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The Angel VC



Thoughts on Internet startups, SaaS and early-stage investing from Christoph Janz @ Point Nine Capital.



Updated: 2017-12-05T00:32:06.824+01:00

 



We’re looking for an Associate

2017-12-05T00:32:06.872+01:00

I’m very excited to announce that we’re looking for a new Associate. In all modesty, I think that for a young, smart person who’s passionate about startups and technology, an Associate role at Point Nine is one of the fastest ways to learn, build your network, and advance your career. Case in point: Rodrigo, who started as an Associate four years ago, is now a Partner at Point Nine; Fabian is running his own fund; Nicolas became a “30 under 30” and is now VP at Insight; and Mathias is now GM Germany at Uniplaces.

As I wrote last time when we were adding an Associate to our team, I'm pretty sure that it took me more than 10 years to get the expertise and network which you'll get during three years in this job.

If you’re interested, here are all the details. If you know somebody who could be a great fit, please pass on the link or let me know. Thank you very much in advance!

PS: As you may or may not know, the Associate role at Point Nine has historically been called “Truffle Pig” – because just like a truffle pig is digging up the best truffles from the ground, we as an early-stage VC try to find the best startups among a large number of potential investments. I still kind of the like that analogy, but all good things must come to an end. For now, we’ll just call the new position “Associate” but if you have a creative idea for something funnier I’m all ears!





How public SaaS companies report churn, and what you can learn from them

2017-12-01T01:31:15.558+01:00

While doing some research for another post I just stumbled on this excellent overview from Pacific Crest on the churn rates of publicly listed SaaS companies. I’ve seen posts with churn benchmarks of public SaaS companies before, but this one is by far the most comprehensive collection I’ve seen and I think it’s very useful.What’s maybe even more interesting than taking a look at the numbers themselves is to see how different companies define churn (or the inverse, retention). Since there is no official US-GAAP definition of churn or retention, different companies use different ways to measure and report these metrics. And because public companies are under the scrutiny by the SEC, any non-GAAP metric they report must be accompanied by a razor-sharp definition.Most public SaaS companies report churn in the form of their dollar-based net retention rate, i.e. the inverse of net MRR/ARR churn (as opposed to account/logo churn), which compares the recurring revenue from a set of customers across comparable periods. Here’s a particularly nice description of this metric, coming from AppDynamics:“To calculate our dollar-based net retention rate for a particular trailing 12-month period, we first establish the recurring contract value for the previous trailing 12-month period. This effectively represents recurring dollars that we should expect in the current trailing 12-month period from the cohort of customers from the previous trailing 12-month period without any expansion or contraction. We subsequently measure the recurring contract value in the current trailing 12-month period from the cohort of customers from the previous trailing 12-month period. Dollar-based net retention rate is then calculated by dividing the aggregate recurring contract value in the current trailing 12-month period by the previous trailing 12-month period.”If you take a look at the data assembled by Pacific Crest you’ll see that many companies use the same logic with minor variations. For example, some companies look at the trailing 12 month period, while others look at calendar years, quarters, or months.Some companies exclude customers that do not meet certain criteria, for example:Box includes only customers with $5k+ ACV and annual contractsAlteryx considers only customers which have been paying customers for at least one quarter.AppDynamics includes only customers who have been paying customers for at least one year.Zendesk excludes customers on the starter plan.This makes perfect sense: It tells you what type of customer the company is focused on, and you can see the retention metrics in regards to this type of customer.Other companies use variations that I think are questionable. Some companies report customer count-based retention, which I think is much less interesting than dollar-based retention. Some report renewal based on the number of seats; one company, Fleetmatics, reports churn based on the number of vehicles under subscription. But the majority of companies does report dollar-based net retention rate in a way that allows for an apples-to-apples comparison across companies.What can you learn from this?(1) There is not one perfect definition of churn that is right for every SaaS company. Depending on the specifics of your business you might want to:focus on monthly, quarterly or annual retentionexclude customers that churned within the first, say, two monthsinclude only customers that represent the core of your business, e.g. customers above a certain ACV(2) Having said that, dollar-based net retention is the way to go. You should stay close to the definition above and tweak it with care.(3) There may not be one perfect way to define and measure churn, but there sure are lots of ways to get it wrong. :) One classic example is to calculate a monthly churn rate and to mix in annual plans with monthly plans. By including customers on annual plans who aren’t up for renewal in the period you’re measuring you’re underestimating your true churn rate.(4) Whatever metric you choose, make sure th[...]



Getting feedback from your Board

2017-11-21T01:24:57.589+01:00

After a Clio Board Meeting last week I received the following email from Jack Newton, the company's amazing co-founder & CEO.

Hi everyone,

I'd like to experiment with requesting some 1:1 feedback on our board meetings. Please take 5 minutes and provide feedback through this Typeform:

https://xxx.typeform.com/xxx...

Cheers,

Jack


I thought this was a really great idea and worth sharing here. I removed the URL from Jack's Typeform but rebuilt it quickly so that you can check it out:


powered by Typeform

If you're not getting feedback from your Board members you're missing out on something. Preparing and holding Board meetings is a big time investment, and making them really effective isn't easy. So you should try to get as much value out of them as possible.

Sending out a post-meeting Typeform is, of course, not the only way to get feedback: In some Boards that I'm a member of we sometimes do an executive session between the CEO and the directors. Sometimes I try to summarize my thoughts at the end of the meeting, sometimes I do it in a followup email after the meeting.

But doing it with a Typeform might help you ensure that you'll be getting feedback more consistently: after each Board meeting, from each director. I think this format might also help you get more candid feedback because not everyone is good at delivering honest feedback in a meeting. As a side benefit, you'll start building an archive of feedback that you can revisit later. No rocket science, but sometimes little things can make a difference, and I'm curious to see how this one will pan out.

Thanks to Jack for giving me permission to share this here (and thanks Fred Wilson, who, as I've learned from Jack, inspired Jack on this topic).






Unsure how much you should pay yourself? Check out this Founder Salary Calculator.

