Earlier this month, we had the huge pleasure of joining over 5000 SaaS founders, leaders, investors and other B2B tech enthusiasts in Dublin for SaaStock 2022—Europe’s biggest annual SaaS conference.
The all-star speaker lineup included a number of European tech unicorns who shared their advice for founders that want to follow in their mythical footsteps. Here are three things we learnt on what it takes to succeed.
1. You need to be laser-focused on growth
Capchase’s CEO Miguel Fernandez shared insights from the Capchase SaaS Benchmark Report along with tips on how to achieve best-in-class performance. It shows that the top performing SaaS businesses are growing twice as fast as their peers—between 100% and 160%, compared to only 40% - 60% for average performing companies.
How can you achieve those sorts of numbers? You need to be laser-focused on growth. According to Miguel:
“It can be very tempting to try to do a lot of things, launch new products, expand to new geographies, and try to figure it out all at once. But doing that successfully gets really tricky. The best companies only care about growth and once they have the operating levers right, only then do they add complexity in layers. Trying to do everything at once puts you at risk of executing a few things at 70% effectiveness”.
Personio Co-founder and CEO Hanno Renner, echoed these sentiments. He said that in the early days of the German tech unicorn, having a platform that was too broad was stretching the team beyond their limits. He added that as the company has grown, he’s learnt that focus remains key even for larger organizations:
“Just because you’re a bigger company, it doesn’t mean that you can do more things in parallel. You still need to be focussed. There’s always tension between all the exciting things you could do, and the need to not take on too much and spread yourself too thin. For example, acquisitions might seem like a good idea once you’ve hit a certain stage, but they can be costly not just in terms of equity or money, but also in terms of the distractions it creates, the impact on the team, the process of onboarding people.”
2. To have a strong company culture, you need to be intentional about creating it
It’s no secret that hiring the right people as you grow beyond your founding team is essential for long-term success. In an environment where the best candidates often have multiple choices as to what their next career move will be, company culture can be the deciding factor. And getting it right is not easy, even for experienced entrepreneurs.
At the Russian tech unicorn, they decided to deal with this challenge by identifying their shared values.
“When we were around 30 people, we decided to codify our culture and our values. We tried to understand what united us, or what our shared values were. We came up with six core values. A few years later, when we were a bigger company, we did this again. We went from six to four values. Those values work together like the pieces of a puzzle.”
As a global company, the whiteboard collaboration platform values the different perspectives team members bring, and actively tries to encourage an understanding of those perspectives across the company.
“We intentionally built a global company. We’re spread across regions, but we try to bring all the perspectives and cultures together, so people from different backgrounds can thrive. I also try to bring people that were there in the early days together with newer employees so that they can share our existing values, but also so there’s an injection of new ideas.”
3. Commercial success starts with understanding your customer
Understanding what makes your ideal customer tick should be the starting point for how you develop your product, and build your business. Chris Regester, Chief Customer Officer at customer success platform Planhat puts it this way:
“Figure out what success means for your customer, and then everything else will follow from that. It’s more of an art than a science. You need to define clear outcomes that your customers can achieve using your product, and then map it back from that. Then your marketing is talking to prospects about outcomes rather than features, your sales team is selling those outcomes, and your customer success team is delivering it.”
“We communicate what those outcomes will be on the website, we guarantee it, so we have to be very sure what our customers are going to achieve. If we know what our customers and ourselves agree on as the desired outcomes, and we focus on that continuously, we believe that our company will keep growing. Soon we’ll be hiring account managers to close that triangle, to deliver the agreed outcome to the customer.”
There’s no one way to build a unicorn. Use these tips from those that have done it, or are doing it, as a starting point. And if you’re looking for growth financing to help you on your way, check out Capchase’s Grow—we can help you access up to 60% of your ARR in as little as 72 hours.