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This Bootstrapped SaaS Startup Is Helping SaaS Products Beat The Funding Chase

by Inc42 BrandLabs

Be it Zoho, FusionCharts, Appointy or Wingify, there have been plenty of examples of SaaS startups bootstrapping their way in the Indian market. Of course, as with any other bootstrapped startup, the sense of independence that comes with having your own business, not caring about exits but focussing on growth, is liberating for founders. And in the case of the software-as-a-service industry, the success of the bootstrapped startups is a source of inspiration for new ventures.

The overall SaaS industry in India is estimated to have a market value close to $1 Bn, with a CAGR of 36%. And with enterprise tech startups Druva and Icertis making it to the unicorn club in 2019, it is not surprising to hear that the Indian market presents incredible opportunities for enterprise tech startups. Given India’s strengths in software development, SaaS startups have also been able to find ready buyers for their products in the global market.

But the first few years for any SaaS product is finding the right audience, the balance of features and agility and getting feedback from users or testers. And of course, there’s the question of how to attract funding to go after the big clients.

What Product Hunt does for web and digital products and services, PitchGround is attempting to replicate for the SaaS sector in India. In fact, PitchGround is taking it a step further as it is a SaaS company helping other SaaS companies raise quick capital without losing equity, getting early adopters and customers as well as feedback on improving the product.

Founded in 2018 and a bootstrapped startup itself, PitchGround claims to be profitable since day one and is helping other SaaS companies with the same goal.

“Compared to being funded, bootstrapping requires resourcefulness. Founders need to find unique and original ways of funding their growth/product. Yes, you grow slower but you maintain 100% freedom and independence,” – Udit Goenka, founder, PitchGround.

PitchGround: Growth As A Service for SaaS Startups

Three years ago, Goenka was trying to solve the pain points for salespeople with an application called FunnelBake. When it was time to launch the product, he hired a consultant to bring early adopters for the app. Unfortunately, the consultant’s advice did not bring in the results, but Goenka still had to pay them for the service.

This experience led him to dive deeper into the problems of launching a SaaS product—he met other SaaS startup founders who suffered the same fate as him at launch. This became the origin point for PitchGround.

“We are one of the fastest-growing SaaS marketplace and crowdfunding platforms. Our aim is to connect early-stage SaaS companies with early adopters and customers who are hungry to try out new products.”

What sets PitchGround apart from the competition is the education-first approach. “We provide a crazy amount of content to educate our audience about not only the product but also about the whole topic. We do webinars, record videos, interview founders and more,” added Goenka.

The founder told us that PitchGround is founder-focussed, which means that it has conversations with founders using the platform regularly to discuss new ideas, approaches and more. Businesses can also see how many users they have gained through PitchGround on a dashboard along with tracking usage and feedback.

Before working with any client, the team at PitchGround internally assesses the SaaS product, to understand whether it will be able to handle the increased traffic after it debuts on the platform, whether the startup has enough resources, team members and more. With actionable tips, PitchGround then helps startups improve their offerings by improvements in UI/UX, tech, customer flow and more.

Once the product is ready, PitchGround then structures a Lifetime Deal campaign, which is a special offering where customers pay once instead of monthly or annually. “Deals are often time-limited to just a couple of weeks which incentivises customers to take action. For a SaaS company, it means a huge influx of cash in a short time frame. Usually in the range of an average seed funding.” Goenka told Inc42.

PitchGround works on a revenue-sharing model with startups. This helps SaaS startups by giving them the strength of an enterprise-grade marketing team without paying a single cent upfront, explained Goenka. He gave us the example of MarketPlan.io, which raised more than $83K in just 21 days on PitchGround.

Bootstrapped PitchGround Is Helping SaaS Products Beat Funding Chase

The startup not only helps SaaS startups gain early adopters but also helps them get feedback from users to modify and improve their products.

“Another success story would be of a company called ReThink (rebranded from Publist) which leveraged our platform to acquire as much user feedback as they could. Thanks to that, ReThink was able to secure multi-million dollar funding to massively boost their growth,” Goenka claimed.

Overall, PitchGround claims to have supported over 27 SaaS startups and helped them earn $1.6 Mn collectively in revenue.

The Journey Ahead For PitchGround

For any enterprise tech startup, a strong network of business partners is crucial for growth and scaling. This is especially true in the SaaS space as it helps build product credibility through real users. Claiming to have a network of over 50K B2B partners through ads, email lists and more, PitchGround is providing users with an easy way of attracting early adopters.

“We also run ads on multiple platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Google and more. On top of that, we have collaborated with influencers from the online marketing industry,” added Goenka.

While building PitchGround, one of the biggest challenges was to get transactions flowing in the first three months of their operations. That is when Goenka and his team decided to go with the approach of building a community of early adopters, which led to the growth that PitchGround could use to scale further.

As startups, PitchGround also had a hard time building a team to complement its operations. Being a huge admirer of ConvertKit founder, Nathan Barry, who built a company with 39 remote employees, Goenka also decided to start PitchGround as a company with remote workers.

Operating in multiple cities, the team of PitchGround is 100% remote making for a unique company culture.

Goenka revealed that Indian founders were the top earners through PitchGround and also had the most number of launches.

While talking about the future plans for the startup, Goenka said, “When it comes to the product and the scope of the activities we do, we want to widen our area of interest and add more unique, tech solutions. And we’re already building these things in the background and later in 2020 and 2021 we will start revealing them.”