2017-11-20T09:14:57.404+01:00

Founder salaries are not a topic I’ve had to spend a lot of time with so far. I usually just “OK” them, since the founders we are working with are all super reasonable people who carefully weigh how much they need against the interests of the company – their company. But sometimes founders ask me for a suggestion or some guidance because they are uncertain as to what is fair, and so I thought it might be useful to create a simple model.Here it is.The model calculates the founder salary based on three drivers: stage, family situation, and location.StageUnless you’re in the fortunate position to generate revenues almost from day 1 or to raise a sizable seed round right at the start you’ll probably not be able to pay yourself any salary at all, at least in the first few months, for the simple fact that the company doesn’t have any money to spend. If you raise a small angel or friends & family round, you’ll probably want to spend it on other things than founder salaries. Once you’ve raised a bigger seed round and/or you start to generate revenues, that changes and you can pay yourself a modest salary.In the calculator, I’ve assumed that the “entry salary” for a Berlin-based founder who doesn’t have kids is $50,000. I’ve then assumed that that amount increases to $75,000, $95,000 and $115,000 when you reach funding and revenue milestones that roughly correspond with a Series A, Series B and Series C round, respectively. I don’t think founders should get salaries that make them rich, but as soon as the company can afford it the founders should get enough so that they don’t have to be worried about how to make ends meet all the time. And if a little more allows them to outsource some errands and chores after a 100-hour-work-week I’m all for it!FamilyIt might surprise you to hear this from a venture capitalist, but my approach to founder salaries is a little communistic: I think founder salaries should not be based on performance alone but should also take into account what the founder needs. If that means that one founder gets more cash than the others because in contrast to them he or she has a family to take care of, that’s fine with me. A founder’s cash compensation doesn’t reflect the value which she contributes to the company anyway, so who cares if one of them gets a little more than the others. My model, therefore, assumes that for each kid you add $10,000 (multiplied by the location factor, more on that soon). Whether this is the right amount is of course debatable, and there can be other aspects besides having children that need to be taken into account.The “need-based” approach can, of course, go both ways: if a founder had a sizable exit already, he may want to forgo his salary or reduce it to a symbolic amount, at least in the first few years. I did that at my last startup, Pageflakes, and thought that besides saving the company some money it can also have a positive impact on the company culture if people know that the founder’s interests are 100% tied to the company’s success.LocationThe third factor that I’ve included is location. I’ve defined Berlin as 1.0x and have assumed that in Paris, London and San Francisco, you’ll have to pay yourself 1.3x, 1.5x and 1.8x as much in order to have a similar standard of living. These ratios are roughly in line with the data published on this website. If you want to find out the ratios for other cities, take a look.NotesThe numbers in the model reflect what I think is market and fair based on the data points that we have and some industry benchmarks that we were able to get. However, our data set is quite limited and the numbers produced by the calculator should by no means be taken as the ultimate truth. If you disagree with my assumptions or have seen different numbers in the market I’d love to hear from you!I saw a study according to which founder salaries are much lower. According to this data source, 75% of Silicon Valley based fou[...]



Knowing when to scale (and how to prove that you can do it)

2017-10-05T20:45:45.389+02:00

When you’re talking to investors about a Series B, Series C or later round, one of the questions that will inevitably come up is “What are your CACs?”. It sounds like a simple question, but from the question of what costs to include and the right way to account for organic traffic to the pandora box of multi-touch attribution, there are lots of devils in the details.What's more, the real question is not "What are your CACs?" but "What will your CACs be if you invest $10-20 million in sales & marketing?". It’s hard enough to calculate historic CACs for different acquisition channels with a high degree of accuracy. It’s much harder to predict future CACs at bigger scale.And yet it shouldn’t come as a surprise that later-stage investors are so focused on this question. When you’re raising a Series B or later round, you’ve achieved Product/Market Fit (which is hard to define, see me attempt here) and you’ve got what Jason M. Lemkin calls “Initial Traction” and “Initial Scale”. At that point, the biggest thing standing between you and building a $100M+ business is finding scalable and profitable customer acquisition channels. Obviously you still have to overcome lots of other challenges along the way, but if you’re at $5-10M in ARR and you are confident that you’ve found scalable sales and marketing channels you are in an excellent (and rare) spot.So how do you know if your customer acquisition channels will scale, that is, if a 10x increase of your sales and marketing spend will lead to a 10x increase in new customers? Consumer Internet startups are sometimes in the fortunate position to have found a profitable customer acquisition channel that offers huge potential for expansion. If ads on TV, YouTube or Facebook work for you, you might be able to increase your spending by 10x (and maybe much more) because these platforms have such a gigantic reach. In the B2B SaaS world this is very rare. Mass-market advertising won’t work because there’s way too much ad wastage, and targeted ads usually don’t give you the volume to easily 10x your spend.Without a careful keyword volume analysis, being able to profitably spend $10k a month on AdWords doesn’t mean much in regards to your ability to spend $100k a month. If you spend small amounts on AdWords you will by definition (AKA by algorithm) capture the lowest-hanging fruits. As you’re trying to spend more, prices will go up. You might be able to offset the price increase by optimizing your campaigns, landing pages, onboarding, etc, but don’t take it as a given.The underlying problem is that the existing “hot demand” for your product – people who are actively looking for a solution – is usually quite limited. The good news is that the amount of “lukewarm demand” – companies that would benefit from your product but aren’t aware of it yet – is usually much larger. That’s why content marketing is so critical in SaaS: it allows you to capture leads at a much earlier stage of the discovery process. But scaling up your content marketing by 10x is not as straightforward as simply 10x-ing your ad budget.So how do you know, in B2B SaaS, if you’ve found scalable acquisition channels?Nothing is completely certain here, but one great sign that should give you a lot of confidence is if you can hire new salespeople and the new hires (once they’re ramped up) are hitting their quota. If you add two AEs, add another two, and then another two, and most of them are hitting quota it shows that you’re able to increase the amount of high-quality leads. If that wasn’t the case, your growing sales team would quickly start fighting for the best leads and some of your salespeople wouldn’t be able to hit their quota any longer. Equally important, it also shows that you’ve managed to industrialize the sales process to a certain extent. Firstly, it doesn’t take the founders or superstar salespeople to sell your product, it can[...]



