SaaSBoomi: Parallel runway for SaaS entrepreneurs

This article was originally posted on Maneesh’s Substack.

I first learnt the widespread spirit of volunteering among American public in 2001-02 when my business partner Robert Levine (ex-MD Deutsche Bank) warned me before joining me at SENA Systems that he will not be able to travel on Tuesdays unless it’s an emergency.

He was an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) volunteer for his small town Fanwood in the Middlesex county. The fire-station with the emergency vehicle was about 10 minutes drive from our office and whenever he received a pager, he would drop everything, go pick up the vehicle, and drive to attend the patient or take them to the nearest hospital. This was a bit (pleasantly) shocking for me to see that a senior executive is doing regular community work.

SaaSBoomi is a community of SaaS founders with Indian origin, and the Caravan in the bay area from 8-15th Sept 2023 was an exemplary model of adding significant value to founders especially at an early stage by those who have faced similar problems before, failed perhaps a few times but some succeeded to create highly scaled up businesses. The folks behind arranging the Caravan (in the pic above) are the finest souls setting an example of pay it forward movement that has been pushing India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the last decade. You can feel Avinash’s vision and dedication of making India a Product Nation throughout this event.

A couple of us were waiting for our cab at SaaStr on the 7th Sept to go back to Draper Univ, when I noticed two planes in the air almost parallel on a descent to SFO for landing. At first, I didn’t believe it but the other two had also not seen anything like this before, but we guessed that this must be parallel landing – I did check the Internet later. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, but SaaSBoomi Caravan opened up safe space and opportunities (1st runway) for us to create bonds with the peer group to feel connected, heard and learn from each other. And of course, the actionable sessions and insights (2nd runway) are like wind for the wings to take off.

Anurag Wadehra’s US Product-Market-Fit, Jacco van der Kooij’s Selling in the US, Paul Brown’s Storytelling sessions were the highlights for me. Paul said “every founder must have a bit of Speilberg in them”. These gave us very specific takeaways (we applied the frameworks to find the answers and actions) for our own businesses. The Founder sessions from Girish (Freshworks), Jaspreet (Druva), Jyoti (Nutanix), Nickhil (Genepath) just to name a few were outstanding. M&A workshop, M&A clinics, VC connects, Industry connects added so much value to each one of us to short circuit the outreach and meeting 10s of such people under one roof.

The surprise sessions from Tim Draper, Ezra Roizen added excitement to already high adrenal audience. To top these, several founders among us conducted informal sessions at the Draper lobby in early mornings or late evenings. Sharing growth hacks, tricks, knowledge, failures were so common almost every day.

I met several founders from Pune who I didn’t know earlier. We have discussed a few sessions to help each other back home and have already planned a holiday trip this December. That’s the camaraderie this Caravan catalyses.

I learnt quite a bit from my (almost half my age) roommate Ajay Brooks – loved the “essentialism” book he was reading, got inspired and started doing meditation twice a day. He was extremely kind, even though the poor guys had to tolerate my snoring all this while. Got more book recommendations from other peers. Ezra (my favorite book on M&A) was kind enough to come to meet me and also share his thoughts with our entire group.

Jaspreet (Founder, Druva) shared a very relevant story about Mote uncle – he took his office neighbor “mote” uncle with him for a client meeting in Pune. During the meeting mote uncle did not open his mouth. Post the meeting, Jaspreet asked him why you didn’t say anything and he said, he (the client) neither had Niyat (intent) nor Aukat (decision maker). So true for so many of us wasting time with some prospects. Had a very interesting session by Rocketship VC partners Anand and Sailesh. Anand shared the story of his first venture which was competing with Yahoo. One day they were randomly listening to the song nby Mohammed Rafi “Yahoo, Chahe koi mujhe Junglee kahe” and they named their startup Junglee. He joked saying they got their first VC investment on a good song and chemistry among the founders.

The lead volunteers Vinod and Priya did not let us rest even on a Sunday – with a full day of fun and bonding planned with hike, cricket, golf and BEERyani dinner. Volunteers got coffee, food from their house for the hikers, and we made everyone else around the Pleasanton Ridge Park jealous as we were enjoying the early breakfast on the roadside.

From getting rejected for SaaSBoomi, to not only making it in but actually landing with one broken leg, that’s the story of this brave entrepreneur from Mumbai, Geetika. Geetika’s soundbite at the end of the ceremony at Stanford Faculty Club (quoting Girish Mathrubootham, Founder of Freshworks) summed up the founder/startup spirit

Avinash summed up the Vote of Thanks by saying: “I had a Dream” – One day SaaSBoomi will have a house like Draper University. Amen!

Looking forward to the SaaSBoomi annual in Chennai in March’24. Until then, keep in touch fellow founders!

About the author

Maneesh Bhandari 

Founder & CEO,
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