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Why Every Sales and Marketing Team Needs a “Boundary Spanner”

by Andris A. Zoltners, PK Sinha, Sally E. Lorimer, and Dharmendra Sahay

Advances in data, technology, and analytics continue to bring new opportunities for improving sales and marketing effectiveness. Digital capabilities have evolved from descriptive (reporting what happened), to diagnostic (understanding why), to predictive (projecting what will happen if), to prescriptive (recommending what to do). But the road to realizing value continues to be bumpy.

Publications routinely highlight individual successes with systems such as CRM, reporting, and AI-enabled sales/marketing. Benefits touted include better leads and conversion rates, larger deal sizes, and increased sales productivity and growth. Yet surveys show widespread dissatisfaction with sales and marketing systems. For example, in a 2019 PCMag survey, the Net Promoter Score is negative for most major CRM providers.

Too often when these initiatives fail, companies blame a flawed strategy: poor vision or focus on inspection, not business impact. Other times, they point to implementation challenges: data quality problems, or inattention to change management. But the one aspect that is often overlooked is the profile of the person leading the effort.

In the successes we have seen, in almost every case, there is a very special profile of the person leading the effort. This Most Valuable Player of technology implementations is a boundary spanner.

Boundary spanners cut across business and technology in their experience. They have empathy for the commercial mindset (“Get it done. Produce results”) as well as the IT mindset (“Design for long term. Control risk.”) Although our experience is with sales and marketing, we suspect this leader profile is critical in other domains as well. Not surprisingly, 62% of the respondents in PWC’s 2017 Digital IQ Survey identified “a lack of collaboration between IT and business” as the leading obstacle to the success of digital initiatives.

So, what do boundary spanners do and how do they do it? Why are they so critical to the success of these initiatives? How do we mint more boundary spanners in organizations?

How Boundary Spanners Enable Success

Sales/marketing has certain priorities: innovating new ideas, chasing opportunities, and getting quick results. IT has priorities too, that are equally important but potentially conflicting: controlling costs and risks, developing enterprise capabilities, and ensuring longer-term sustainability. Boundary spanners can rally both sales/marketing and IT around a common purpose. Boundary spanners can dream with the business stakeholders in the vision phase while aligning the same stakeholders with realistic priorities and the IT mindset in the implementation phase. Boundary spanners have the judgment borne of experience to know when to support IT instincts and when to support sales/marketing instincts.

For example, a boundary spanner will:

  • Support IT by helping business stakeholders see the timeline, quality, and budget risks of adding new features too late in the process.
  • Support sales/marketing by helping IT see the benefits of using an innovative technology that delivers better on business needs, compared to a tried-and-true solution.
  • Push back against both IT and sales/marketing to keep things simple when design-by-committee is making the system unwieldy and hard to use.
  • Bring new insights that may not come naturally to either sales/marketing or IT. A boundary spanner might launch a minimum viable solution with an early-experience team to enable quick adaptation and tailoring. A boundary spanner can also align both parties around an agile, iterative, and fail fast mentality when the underlying technology is new.

A Boundary Spanner in Action

When a software company developed an AI-powered system for its inside sales team, a boundary spanner led the project. The project created a system of interconnected models that scored and calibrated account opportunities and shared insights with salespeople. These insights included which accounts were likely to churn and why, what the salesperson could do to mitigate the risk, and suggestions for the next best product offering based on an account’s propensity to buy. The system delivered recommendations to inside salespeople in seven different time zones. The initiative came out of a grassroots effort within the sales force. The project champion and team leader came from sales but had previously worked in IT. With a boundary-spanning perspective, the leader cultivated a common belief and purpose for AI-enabled selling, bringing together dozens of people from IT, sales, marketing, and product groups looking for sales team support. Ultimately, the initiative led to millions of dollars in new revenue and increased customer satisfaction.

The Making of Boundary Spanners and Why Their Ranks Are Growing

Boundary spanners are shaped through varied experience that allows them to develop broad empathy. Generally, their career paths span technology and business roles. For example, one boundary spanner started her career in IT where she focused on application development. Next, she moved to an analyst role, supporting the marketing organization with reporting and diagnostics. From there she joined a team that implemented a migration of reporting to mobile devices, interacting with designers and users throughout the implementation. Next, she was the business leader for the development of a global, cloud-based commercial data lake. The most successful boundary spanners have lived through multiple technology implementations in varying roles and have experienced both successes and failures.

Unfortunately, for all the value boundary spanners bring, we don’t see enough of them leading technology initiatives. In the past companies have been unaware of the importance of boundary-spanning capabilities. Also, siloed corporate structures have impeded the development of boundary-spanning skills. Leaders have advanced either in IT or in sales/marketing, with little opportunity to move between functions. But this situation is changing rapidly.

Recent trends point towards a spike in the supply of boundary-spanning talent coming out of IT. As companies use more pay-as-you-go services (e.g. SaaS, cloud computing, outsourced analytics), IT has become increasingly focused on bringing value by linking business needs with technology capabilities. This fundamentally changes the profile of corporate IT talent. Increasingly, companies seek IT professionals who can use leading edge technologies to design business solutions. We are already seeing more IT professionals taking initiative to seek out boundary spanning roles. Companies can benefit from having a more formal program to develop such talent.

As companies develop more boundary-spanning talent, we expect to see more organizations embedding digital sales and marketing systems into core processes with greater success.

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