A sneak peek into Point Nine's investment thesis

2017-08-25T12:18:40.077+02:00

Over the last couple of weeks and months we spent some time putting our investment thesis on paper. The purpose of this exercise was to challenge and discuss our implicit assumptions and to get everyone on our team aligned on what kind of investments we seek.One of the things that being very clear about our investment focus helps with is getting to “no” faster. If that sounds pessimistic, remember that we see thousands of potential investments every year but can only do 10-15 of them. Just like it’s crucial for sales teams to have clear qualification and disqualification criteria, it’s important for us to focus our time on “higher probability deals”. That means we’ll have to be able to quickly pass on a large number of deals that are likely not a good fit for us. Our “filter” is of course not perfect, so we’ll inevitably pass on lots of great companies, some of which will end up in our growing anti-portfolio – but there aren’t enough hours in the day to take a close look at each company that we see.A fast decision process is also important for founders. As we’ve learned from this survey, being left in the dark is the single most important reason why fundraising often sucks for founders. We will obviously never be able to make decisions based on a simple algorithm, if only for the fact that the founding team remains the most important of all criteria. But anything that helps us streamline our decision making process is welcome.Once the document is in a publishable form we will post it. Bear with us for a little while as we’re polishing the document a bit to make it more self-explanatory and to remove the worst typos. ;-) In the meantime, here’s a sneak preview.We will continue to focus on two business models: SaaS and marketplacesSaaSWe use a broad definition of SaaS. Usually the first “S” stands for “software”, but sometimes it stands for “something”, e.g. a combination of software and hardware or software and data.We’re interested in horizontal and vertical SaaS. What counts is that the startup is aiming to solve a big enough problem for a large enough number of potential customers in order to build a big business. As a rule of thumb, we’re looking for markets that consist of at least 3,000 whales ($1M ACV), 30,000 elephants ($100k ACV), 300,000 deer ($10k ACV) or 3M rabbits ($1k ACV). 1We’re equally interested in companies targeting SMBs (AKA rabbit and deer hunters) and companies targeting enterprises (AKA elephant and whale hunters). What’s important is the right founder/market fit. For companies targeting very small businesses (AKA mice and rabbit hunters) we want to see the potential for viral distribution.We’re looking for companies that we think can build a 10x better product and/or drive a paradigm shift in the industry. 2We want to invest in companies that can eventually build moat e.g. by becoming a system of record or a “system of intelligence”; by building a large data set that in combination with machine learning translates into a superior product; by building a platform; or by becoming a SaaS-enabled marketplace.With very few exceptions in areas like accounting, we’re looking for companies that have the potential to win the US market.We’re looking for SaaS companies that have the potential to get to $100M in ARR within 7-8 years and to $250-300M ARR within another 2-3 years.MarketplacesLike in the case of SaaS, we use a broad definition for marketplaces. For us, a marketplace is a digital platform that brings two or more parties together and enables them to “transact”. The object of the transaction can be a physical product, a digital product, a service, or in some cases a piece of information or knowledge.We look for startups that leverage marketplace dynamics to create unique user experiences in fragmented markets, with the potential to develop a moat through network effects.We believe that marketplace[...]



WTF is PMF? (part 2 of 2)

2017-07-05T22:57:55.376+02:00

In the first part of this post, I looked at what some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry said about Product/Market Fit (PMF) and how they try to define and measure it. While everybody seems to agree on the broad concept of PMF there is (unsurprisingly) no consensus on how exactly it can be defined and measured, and some people set the bar much higher than others. For example, according to Brad Feld you find PMF somewhere between $100k and $1M in MRR, while others argue that you can have PMF with much lower revenues.In this part I’d like to talk a bit about my view on PMF and how we try to detect it when we look at SaaS startups at Point Nine. Here’s my favorite definition of PMF, inspired by many of the people mentioned in the first part of the post:Product/Market Fit means having a product that solves a problem for a significant number of independent customers.Note that this definition intentionally doesn’t say anything about market size. Lots of companies have PMF for a very small market, but addressing a small market is not a reason to deny a company its PMF.If we talk about PMF for “VC cases”, i.e. the type of company venture capital investors are looking for, I would adjust the definition as follows:Product/Market Fit means having a product that solves an important problem – without custom work and better than existing solutions – for a significant number of independent customers in a large market.The next step in getting to a solid definition would be to define the pieces that this definition includes: How “important” is important enough, and how can it be measured? How much “better” is better enough, and how can it be measured? And so on. There are no clear answers to these questions and – sorry – I don’t think there is a razor-sharp way of defining and measuring PMF. Some companies clearly have PMF, some clearly don’t. Others are somewhere in the middle – they have indications of PMF but it’s not clear if they will ever get to strong PMF. Most seed investments that we’re considering fall into the last bucket.Here’s an overview of the most important factors that we’re looking at when we try to assess the degree of PMF of a SaaS company. In isolation, none of these factors can tell you if you have PMF or not. But taken together, it can hopefully give you at least a good indication:This concludes my mini-series on Product/Market Fit (at least for now). Let me know if you have any feedback!___________________________1) For more background on the concept of rabbit/deer/elephant hunters, check out this post.2) Take a look at this post to read more about "expected usage frequency".3) This is from Sean Ellis’ test for PMF. More on this here.[...]



WTF is PMF? (part 1 of 2)

2017-07-06T13:12:59.333+02:00

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of Product/Market Fit for quite some time. The reason why it’s such an interesting and important concept is that getting to Product/Market Fit (PMF) marks a critical juncture in a company’s lifecycle. At least in theory, the life of a company can be divided into a “pre PMF” phase and a “post PMF” phase, with each of the two phases having very different objectives and requiring very different strategies. As Marc Andreessen famously said, “when you are before PMF, focus obsessively on getting to PMF”. Once you have PMF, you can start to focus on hiring, getting more customers, finding customer acquisition channels, optimizing pricing, and so on. In reality, there’s usually not a sharp line of demarcation that separates the “before” from the “after”. Rather, companies typically increase their level of PMF gradually.The problem with PMF is that it’s hard to precisely define and even harder to measure. So difficult, in fact, that I’ve heard several people resort to the “I know it when I see it” phrase (famously used by a Supreme Court justice to define pornopgraphy). Think about it. We have the concept of a demarcation line which calls for different strategies “before” and “after”, but we don’t seem to have a precise definition of that concept, nor the tools to measure whether a company is “before” or “after”! To make things worse, according to data from a Startup Genome Report “premature scaling” (i.e. spending significant amounts of money on growth before you find PMF) is the #1 reason why startups fail!Let’s look at what some of the smartest people in the industry have said and written about PMF.1. What is Product/Market Fit?Paul Graham apparently said that PMF simply means “making stuff that people want” (I couldn’t find the original quote but saw it in this presentation).Marc Andreessen got more precise, saying that PMF means “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market”.Michael Skok added the important element of the “Minimum Viable Segment” in this article, pointing out that “your product isn’t going to fit the entire market from day one. Minimum Viable Segment (MVS) is about focusing on a market segment of potential customers who have the same needs to which you can align.”My dear colleague Clément Vouillon added another dimension – distribution – and defined PMF like this: “It happens when the product (a set of features that have a clear value proposition) resonates with customers (which are of a certain type and have defined needs) that you know how to reach and convert (through marketing and sales).”Andrew Chen has another interesting twist: PMF is “when people who know they want your product are happy with what you’re offering”.Last but not least, according to Eric Ries “The term product/market fit describes ‘the moment when a startup finally finds a widespread set of customers that resonate with its product”, and Andy Rachleff said: “You know you have fit if your product grows exponentially with no marketing.”2. Is Product/Market Fit a discrete event, or is there a gradual development towards PMF?In his excellent talk at the great SaaStock conference in Dublin last fall, Peter Reinhardt, co-founder & CEO of Segment, explained how Segment, after struggling for a long time, suddenly got to PMF when they put up a landing page for what used to be a little side project. According to Peter, “product market fit is not vague, positive conversations with customers. It's not glimmers of false hope around some random positive interaction. What it actually feels like is a landmine going off”.According to Brad Feld and Ben Horowitz, Segment’s experience is the exception to the rule, though. According to Brad, PMF is something that you find somewhere between $100k and[...]



