5 Takeaways from SaaStr Annual
Earlier this month, thousands of tech enthusiasts flocked to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for the third annual SaaStr conference.
SaaStr is a newer conference in comparison to Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference and found its roots in the form of a simple WordPress blog. Through valuable content creation from founder Jason Lemkin, the blog now has 3M views per month and his answers on Quora have over 30 million views. This thirst for in-depth enterprise knowledge has led SaaStr to become one of the largest global communities of founders and investors. The online turned to offline -- and in the past three years, the SaaStr conference has scaled from 2,000 attendees to 10,000 attendees.
As a first time attendee of SaaStr, here are my five takeaways from the conference:
1) Community is SaaStr’s bread and butter.
It should come as no surprise that the emphasis on community was apparent throughout every detail of the event. From the opening VIP event at Herbst Theatre to the bacon and beer cocktails served each morning, the SaaStr team curated the entire conference to the needs of its community.
As a female in tech -- and the breakdown of the event being 80/20 -- I was thrilled to see the plethora of female speakers and attendees. In fact, according to many in the audience, the best speakers were April Underwood, VP of Product at Stripe and Promise Phelon, CEO of Tapinfluence. Their energy was electric and their insights on product and culture were energizing. After the conference, Jason acknowledged the still unfortunate gender disparity, but you could tell that promoting diversity and inclusion was a main component of the conference.
This level of inclusivity and acknowledgement of what it means to be part of the Silicon Valley ecosystem was exemplified with the high-level speakers in attendance. The SaaStr team was able to gather up the best and brightest to help out the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors. It’s a true testament to the environment they’ve created for their community.
2) AI and Machine Learning is front and center for product investment
It wouldn’t be a 2017 tech event, if AI and machine learning weren’t part of the larger conversation. Redpoint Ventures VC, Tomasz Tunguz, discussion at the Tactical stage was heavily attended. People were standing on top of one another to learn how AI and machine learning will impact the future of product and sales. From the product perspective, Tomasz spoke about the large amount of investment that is happening on Sand Hill Road. It really drove home the point that if you’re going to start a company, you need to have these capabilities integrated into your product to be able to create efficiencies. This was evidenced from the sales enablement solutions on the Trade Show floor. AI and machine learning capabilities were built into the showcased products to expedite outbound list building and prospect outreach. These discussions made me critically think about the future of SDR’s for the next three to five years.
3) Account Based Marketing is working and it’s here to stay
As a B2B marketer, I am a huge fan of Account Based Marketing. Of course, the thought leader on the topic, Jon Miller from Engagio, was at SaaStr. The panel discussion amongst the marketing leaders at Saleshood, New Relic, and Inside Sales.com further drove home the point of this tactic. Their companies have seen success using this sales and marketing aligned methodology to make their prospects convert to customers and brand advocates. As Silicon Valley is first-to-market using new tactics, it will be through education of this processes that will lead it ABM be the new wave of marketing and sales.
4) Hiring is a Crucial Element To Your Company’s Success
Let’s face it, team is everything -- so it wasn’t shocking that the topic of hiring permeated throughout every discussion. The panel of SaaS Y Combinator founders were all in agreement that to be able to scale and fundraise, you have to have a strong team that is in cultural alignment. And, the hardest part of an early-stage founder is to let go of qualified workers who just aren’t meshing well with others. Another overarching theme was once you have a strong team, you need to focus on employees work-life balance. The CEO of Asana, Dustin Moskovitz, elaborated on how he empathizes effective and efficient techniques for his employees to work smart. One main takeaway was how you can turn off notifications from Slack to completely shut off on the weekends, so that you can be refreshed and have a clear mind.
5) Customer is Everything
Not gonna lie, after a week of parties and early mornings, by the end of day 3, the NPS sign on stage started to look like NAPS. Despite my eyes tricking me, it really helped me to remember how customers -- whether you have 1 or 1000 -- are the only reason people are attending this conference. My favorite insight on the importance of customer was from the SVP of Sales and Customer Success at Intacct, Kathy Lord, at the Salesforce Deep Dive stage. Her advice was to be as completely transparent and honest about what stage your company is at. In fact, you might be talking with your first customer, but it’s not a negative -- it’s a great way to build a long-term relationship where they can provide product feedback. This reiterated, that the journey early-stage startups have with their customers will define their product and brand roadmap, so make sure that your sales team is able to convert the right customers. And, overall you want to make sure your customers are happy.
Attending SaaStr was an incredible experience where I not only gleaned insights like those above, but authentically connected with global leaders and entrepreneurs. The conversations that were had surrounding growth, marketing, inbound, outbound -- you name it; will be invaluable going forward in Silicon Valley.
--- Kate Talbot, Marketing Maven for AlwaysHired