After a three-month sojourn, during which the SaaS industry ran into headwinds of a looming US recession, SaaSBOOMi’s MRR (monthly recurring report) returns in a new form. We know you have your hands full running your business in these hard times.
So this newsletter, which will hit your mailbox on the 10th of every month, aims to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the SaaS world. We will scour the internet for you and also share with you the best content on the SaaSBOOMi website.
Bad News First
“Mr Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately.” Assuming you have the wisdom of the Godfather, let’s first look at the dark clouds on the horizon. Forewarned is forearmed.
American economist Nouriel Roubini predicted a year ago that the easy money era would have a hard landing. And we’re seeing this now as rising inflation with falling growth rates lead to a stagflation. Add to that more supply chain shocks from the Ukraine war and Covid lockdowns in China. Roubini does not expect policymakers to be able to bail out the economy this time, as they did in 2020, because central banks are forced to raise interest rates to control inflation. So he tells us to be prepared for a protracted recession, in The Unavoidable Crash.
Every crisis also brings with it new opportunities, and for SaaS, it comes from drivers for cloud adoption. Jason Lemkin of SaaStr drilled into the latest earnings of SaaS category leaders and found their growth remained mind-blowing in the last quarter, even if decelerating growth rates indicated the headwinds they were facing.
DevOps leader DataDog grew 61% and increased its customer base by 41%, but new bookings were down. Sales tools leader ZoomInfohad 46% growth, but it was a tad slower than the 54% in the previous quarter. Similarly, project management leader Atlassian reported 31% growth, which was 5% lower than in the previous quarter. When you consider all these companies are over $1 billion ARR, the growth they’re recording is still massive. But as real headwinds appear, sales teams need to realign their messaging with customers’ goals next year, Lemkin tweets.
Before the Funding Gets Cold
For all the talk of a funding winter, Indian SaaS companies raised $501 million across 22 deals last month, which is nearly six times the $85 million in 17 deals in November 2021, Moneycontrol reports, citing Venture Intelligence data. Overall, SaaS funding in India this year crossed the $5 billion mark in November, compared to $4.2 billion in the breakout-from-pandemic year of 2021. Not bad going.
Amagi Media Labs, Contentstack, DarwinBox, Arta Finance, and myGate topped the funding list in November. The toppers for the year as a whole are Uniphore, Fractal, Chargebee, Instoried, and Leadsquared.
$1B ARR Club
Meanwhile, the Godfather of Indian SaaS, Zoho, announced reaching the $1 billion ARR milestone last month. But co-founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu is anticipating a painful recession by cutting marketing spend and slowing down hiring. He’s waiting to see if the crisis morphs into something worse next year. Even so, Zoho Finance’s Global Head, Sivaramakrishnan Iswaran, says it’s no time to cut spending on product innovation. “Recession can open up good opportunities for businesses as it makes them look at avenues they might not have considered earlier.”
Do Not Run Out of Money
Vinod Muthukrishnan, who sold CloudCherry to Uniphore, recalls a bleak time in 2014 when his startup ran out of cash and could not pay salaries by the 10th one month. “I dragged myself to the office, expecting anxious looks and a deflated mood. But they were already at work, upbeat and motivated as if nothing had changed. That episode told me they were a crew that would fight for us. And they were worth fighting for.”
CloudCherry managed to raise a small investment to pay out pending salaries by the 17th and never skipped payments again. “So what is the takeaway for founders here? Make sure your company always has capital. If it means giving customers a discount to get working capital, do it. But make sure you have got yourself a team that can rescue you from a slump,” Muthukrishnan writes in a blog on SaaSBOOMi.
Netcore Cloud founder Rajesh Jain, whose bootstrapped company reached $100 million ARR this year, advises SaaS founders to keep a close eye on predictable revenue streams and conserve cash. “We haven’t seen a prolonged period of capital being hard to get. We saw a little bit of that in the pandemic, but the recovery was V-shaped because we knew it was an artificially induced crash. This time it’s more fundamental,” he said in an interview with SaaSBOOMi.
Salesforce Loses Wind in Sails
Co-CEO of Salesforce, Bret Taylor, famous for creating Google Maps, is quitting the CRM giant, leaving Marc Benioff as the sole CEO. Taylor, who came into Salesforce six years ago through the acquisition of his startup Quip for $750 million, says he wants to be an entrepreneur again. Swiftly following Taylor out of the door are Tableau CEO Mark Nelson and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield. Salesforce acquired Tableau for $15 billion in 2019 and Slack for $27.7 billion in 2021.
Founders joining a large company through acquisitions and then leaving is nothing unusual. As Benioff said after Taylor announced his departure: “You can’t keep a wild tiger in a cage.”
But all three top CEOs leaving together spooked investors and hit Salesforce stock, which had already cooled off this year. The Wall Street Journal also reported an irreconcilable rift between Taylor and Benioff, who felt his Co-CEO should spend more time on Salesforce products than on Twitter, where he was board chairman, and hobnobbing with other CEOs.
Amid all the macroeconomic gloom, Coimbatore-based SaaS startup Kovai went ahead and opened a new 4500-sq-ft office this month. Saravana Kumar, who founded the company in 2011, feels confident that Kovai’s frugal culture and strategy of deploying a portfolio of products will help it sail through rough waters. While some products are buffeted, others are gaining traction.
In the latest episode of SaasBOOMi’s Deep Dive podcast series, Kissflow founder Suresh Sambandam takes Saravana Kumar over Kovai’s journey from being a one-person startup to a multi-product SaaS company with over $10 million ARR, employing over 250 people. Our jury picked Kovai as the Bootstrapped SaaS Startup of the Year for 2020 in our annual awards, and it’s good to see it going from strength to strength.
Talking of awards, SaaSBOOMi has just opened up applications for exemplary startups in seven categories for 2022. The last date for applying or nominating a SaaS startup is January 15. So drop everything and go to the Awards page on our website if you think you have a candidate for any of the seven gems. The awards will be one of the highlights at the SaaSBOOMi Annual conference coming up in Chennai on March 17-18, 2023. Block your dates for that!
If Twitter Dies…
Apart from the recession, Elon Musk’s Twitter is the big talking point. All sorts of crazy things have started happening after teams of engineers and moderators were summarily ‘exited’. A tool went rogue and started blocking 4000 accounts per second.
Many are rejoicing over the impending fall of Twitter. But pause and think what it could mean to you if Twitter actually dies – the loss of connections and reputation built over the years. We’re in Denial About the True Cost of a Twitter Implosion, writes Eve Fairbanks in Wired.
On that sobering note, we come to the end of this newsletter. Thanks for reading the MRR! If you liked it, please subscribe for free to get new posts on the 10th of every month, or forward it to others who may not have subscribed yet.
See you next year 🙂