The growing dissonance between two business models (SaaS and VC)

2017-05-17T18:15:05.994+02:00

In our weekly investment team call earlier this week we decided to pass on two early-stage SaaS startups that were both on track to grow from zero to $100k in MRR in their first 12 months of going live. Both companies clearly had impressive traction, but in both cases we weren’t convinced of the market size and the opportunity to build a large, sustainable company. (We of course might be wrong, and maybe we’ll have to add both companies to our growing anti-portfolio list in a couple of years. I’ll keep you posted.)Had I seen a SaaS startup with this growth curve in my first 2-3 years of SaaS investing (in 2008-2010) I probably would have asked “where do I have to sign?”. And chances are that it would have been a good investment. The reason is that at that time, growing from zero to $100k in MRR within 12 months was extremely rare and an indication of not only a great product and excellent execution but also a great market opportunity.One could argue that I saw much fewer deals in general at that time and that, being an angel investor, I had lower ambitions than a VC. That’s true. But it’s only part of the picture. The other part is that even as recently as 6-24 months ago, we’d consider a SaaS startup with this growth pattern exceptional. Passing on fast-growing SaaS companies that are clearly successful and on to something is a pretty new and somewhat scary experience for us.The driver behind this development is what my colleague Clément Vouillon has described as “The Rise of Non ‘VC compatible’ SaaS Companies”, that is the fact that compared to some years ago there are now many more SaaS companies that get to $1M, $5M, maybe even $10M in ARR. Arguably, there’s never been a better time to start a SaaS company. A much larger and more educated market, combined with vastly lower costs to create software, means that your chances of building a viable SaaS company have never been higher. For VCs, the question is how many of these companies can become large enough to make the (admittedly somewhat weird) business model of venture capitalists work. Large VCs need multiple unicorns just to survive. In SaaS, that means companies that get to $100M in ARR and keep growing fast beyond that mark. With a ~$60M fund, we at Point Nine may not need unicorns to survive, but we won’t generate a great return if we don’t have exits north of $100M either. And as much as I agree with this post on TechCrunch today when it says that starting and selling a company for $100 million dollars is an outlier event in terms of pure entrepreneurial probability, a big part of my daily motivation is to find some of these truly iconic companies that become much larger. I guess once you’ve seen it once (in my case with Zendesk) you get addicted and want to do it again. :-)We've come too farTo give up who we areSo let's raise the barAnd our cups to the starsDaft Punk, Get Lucky(I’m not sure if I understand the meaning of these lines in the context of the song, but I love the song and had to think of these lines while writing this post.)Coming back to our observation regarding the rise of bootstrapped SaaS companies, assuming our theory is right, it means two things:1) We’ll have to raise the bar even furtherThere will be more and more SaaS companies that, based on the “pattern recognition” that we’ve developed in the last years, we’d like to invest in but will have to pass on. We can only make 10-15 new investments per year and we’re obviously trying to find the very best ones - the outliers among the outliers, if you will.2) Picking might become even harderIf it’s true that there are indeed more SaaS companies that quickly grow to $1-2M in ARR but that increase is not matched by a similar increase of companies that become very large, picking the right investments will become even harder. To [...]



Revisiting Point Nine’s tech stack. Plus: 7 little hacks that help me keep (some of my) sanity

2017-05-05T17:28:41.110+02:00

[This post first appeared on Point Nine Land, our Medium channel.]A few years ago I wrote about some of the tools that we’re using to run a VC fund in the Cloud. Nicolas later followed up with more details about our tech stack. Today I’d like to provide a quick update on how our SaaS stack has evolved, as well as share a couple of little tools and hacks that help me (sort of) keep (a little bit of) my sanity.Part 1: The BasicsZendesk continues to be our lifeblood. Since we started using Zendesk to manage our deal-flow about six years ago, we’ve logged more than 18,000 potential investments, and every month, several hundred new ones are being added. Processing so many new deals in a timely fashion is no easy feat (kudos to Savina, Louis and Robin who are doing the bulk of that work!) and wouldn’t be possible without Zendesk. Zendesk obviously hasn’t been built for this use case, but the ability to customize the software with triggers, automations, macros and other features has turned Zendesk into the perfect deal-flow management system for us.We continue to use Basecamp to keep track of our portfolio companies — we have one dedicated Basecamp project for each portfolio company that we use internally at Point Nine to store updates and meeting notes — but have migrated to Honey and Slack for most other use cases that we previously used Basecamp for. Honey (a Point Nine portfolio company) offers a beautiful, modern intranet and is great for storing long-lived content. Slack has allowed us to heavily reduce internal email communication. I was initially sceptical about Slack (yet another inbox?) but have meanwhile become a big fan because the time we spend on Slack is more than offset by the time we save on email. In my experience, the two biggest advantages of Slack over email are (a) the ability to quickly discuss issues with a group of people in real-time and (b) organizing conversations by channel, which makes it easier to ignore (or process in batches) less urgent messages.We continue to use Google Docs and Google Sheets for almost all documents and spreadsheets, and after some initial resistance, I think even our COO Aleks (who spent her previous life with Word and Excel), is starting to like it. :) For documents that still come in Word, Excel or PDF form, we’re (of course) using Dropbox to ensure that everybody always has the latest version.We’re still using Skype for external calls on a daily basis, but have switched to Zoom for internal video conferences. I’m still a fan of Skype, but Zoom seems to be more reliable and to offer a slightly better audio/video quality, and offers call-in numbers for people who have to call in while on the go. The only downside is that Zoom eats up a lot of CPU, and for some reason that is completely beyond me doesn’t allow you to show a large screen-sharing window and a large video at the same time.Our website is now powered by Contentful, and we use Unbounce for landing pages, and Typeform for all kinds of things. Speaking of dogfooding, we love it when a SaaS company uses ChartMogul as that gives us easy access to all relevant SaaS metrics; we’re using 15Five for team feedback; Mention for media monitoring; Contactually for contact management; and (more recently) Qwilr for occasional sales pitches.Finally, we recently got started with Recruitee to manage the growing talent pool for the #P9Family. We’re using Medium as our blogging platform (although this blog still runs on Blogger, which tells you something about my age); TinyLetter for our “Content Newsletter” (subscribe here); and Buffer to schedule social media posts. Last but not least, we still use MailChimp to publish our (in)famous newsletter (sign up here if you haven’t yet).Part 2: The little tools and hacks1. TextExpanderTextExpander lets you in[...]



