A few years ago, building a bottom-up SaaS company – defined as a firm where the average purchasing decision is made without ever speaking to a salesperson – was a novel concept. Today, by our count, at least 30% of the Cloud 100 are now bottom-up.
For the first time, individual employees are influencing the tooling decisions of their companies versus having these decisions mandated by senior executives. Self-serve businesses thrive on this momentum, leveraging individuals as their evangelists, to grow from a single use-case to small teams, and ultimately into whole company deployments.
In a truly self-service model, individual users can sign up and try the product on their own. There is no need to get compliance approval for sensitive data or to get IT support for integrations — everything can be managed by the line-level users themselves. Then that person becomes an internal champion, driving adoption across the organization.
Today, some of the most well-known software companies such as Datadog, MongoDB, Slack and Zoom, to name a few, are built with a primarily bottom-up product-led sales approach.
In this piece, we will take a closer look at this trend — and specifically how it has fundamentally altered pricing — and at a framework for mapping pricing to customer value.
In a bottom-up SaaS world, pricing has to be transparent and standardized (at least for the most part, see below). It’s the only way your product can sell itself. In practice, this means you can no longer experiment as you go, with salespeople using their gut instinct to price each deal. You need a concrete strategy that aligns customer value with pricing.
To do this well, you need to deeply understand your customers and how they use your product. Once you do, you can “MAP” them to help align pricing with value.
The MAP customer value framework requires deeply understanding your customers in order to clearly identify and articulate their needs across Metrics, Activities and People.
Not all elements of MAP should determine your pricing, but chances are that one of them will be the right anchor for your pricing model:
Metrics: Metrics can include things like minutes, messages, meetings, data and storage. What are the key metrics your customers care about? Is there a threshold of value associated with these metrics? By tracking key metrics early on, you’ll be able to understand if growing a certain metric increases value for the customer. For example:
Activity: How do your customers really use your product and how do they describe themselves? Are they creators? Are they editors? Do different customers use your product differently? Instead of metrics, a key anchor for pricing may be the different roles users have within an organization and what they want and need in your product. If you choose to anchor on activity, you will need to align feature sets and capabilities with usage patterns (e.g., creators get access to deeper tooling than viewers, or admins get high privileges versus line-level users). For example:
The web of collaboration apps invading remote work toolkits have led to plenty of messy workflows for teams that communicate in a language of desktop screenshots and DMs. Tracing a suggestion or flagging a bug in a company’s website forces engineers or designers to make sense of the mess themselves. While task management software has given teams a funnel for the clutter, the folks at Jam question why this functionality isn’t just built straight into the product.
Jam co-founders Dani Grant and Mohd Irtefa tell TechCrunch they’ve closed on $3.5 million in seed funding and are ready to launch a public beta of their collaboration platform which builds chat, comments and task management directly onto a website, allowing developers and designers to track issues and make suggestions quickly and simply
The seed round was led by Union Square Ventures, where co-founder Dani Grant previously worked as an analyst. Version One Ventures, BoxGroup and Village Global also participated alongside some noteworthy angels including GitHub CTO Jason Warner, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, Gumroad CEO Sahil Lavingia, and former Robinhood VP Josh Elman.
Like most modern productivity suites, Jam is heavy on integrations so users aren’t forced to upend their toolkits just to add one more product into the mix. The platform supports Slack, Jira, GitHub, Asana, Loom and Figma, with a few more in the immediate pipeline. Data syncs from one platform to the other bidirectionally so information is always fresh, Grant says. It’s all built into a tidy sidebar.
Grant and Irtefa met as product managers at Cloudflare, where they started brainstorming better ways to communicate feedback in a way that felt like “leaving digital sticky notes all over a product,” Grant says. That thinking ultimately pushed the duo to leave their jobs this past May and start building Jam.
The startup, like so many conceived during this period, has a remote founding story. Grant and Irtefa have only spent four days together in-person since the company was started, they raised their seed round remotely and most of the employees have never met each other in-person.
The remote team hopes their software can help other remote teams declutter their workflows and focus on what they’re building.
“On a product team, the product is the first tab everyone opens and closes,” Grant says. “So we’re on top of your product instead of on some other platform”
As the American election looms and the IPO cycle slows some, it’s a good time to review how well the public offerings we have seen thus far have performed.
Welcome to a Monday morning data rundown discussing how well the latest-stage startups that went public this year have performed after their first day. We’ll be awarding letter grades for post-IPO performance as well, because we can.
The fine folks at my former publication Crunchbase News have a running list of 2020 IPOs, which will help us not miss any names. Of course, we’re not going to include every possible deal; there have been some marginal debuts that we can leave behind.
But, the majors matter. So let’s get into them now:
Whoever said you can’t make money playing video games clearly hasn’t taken a look at Unity Software’s stock price.
On its first official day of trading, the company rose more than 31%, opening at $75 per share before closing the day at $68.35. Unity’s share price gains came after last night’s pricing of the company’s stock at $52 per share, well above the range of $44 to $48 which was itself an upward revision of the company’s initial target.
Games like “Pokemon Go” and “Iron Man VR” rely on the company’s software as do untold numbers of other mobile gaming applications that use the company’s toolkit for support. The company’s customers range from small gaming publishers to large gaming giants like Electronic Arts, Niantic, Ubisoft, and Tencent.
Unity’s IPO comes on the heels of other well-received debuts, including Sumo Logic, Snowflake, and JFrog .
TechCrunch caught up with Unity’s CFO, Kim Jabal after-hours today to dig in a bit on the transaction.
According to Jabal, hosting her company’s roadshow over Zoom had some advantages, as her team didn’t have to focus on tackling a single geography per day, allowing Unity to “optimize” its time based on who the company wanted to meet. Instead, of say, whomever was free in Boston or Chicago on a particular Tuesday morning.
Jabal’s comments aren’t the first that TechCrunch has heard regarding roadshows going well in a digital format instead of as an in-person presentation. If the old-school roadshow survives, we’ll be surprised, though private jet companies will miss the business.
Talking about the transaction itself, Jabal stressed the connection between her company’s employees, value, and their access to that same value. Unity’s IPO was unique in that existing and former employees were able to trade 15% of their vested holdings in the company on day one, excluding “current executive officers and directors,” per SEC filings.
That act does not seemed to have dampened enthusiasm for the company’s shares, and could have helped boost early float, allowing for the two sides of the supply and demand curves to more quickly meet close to the company’s real value, instead of a scarcity-driven, more artificial figure.
Regarding Unity’s IPO pricing, Jabal discussed what she called a “very data driven process.” The result of that process was an IPO price that came in above its raised range, and still rose by during its first day’s trading, but less than 50%. That’s about as good an outcome as you can hope for in an IPO.
One final thing for the SaaS nerds out there. Unity’s “dollar-based net expansion rate” went from very good to outstanding in 2020, or in the words of the S-1/A:
Our dollar-based net expansion rate, which measures expansion in existing customers’ revenue over a trailing 12-month period, grew from 124% as of December 31, 2018 to 133% as of December 31, 2019, and from 129% as of June 30, 2019 to 142% as of June 30, 2020, demonstrating the power of this strategy.
We had to ask. And the answer, per Jabal, was a combination of the company’s platform strength and how customers tend to use more of Unity’s services over time, which she described as growing with their customers. And the second key element was 2020’s unique dynamics that gave Unity a “tailwind” thanks to “increased usage, particularly in gaming.”
Looking at our own gaming levels in 2020 compared to 2019, that checks out.
This post closes the book on this week’s IPO class. Tired yet? Don’t be. Palantir is up next, and then Asana .