The SaaStr Annual is this week and what a week it will be. In my opinion one of the best weeks of the year. It’s the annual conference for SaaStr (the blog, if you don’t know it you should) where founders, CEOs, VP’s and VC’s come to meet their peers in SaaS. Learn, hire, connect and inspire. It’s the ultimate almost week long shopping spree for those who make it a priority to attend. Read on and you’ll learn why.
SaaStr was started in 2012 by Jason Lemkin as a simple WordPress blog as well as a few answers on Quora. It was designed to share the learnings of Lemkin who, a 2x founder gone VC sold his company EchoSign (now the AdobeCloud) to Adobe, which he took from $0 to $100m ARR.
The vision behind SaaStr is to enable the next generation of great SaaS and B2B entrepreneurs. It’s the ultimate bible for SaaS founders and B2B folk to keep up with all things SaaSy from people who have been there and done that and who are currently doing. The playbook of SaaS is told through a variety of content and comes to head at the SaaStr Annual Conference, which is held in February every year.
Since launching the blog in 2012 it has gone on to become the largest SaaS community on the planet and has over 3 million views per month and has had over 16 million+ views on Quora. It’s often syndicated in the media (Forbes, The Wall Street Journal) and is a go to for many people in the entrepreneurial community.
February 2015, the SaaStr team (of 2!) decided to do an experiment and hold a conference to talk about everything past, future and present. Whats happening? What can we learn from? And how can we do better, faster? – Culminating in a February conference that attracted over 2,000 SaaS founders and execs in an intimate gathering that was power packed full of the most incredible speakers. You couldn’t have asked for a better line-up from the seasoned veterans to the up and comers who now have gone on to 10X their companies in just a year. (Yes this happens!).
After being blown away by the first conference, the Kiwi Landing Pad put the SaaStr Annual on their roadmap for the year as a must attend conference. There is an enormous volume of SaaS companies spinning out of New Zealand, this year we have a cohort of 30 founders attending that we know of. It’s the ultimate place to come and learn the ‘playbook’ for the would-be SaaS entrepreneur.
Here are six reasons why the SaaStr Annual is the perfect shopping spree:
1. Meet your future customers
SaaStr Annual is the perfect place to meet your future customers. As Kyle Porter, CEO & Founder of SalesLoft said last year, all of their customers are here, and I have enough business cards to add 70 more.” People go shopping for technology, what a perfect place to do it, with companies that not only invest in themselves but are doing well and often thought leaders in their own right. People are solving real problems for people like you who need solutions.
2. Meet with your future funders (VC’s)
Where every good company is, are good VC’s right? SaaStr is the breeding ground of capital and experience. In an interview we did with Jason earlier this year, we asked him what happened last year. “Everyone who was on stage got funded.” It’s the perfect place to meet, pitch and see if you can find that person with the purse strings – no pun intended. This year they are doing a “meet with a VC” day where 130+ startups get to meet with well known VC’s from the Valley and beyond to pitch their ideas and see what happens. It’s the perfect capital spree for founders and VC’s alike as long as you bring your A game.
3. Meet with your peers in SaaS
The SaaStr Annual is the culmination of like minds. It is an event that brings together people in a room to learn from those who are slightly further ahead from where you’re at or miles ahead and aim to inspire. Friendships forged over many a learning, beer or shared ‘powerpoint’ meetings. SaaStr does such an excellent job of creating space to chill with your fellows and also meet with them after the conference in “off hour” settings. The conversation goes beyond that of the ‘conference.’ As Sean Kester (VP of Sales @ SalesLoft) stated, “if you dropped a bomb on this building, the entire SaaS community of San Francisco would disappear.”
4. Meet and hire your VP’s
Shop for talent. VP’s are the most sort after talent in the world, only culminating in particular technology hubs around the world. A lot of the reason tech companies move to the valley is in their search for talent as the further out you go from San Francisco the less there seem to be. SaaStr attracts many VP’s of Sales, Marketing, Revenue and the like, they are leaders aligned with their playbooks of how to succeed in growing their respective teams. This year we are blessed with a tactical stage where we’ll learn the ins and outs of these playbooks from the talented people who wield them.
5. Meet your content on stage
Many of the people who speak at SaaStr have just been ‘doing their thing.’ Well thought out speaker sessions and panels, last year it was ‘Jimmy Fallon’ style, this year we have three days and three themes – Down at the Pub, Daisies and Unicorns, Zen Learnings. ‘The just doing their thing’ usually results in (SaaStr’s case) companies that 10x and apparently come back and share the learnings. Last year, one of the greatest examples of this we had was OpenDNS where founder David Ulevitch was certainly one of the “younger” founders on the stage, who then went on to sell his companies to Cisco for upwards of $600 mil. Quite the feat.
The content is the boss. There is no doubt about it, bring two notepads, sit down and learn. It’s nugget after nugget of golden one-liners that can instantly change how you think about things. Expect many an “a-ha” moment and seek pure pleasure in the quirky one liners which are rampant especially if Jason Lemkin or Aaron Levie are on stage.
6. Meet your “stack” on the sponsor floor
When you think conference, you think terrible food, too much coffee, booze and lots of over zealous sales people.. The shopping spree finishes with the sponsors who are the black horse of the SaaStr Annual. They are the high-quality businesses that offer web services that people pay for, essentially making life easier for all of you. Not only that but they are also a powerhouse of knowledge and entertainment. The golden children of SaaS and future leaders of the SaaStr stage – it will happen, just you wait. Pre-nicorns in the making.
If this isn’t enough to convince you, I have one last surprise which is to hear it from the founder himself – Jason Lemkin. He is the ultimate uncle in SaaS, the guy you call when you need some advice that you don’t want to tell your dad and also the man who has most likely been there and done that.
At an interview in early January I asked Jason a few questions about how to do the SaaStr Annual well this year and why should you come, here’s what he had to say:
How do you break through the noise?
What is the ROI on a founder’s time?
How should you prepare for the SaaStr Annual?
What happened last year?
This year the Kiwi Landing Pad is very excited to have over 10+ New Zealand SaaS companies in town with around 30 founders and Execs. This is one of the largest, self-directed groups we have had in San Francisco so far. This week is undoubtedly going to be one of the best and biggest weeks of the year. We are excited to share this journey and experience with our Kiwi community and also convince more of you to come along next year. There is no explanation for what is about to unfold. From 3 days to 5,000 people, to events every night of the conference, to two stages to dance crews, 80+ Golden sponsors and surprise guests that are going to blow your mind this is not one to miss.
Post written by Kiwi Landing Pad Global Community Manager – Sian Simpson
Kiwi Landing Pad (KLP) was established in 2011 to help selected high-growth New Zealand technology companies establish and grow their business in the USA by offering a soft landing point into the US market, where they can hit the ground running and be plugged into the community from day one.