Why startups should hire an HR person sooner rather than later

2017-04-02T00:33:18.992+02:00

At the excellent SaaStr Annual 2016 conference about a year ago, a very experienced SaaS CEO said on stage that an internal recruiter can be a startup CEO’s secret superpower. I couldn’t agree more, and I think startups should make that hire sooner rather than later.If you can hire only one or two handful of people with your seed round, hiring anybody who doesn’t either code or sell is hard to justify. Being willing to invest in an internal recruiter or talent manager (or more broadly, an HR person) early on requires pretty big balls a lot of confidence. The right time for making that hire obviously depends on a variety of factors, but I would argue that most startups should hire an HR person sooner than they think.Here’s why.1) A great HR person can free up a lot of your timeAnybody who ever hired people knows that it’s extremely time-consuming. Let’s say you want to hire 10 people in the next 12 months. That means that you’ll have to:screen around 500-1000 CVsinterview around 100 peopledo 2nd and 3rd interviews with around 20-50 peopledo a few dozen reference callsnegotiate compensation and an employment contract with 10 peopleThe numbers can obviously vary greatly, but you get the idea. It’s a lot of work, and if you have only developers and sales/marketing people in your company you’ll have to do the bulk of it yourself. An HR person can take over a significant chunk of that work for you.2) A great HR person can help you make better hiresAn experienced HR person will help you get more candidates, better candidates, and will help you get better at picking the right ones. As a result, he or she will increase the quality of your hires – which is obviously hugely valuable – and reduce the number of costly mis-hires. A great HR person will also help you to build a network of high-quality candidates early on – people who might not be a fit at the current stage but could become a great fit at a later stage.3) A great HR person will run the process and help you build an employer brandA great HR person will not only make sure that you have a great shot at hiring your favorite candidates, he or she will also run the entire hiring process for you and will ensure that you leave a great impression with the many candidates that you will not hire – which is important for your reputation. He or she will also help you to start building an employer brand and to become known as a great place to work.4) A great HR person will save you moneyHaving an inhouse recruiter lets you save on fees for external recruiters. Since external recruiters usually charge 25-33% of the candidate’s annual salary for a successful placement, it’s well possible that your internal HR person will pay for him or herself by reducing the need to work with external search firms.5) A great HR person will make your employees more effectiveGuess what, adding 10 new people to your team not only means 100s of interviews, it also means setting up payroll for 10 people, onboarding 10 people, providing continuous training and support to 10 more people, and much more. All of this costs a lot of time which you probably don’t have. An internal HR person can greatly help you to take much better care of your team, thereby making your employees both happier and more productive.Because of all of these factors, an HR person is one of the highest-leverage hires that you can make. Nevertheless, unless you’ve raised a lot of capital, bringing on an HR person instead of, say, another engineer, is still a difficult trade-off. So when is the right time? I don’t have a scientific answer, but I’d say that by the time you plan to hire 10 people in the next 12 months you should hire an HR person. This point in time will usually coincide with having found a decent level of Product/Mark[...]



5 ways, 100 million dollars, 100 free posters

2017-05-04T15:51:30.424+02:00

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I'm a big fan of placeit.net ;)
If you're a reader of this blog, chances are that you've already come across my post about "five ways to build a $100 million business". Given that the post (and the infographic that we created recently) has for some reason resonated so well with lots of people, we thought it would be cool to turn the concept into a beautiful poster that you can put on the wall. The idea is that (besides being decorative), the poster can serve as a little cheatsheet to remind people of some important aspects of building a large business.

Below is the result that we created together with an excellent illustrator from Barcelona, Denise Turu. I hope you like it!

If you're interested in getting a physical copy of the poster please complete this short Typeform. The first 100 people will get a FREE poster. Afterwards we'll probably give it away for a nominal amount (to cover printing and shipping costs).

[Update: The 100 free posters sold out quickly but you can order the poster here.]

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Click for larger version











Impressions from the 5th annual PNC SaaS Founder Meetup (AKA PNC SaaS Camp)

2017-01-16T08:41:00.822+01:00

We have a tradition here at Point Nine that once a year, we organize a meetup for the founders of our SaaS portfolio companies. The first meetup took place in SF back in 2012 and gave the founders in our (at that time still rather small) portfolio a unique opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn't work in SaaS, compare notes and share war stories.

About two months ago, the 5th annual PNC SaaS Founder Meetup took place in a small lake town a little bit outside of Berlin. To celebrate the 5th anniversary, we turned the meetup into a 48-hour long "camp" and invited about 150 founders and key people from our SaaS portfolio companies, along with a handful of external SaaS experts, to a nice resort close to Potsdam.

Here's a short video that we recorded at the meetup:

allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/OGAWx9Vu_tY/0.jpg" frameborder="0" height="266" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OGAWx9Vu_tY?feature=player_embedded" width="320">

Spending two full days and two full nights together not only allowed us to put together an amazing agenda with more than 60 presentations and workshops; it also led to countless great conversations, connections, and friendships. We're truly thankful to all the amazing speakers and attendees who made this possible.







SaaS Funding Napkin, the 2017 edition

2017-01-10T15:23:40.565+01:00

Today is January 10, 2017. That means that in ten days, this jerk will become the leader of the free world. Ugh. It still feels surreal to me. In less earth shattering news, the fact that it's 2017 also means that my "SaaS Funding in 2016" napkin needs an update.As a reminder, in the original post I tried to give a "back of a napkin" answer to this question: What does it take to raise capital, in SaaS, in 2016? Today I'd like to take a stab at the (early) 2017 answer to that question.Like in the 2016 version, the assumption is that the founding team is relatively "unproven". Founders with significant previous exits can raise large seed rounds at high valuations early on, so the "rules" are different for them. On another note, when I say "what does it take to raise capital" I mean "what does it take to have an easy time raising capital from great investors". If your company doesn't meet the (very high) bar pictured on the napkin it doesn't mean that you won't be able to raise money at all. It just means that it probably won't be easy, that you will likely have to talk to a large number of investors and that you may not be able to raise from a well-known firm.So, what does it take to raise capital, in SaaS, in early 2017? I don't think a huge amount has changed since I created the first version of the napkin about nine months ago, but here are a few observations:1) The bar keeps getting higher and higherI already wrote about the rising table stakes in SaaS two years ago, and since then the bar has kept increasing. The SaaS companies included in Tomasz Tunguz' benchmarking analysis of exceptional Series A companies grew on average from $10k to more than $90k in MRR in their first year of commercialization and then to over $400k of ending MRR in their second:Twilio, Workday, and Zendesk have shown that the best SaaS companies can get to $100M in ARR in 6-7 years and continue to grow at around 50-70% year-over-year after hitting that milestone. Slack, unbelievably, reached $100M in ARR just 2.5 years after launch. Slack is an outlier even among the outliers, but getting to $100M in about seven years and hitting $300M 2-3 years later is the type growth which the best investors in the Valley are looking for in 2017.I didn't have to make a lot of changes to the napkin to reflect this since the growth rates that I had put into the 2016 version were already in line with the "T2D3 path". I've increased the Series B amount, valuation and MRR range, though, and because the expectations of later-stage investors trickle down to the earlier stages I've changed the ARR potential number in the "Seed" column from "$100M+ ARR" to "$100-300M+ ARR".2) Being a workflow tool is no longer enoughInvestors are increasingly questioning if you can build a large and long-term sustainable SaaS business by being primarily a workflow tool. The thinking is that every successful software product will eventually be commoditized because it attracts lots of people who will copy the product and offer it for a lower price. That concern isn't new, of course, but given how crowded most SaaS categories have become by now, investors are increasingly looking for additional ways to build moat around a business.So if you want to raise capital for your SaaS startup in 2017, investors will wonder if you can become a true system of record, build a real platform/ecosystem/marketplace or build a unique data asset over time. The latter option will get particular attention this year, so I highlighted that in the "Defensibility" row of the napkin. The ability to gather large amounts of data from the entire user base, and use that data along with AI/ML to make your software smarter, is one of the big themes at the moment. [...]



