Blogs and Books – Share your favorite blogs and books. Entrepreneurs don’t know what they don’t know and the best ones are learning machines.
  • Prospect Intro – Nothing really happens until something is sold. If you know someone that might be a prospect for the entrepreneur, make the intro.
  • Partner Intro – Most businesses need partners that supply a certain solution, resell the product, or connect an important element of the ecosystem. Connect an entrepreneur with a partner and pay it forward.
  • Potential Employee Intro – One great team member can truly transform a startup. Think of the people in your network and refer a potential employee.

Helping an entrepreneur is incredibly rewarding. Entrepreneurship is so difficult and messy that help along the way makes a huge impact.

What are you doing today? Reach out and see if you can help an entrepreneur.

The Winner Effect in SaaS

One important component of SaaS that isn’t talked about enough is the “Winner Effect.” Simply put, the Winner Effect is all the benefits that accrue to the winner in a specific market that ultimately results in a significantly more valuable company. SaaS is well known for its high quality business model: substantial recurring revenue, high gross margin, and tremendous predictability. The Winner Effect makes the model even more profound.

Here are a few elements of the Winner Effect:

  • Sales Opportunities – Instead of hunting to find the potential deals in the market, the Winner Effect results in being in almost all the sales opportunities by default. Every prospect brings the winner in and it’s up to the upstarts to try and unseat the leader.
  • Public Relations – The #1 in a market gets 10x the number of media mentions than the #2. This PR results in even more separation between first place and second place, which compounds over time.
  • Third-Party Integrations – Even with all the middleware tools out there, integrating products is still a challenge, especially for the deep, more comprehensive integrations. As the winner in the market, more third-parties write integrations back into the platform creating an even larger moat for the next set of challengers.
  • Valuations – Ultimately, category winners get a valuation premium both when raising money from investors and when going public or selling to a strategic. Look at the some of the high end SaaS valuations to see investors that believe they’re betting on winners.

Another way to put it is that SaaS has a real network effect that snowballs as the business gets larger and larger and becomes the de facto winner in the market.

The Winner Effect is real. Entrepreneurs would do well to understand it and seek it for their business.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the Winner Effect?