What we're looking for in SaaS in 2017

2016-12-28T01:51:38.808+01:00

As the year is coming to an end I’d like to share a few thoughts on what we’ll be looking for in the SaaS world in 2017. This is not meant to be an exhaustive enumeration but rather a brief outline of a few big themes that I feel particularly strongly about.1) Viral growth and/or negative churnIn the last couple of years I’ve come to the opinion that in order to build a SaaS unicorn you need to have either (a) a highly viral customer acquisition engine or (b) significant negative net churn (that is, a dollar retention rate significantly above 100%). The rationale behind this statement, which might seem odd at first sight, is actually simple math. If you don’t have negative net churn you’re losing an increasing amount of MRR every month to churn, simply because your churn rate is applied to an ever-increasing base. That means that as long as you have positive net churn, you’ll have to add an increasing amount of new MRR from new customers every month just to offset churn. As you’re getting bigger and bigger it will become extremely difficult to maintain a high growth rate if you have to replace an ever-increasing amount of churn – unless you have an inherently viral product.At a somewhat theoretical level, what I’m saying is that since net churn MRR grows as a function of your MRR base, you better have a mechanism that lets you add new MRR as a function of your existing base as well. I know this is a somewhat simplified way of looking at it and I’m sure there are a few exceptions to this rule, but I’m convinced that almost all SaaS startups that want to become big should strive for viral growth, negative churn, or both.Related posts (from this blog):Why (most) SaaS startups should aim for negative MRR churnHow fast is fast enough?Five ways to build a $100 million business2) Obsessive focus on user experienceCompanies like Slack or Zendesk have shown that a superior user experience can provide a decisive competitive advantage and can become a critical success factor for SaaS businesses. Pundits might object that you don’t win enterprise customers by having a prettier interface. I think that’s shortsighted for at least two reasons.First, user experience is not only about making the UI more beautiful. As legendary UX expert Jakob Nielsen defines it, “user experience encompasses all aspects of the end user's interaction with a company, its services and its products”. An excellent user experience requires an elegant product that meets the needs of the customer and is a joy to use, but it goes beyond that. The design of your marketing website, the tone of voice of your marketing emails, interactions with customer service – all of this is part of the experience that you offer.Second, today more and more buying decisions are made by the actual users of the software (e.g. someone in marketing looking for a marketing automation solution) as opposed to the IT department. When the buyer is also the user, usability becomes one of the key decision criteria.This decentralization of software buying, which has led to the consumerization of enterprise software both from a product as well as a go-to-market perspective, is maybe the most important driver of change in the software industry that we’ve seen in the last 5-10 years. But it’s far from over. Millennials arguably have even less tolerance for slow, bloated, ugly enterprise software. If you grew up with UBER and Spotify, if you’ve never ordered a cab by phone and never went to a store to order a CD, chances are you expect your work software to work flawlessly as well. :-) As millennials continue to rise up the ranks, a focus on great design and a delightful user experienc[...]



3 (free) tools to help SaaS founders with their 2017 planning

2016-11-25T09:13:21.916+01:00

(As you can see, I really like placeit.net :) )In case you haven't started to think about your plan for 2017 yet, now's the time. To help you a little bit with your planning, here are three little tools that you might find useful. If you're a long-time reader of this blog, you may have seen them before.1. Growth CalculatorThis little tool allows you to enter your MRR as of the end of 2016 and a target growth factor for 2017. It then calculates your MRR target for the end of 2017 and shows you three different growth paths that lead to that goal. One is based on linear growth, one on exponential growth and the third one shows a trajectory between the linear and the exponential path.Growth Calculator Original blog post from last year with some additional notesPlease note that although this Google Sheet may look a bit like a financial plan, it's not meant to be your plan. :) To create a credible and realistic plan, you need to have a "bottom-up" projection of your growth drivers (e.g. your conversion funnel, distribution channels and sales team quotas).  What this little calculator can do is quickly give you a sense for how much MRR you have to add each month in 2017 in order to reach your growth targets, so you can use it to play around with different scenarios and assumptions.2. Sales Team Hiring PlanThis tool helps you find out how many sales people you need to hire in 2017 based on your growth targets and other import inputs such as your MRR churn rate,  your sales team's quota, ramp-up times, etc.Sales Team Hiring PlanOriginal blog post with some additional backgroundThe model is based on an exponential growth path (i.e. #2 from the Growth Calculator above), i.e. it works with a constant m/m growth rate, which you can set in cell D11 and D12 for 2017 and 2018, respectively. You can easily adjust this to a different growth path by changing row 22 accordingly.One of the things which the model doesn't take into account is employee turnover. In sales teams, employee churn can be significant, both because not every sales person that you hire will work out and because the average tenure of an AE might be only, say, two years. When I tried to add this to the model it became too complex for what I think should stay a pretty simple template. I might give it another go later. In the meantime, I'd recommend that when you build your own hiring plan, assume that if you need x AEs you'll have to hire n*x AEs, and that n is probably something between 1.1 and 2, depending on how good you are at hiring salespeople.3. Financial PlanThis template helps you create a full financial plan that includes everything from revenue modeling to costs projections and headcount planning. If you look at it for the first time, it might look a little terrifying. I did try to keep it as simple as possible, but if you prefer a simpler version I also have an older, less sophisticated alternative.SaaS Financial Plan 2.0Notes on the 2.0 versionSaaS Financial Plan 1.0 (the original, simpler version)Notes on the 1.0 versionI hope you find some of this useful. Happy planning![...]



Should you take small checks from deep pockets?

2016-09-21T11:35:55.330+02:00

So you’ve recently started a company, you’ve started to talk to angel investors and seed funds about your seed round, and suddenly a large VC appears on the scene and wants to invest. What should you do?First of all, congrats. If a large fund wants to invest in your startup, that’s a great validation. Second, if you can get the brand, credibility, network and support of a Tier 1 VC into your startup early on, that can be extremely beneficial. So you should definitely consider it. It’s a complicated question, though, and you have to carefully consider the pros as well as the cons.In this post I’ll try to shed some light on this question. As a disclosure and caveat, being a seed VC I’m not a disinterested observer, since we occasionally compete with bigger funds on seed deals. I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible, and if you disagree with my views you’re more than welcome to chime in, e.g. in the comments section.Further below is a simple matrix that might be helpful to founders as they consider having a large fund participate in their seed round. But first, in case you’re not familiar with the issue, here’s a quick primer. If you know what the “signaling risk” debate is about, you can skip the next fext few paragraphs.Some years ago, many large VCs – $200-400M+ funds that typically invest anything from $5M to $20M or more in Series A/B/C rounds – started to make seed investments, placing a sometimes large number of oftentimes tiny bets in very early-stage companies. The intention behind these investments is not to make a great return on these initial bets. Consider a $400M fund that invests, say, $250k in a startup. Even if that investment yields a rare and spectacular 100x return, it means only $25M in exit proceeds for the fund. That’s a lot of money for you and me, but not a lot of money for a $400M fund that needs around $1.2-1.5B of exit proceeds to deliver a good return to its LPs. If a large fund writes a tiny check (i.e. tiny relative to the size of the fund), there’s almost zero chance that the investment will move the needle for the fund.So what is the intention behind these investments? The answer is access to Series A rounds. The idea is that one invests, say, $250k in 50 companies, watch them carefully and then try to lead (and maybe pre-empt) the Series A rounds of the ones that do best. Even if most of these seed bets don’t work out – as long as the VC gained access to a handful of great Series A deals, it’s money well spent. At least superficially it makes a lot of sense for large VCs to employ such a strategy. Whether it’s also a good strategy in the long run, or if it leads to brand dilution and eventually adverse selection, is a different question and beyond the scope of this post.For entrepreneurs, more VCs investing into seed rounds means easier access to capital. And as mentioned before, founders who raise a seed round from a large VC also get the benefit of getting a brand name VC on board early on and potentially they can tap into the firm’s support network. So far, so good - sounds like a win/win.The downside of taking a small check from a large investor is what’s called “signaling risk”. What this refers to is the situation that arises when you want to raise your Series A round and your VC doesn’t want to lead. In that case, any outside investor who you’re talking to will wonder why your existing investor – who as an insider has or could have a great understanding of the business – doesn’t want to invest. Everybody in the market knows that if a large VC invests small amounts the purpose is optionality, so if [...]



From "A as in Amiga" to "Z as in Zendesk"

2016-07-16T00:13:07.382+02:00

In the last few weeks I participated in a few interviews/discussions to talk about SaaS, entrepreneurship, venture capital and related topics that are near and dear to my heart. If you're interested in me rambling about some of my earliest entrepreneurial adventures (hint: C64, Amiga,...) and how I found Zendesk (hint: luck), and if you don't mind listening to a heavy German accent and lots of "UMs" and "HMMs", here you go. :-)

1. The Twenty Minute VC
Listen to the podcast on ProductHunt, in iTunes or download the MP3.

2. "Managing your startup with data" at B2B Rocks in Paris

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3. Interview with Seedcamp's Carlos Espinal 

frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/273661147&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%">

Thanks to Harry, Carlos and Alexander for inviting me!




A better way to visualize pipeline development? (WIP)

2016-06-26T01:51:58.084+02:00

When founders show me their sales pipeline, the data is typically visualized in some variations of one of these formats:When I see charts like this, I often find it hard to quickly wrap my head around the data and draw meaningful conclusions. Sometimes, important numbers are missing altogether. In other cases, they are there but are shown on another page or in another report.I then find myself wonder about questions such as:The pipeline is growing nicely, but how much are they actually closing?How long does it take them to move leads through the funnel?Are they purging their pipeline or are they accumulating a lot of "dead" pipeline value?With this in mind I tried to come up with a new way for high-level pipeline development visualization, one that makes it easier to quickly get to the key take-aways. If you're interested in the (preliminary) result only, check out this mockup. If you'd like to learn more about my thought process and some additional details, read on.The key problem that I have with the standard ways of looking at pipeline development is that it's hard to follow how deals move through the funnel. I've always thought that pipeline development charts should work a bit more like a cohort analysis that allows you to follow a customer cohort's development over time, and so I mocked up this:The "pipes" give you a better understanding of what happened to the leads in a certain stage and month. For example, you can see that of the $1.6M that was in "prospect" stage in January:$750k (47%) stayed in "prospect" stage$500k (31%) were moved to the next stage ("demo/trial")$350k (22%) were lost/purgedThe next step was to add a few additional months to the mockup:This unfortunately made things a little messy, and people will probably feel overwhelmed by the amount of numbers. One solution, if someone decides to build a little application like a Salesforce.com add-on, could be to hide all of the pipe numbers by default and show them on-hover (maybe with an option to show them all at once):What's still missing are some aggregated key metrics ...... and a better way to quickly grasp how these numbers have changed month over month:Here's one mockup with all three elements on it:What you can quickly see in this example is that this imaginary startup is adding an increasing dollar amount of prospects to the pipeline and keeps closing deals, but the rate at which it moves leads to the bottom of the funnel is declining. At the same time, the percentage of lost deals has been growing slowly, while the percentage of deals that remained in the same stage has increased sharply, indicating an increase in sales cycle and/or a poor job of pipeline purging. This has already led to a shrinking bottom-of-the-funnel pipeline, and if the company can't figure out and fix the cause of that development, it will soon close less and less deals.All of this is something that you can immediately see by looking at these charts and numbers and which I think is usually harder to see by looking at traditional pipeline charts. What do you think? Looking forward to your comments![...]



SaaS Funding Napkin, the mobile-friendly edition

2016-06-03T00:43:10.798+02:00

My "SaaS Funding Napkin", published a few days ago, got lots of love on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Thanks everybody! Some people (rightfully) mentioned, though, that the image is hard to read on mobile devices. So if a napkin has a good format for a desktop or laptop screen, which real-world-analogy could be a fit for mobile screens?

You guessed right.

Here you go (please scroll down or click here).


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What does it take to raise capital, in SaaS, in 2016?

2016-06-09T22:31:56.086+02:00

When we invest in a SaaS startup, which almost always happens at the seed stage, the next big milestone on the company’s roadmap is usually a Series A. If you carry this thought further and assume that the biggest goal after the Series A is to get to the Series B (and so on, you get the idea) it sounds like turtles all the way down. But financing rounds are obviously not a goal in itself. They are a means to a bigger goal. Some SaaS companies got big without raising a lot of capital – Atlassian, Basecamp and Veeva are probably the most famous examples. But they are exceptions, not the rule. According to this analysis of Tomasz Tunguz, the median SaaS company raises $88M before IPO.So what does it take to raise money for a SaaS company in 2016? With constantly rising table stakes and a fundraising environment that looks quite a bit less favorable than last year’s, I believe the bar is higher than in the last 18-24 months (although raising money is still much easier than it was in “Silicon Valley’s nuclear winter” in 2008).Below is my back of a (slightly bigger) napkin answer to this question.A few important notes:The assumption of the information in the table is that the founding team is relatively “unproven”. Founding teams with previous large exits under their belts can raise large seed rounds at very high valuations on the back of their track records and a Powerpoint Keynote presentation.Some of the information is tailored to enterprise-y SaaS companies. If you have a viral product (like Typeform or infogram), some of the “rules” don’t apply.If you have virality and a proven founder team, you’re Slack and no rules whatsoever apply. :)(click here for a larger version)PS: Thanks to Jason M. Lemkin, Tomasz Tunguz, Nicolas Wittenborn and my colleagues at Point Nine for reviewing a draft of this post![Update 1: Here's a mobile-friendly version of the napkin.][Update 2: And here is a Google Sheet version for better readability. :) ][...]



Introducing the French Cloudscape

2016-04-11T22:34:48.281+02:00

For some reason we keep finding great early-stage SaaS startups in France, and it's not because of my command of the French language. In the last few years we've invested in four awesome SaaS companies from France: Algolia, Front, Mention and Critizr. We recently did #5, which hasn't been announced yet, and are in advanced talks with a potential #6. Besides our SaaS investments, we're also proud investors in StarOfService, an online marketplace to hire a wide range of professionals. Something is clearly going on in France, and we like it.

Our good connection to the French startup ecosystem was one of the reasons why we picked France as the first country for our "European SaaS Landscape" project. Another reason was that Clément not only speaks French, he IS French, and knows the market very well.

Without further ado, here it is: an industry map of the most important SaaS startups founded in France.



To learn more about our methodology and some of the insights we got while doing the research, check out Clément's post on Medium. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, give us a shout!







Truffle pig reloaded – Point Nine is looking for an Associate

2016-04-06T10:56:43.979+02:00

About three years ago, we were looking for an Associate to join Point Nine and put up this landing page:




We called the position "truffle pig", because just like a truffle pig is digging up the best truffles from the ground, we as an early-stage VC try to find the best startups among a large number of potential investments. I have to give full credit for the truffle pig analogy to Mathias Schilling and Thomas Gieselmann of e.ventures, by the way. "Truffle pigs" is what they (young VC Associates at that time) called themselves when they approached my co-founder and me back in 1997 after having stumbled on this website. Fast-forward almost 20 years and we still haven't found a better way to describe the role. :)

Anyway, our search three years ago led to two fantastic truffle pigs, Rodrigo and Mathias, both of whom got promoted to Principals at Point Nine in the meantime. And today we're excited to kick-off the search for a new Associate. Here are all the details.

This is an incredible opportunity for a young, super-smart, super-driven person with outstanding analytical skills and a solid user interface. I'm pretty sure that it took me more than 10 years to get the expertise and network which you'll get during three years in this job. 

If you're interested, please take a look at our job ad. If you know somebody who could be great fit, please pass on the link. Thanks!





SaaS Financial Plan 2.0 - bug fixes

2016-06-30T23:31:24.167+02:00

Since I published v2 of my SaaS Financial Plan a few days ago, two alert readers have kindly pointed out two formula errors in the Excel sheet. Sorry about that.

Here's a corrected version. The Excel sheet that was linked from the original post has been corrected as well.

In case you've started to modify the template already and want to keep working with the previous version, here are the two bugs that you need to correct:

1) Cell U124 on the Costs tab, i.e. the costs for external recruiters in December 2016, contained:

=(W87-U87)*$E$124+X96

The +X96 part has been added accidentally and needs to be removed. So the correct version is:

=(W87-U87)*$E$124

2) Row 55 on the Revenues tab, i.e. the CACs for the Pro plan, is completely wrong. It should be, for column I (with the other columns following analogously):

=0,5*(Costs!J62+Costs!J96+Costs!J104+Costs!J112+Costs!J122)/I49

Once again, apologies for the inconvenience. If I or somebody else finds any other bugs, I will fix them ASAP and update the change log here.

PS: Before you ask – yes, I'm aware that it's ironic that I have to post an on-premise software style bug patch to a SaaS financial planning template. Ironic in an Alanis Morissette kind of way, that is, because "ironic" actually means something completely different. Google it if you don't believe me.

[Update  06/30/2016: I've fixed two further small issues that were reported by two kind readers in the comments below.]




SaaS Financial Plan 2.0

2016-03-23T21:17:50.850+01:00

Almost exactly four years ago I published a financial plan template for SaaS startups based on a model that I had created for Zendesk a few years earlier. I received a lot of great feedback on the template and the original post remains one of the most viewed posts on this blog up to this day.In the last few weeks I've finally found some time to create a "v2" of the template ... just in time for a little Easter gift to the SaaS community. ;-) I'd recommend that you read this post first since it includes some important notes, but if you prefer to check out the template right away click here to download the Excel sheet.The original v1 model was a very simple plan for early-stage SaaS startups with a low-touch sales model. As I wrote in the original post:It's a simple plan for an early-stage SaaS startup with a low-touch sales model – a company which markets a SaaS solution via its website, offers a 30 day free trial, gets most of its trial users organically and through online marketing and converts them into paying customer with very little human interaction. Therefore the key drivers of my imaginary startup are organic growth rate, marketing budget and customer acquisition costs, conversion rate, ARPU and churn rate. If you have a SaaS startup with a higher-touch sales model where revenue growth is largely driven by sales headcount, the plan needs to be modified accordingly.The new version comes with a number of improvements:Support for multiple pricing tiersSupport for annual contracts with annual pre-paymentsMuch more solid headcount planningBetter visibility into "MRR movements"Better cash-flow planningCharts galore :-)The downside of these improvements is that the spreadsheet has become significantly larger and more complex, but I tried my best to find the right balance. Also, the vast majority of the numbers in the sheet are calculated and the number of input cells is fairly limited.The spreadsheet should be pretty self-explanatory but I've included a number of comments in the spreadsheet. Make sure to check them out - some of them are important in order to understand the model (in case you're not familiar with that Excel feature, hover over the little red triangles).Here are a some additional notes:1) General commentsThe sheet is hot off the press and given the large amount of formulas I can't rule out that there are bugs. If you find one, please email me at and I'll fix it ASAP.Blue numbers indicate data-entry cells. Black and grey numbers are computed.The model contains a lot of simplifications. Don't expect that it will perfectly fit your specific business - consider it a starting point.2.) "Summary" tabThe "Summary" tab contains only two types of input cells: Your starting bank balance and cash injections from financings. Everything else is calculated, mostly using data from subsequent tabs.As with all input cells in the model, consider the values that I've put in to be dummy data. Fill those cells with your own data and assumptions.The model doesn't take into account interest or taxes (except for payroll taxes).The "Revenues" line shows your end-of-month MRR for the respective month. This is not compliant with the US GAAP definition of "revenues", which uses different revenue recognition rules, but since SaaS companies live and breathe MRR I think it's the right approach for a SaaS financial model.3.) "Revenues" tabThe model assumes that you have three pricing tiers.[...]