Here we present the main takeaways from one of the biggest European SaaS conferences that took place in Barcelona, Spain. We’ve been there, and are ready to share our favorite insights, the pros and cons of the conference to help you keep up with the latest updates - in case you missed out.
What is SaaStr Europa?
It's an annual event that takes place in popular European destinations at the very beginning of summer. Organized by the largest community of business founders and executives, SaaStr Europa is meant to connect like-minded enthusiasts and bring out opportunities for creating partnerships, exchanging ideas, and strategies, finding mentorships, and, of course, gaining knowledge.
And if SaaStr is actually organizing plenty of opportunities for doing so as there aren't only plenty of lectures. As soon as the conference opens its doors, the attendees can participate in braindates, offline and online meetings, and networking. For building business relationships in a more wind-down atmosphere, there are cocktail parties in the evenings as well.
What are our main takeaways from the conference?
SaaStr Europa 2022 made an impression of an event mainly focused on delivering value for scale-up companies. You could find multiple networking sessions and lecture materials with first-hand knowledge from mature players/market leaders. So, we concluded that startup/angel phases of development aren't going to practically use the knowledge from topics like “aligning sales and marketing" or "balancing growth and efficiency." At least not in the nearest future.
We could easily track the conference's main themes: business-important metrics, team management, and growth. It really gave us insight into the real-time problems and the best practical solutions to them. And we learned the lesson - we'll put it in practice for Apptension as soon as possible.
Last but not least, the conference itself is well put-together which undoubtedly creates a great first impression. There was no queue at the entrance, a warm welcome, and great parties around the event. In its turn, Barcelona itself is just a great place to visit in June.
Top 5 presentations from SaaStr 2022
Undoubtedly, business executives and founders' presentations were the richest information sources. We attended many of those during both days of the conference and had our 5 personal favorites. Why we picked them precisely, you're just about to find out.
1. The Top 5 Mistakes in Scale-Up
Dave Kellogg's Presentation was definitely a highlight of the conference. He was a vital speaker with years of experience and an ability to provide concrete insights and communicate them clearly. So, we knew from the start that we were going to visit his presentation. And never regretted it afterward.
The Key Takeaways:
- Well, what can we say - it's a pity we didn't hear this presentation 10 years ago
- Great, knowledge-full, and practical slides from the start. The Andreessen Test + The Sean Ellis Test to validate if you have Product-Market Fit (or PMF) were eye-opening.
So, the Top Five Mistakes in Scale-Up by Dave Kellogg were:
- Prematurely accelerating go-to-market
- Putting (and keeping) people in the wrong roles
- Losing focus
- Messing up USA expansion
- Accumulating debilitating technical debt
You can fetch more info from his presentation in the Kellblog: https://kellblog.com/2022/06/07/saastr-europa-slides-the-top-5-mistakes-in-scale-up/
2. 10 Mistakes in Building Out Your Revenue Organization: A CEO's Perspective with Insider
A presentation by Hande Cilingir, a CEO at Insider, has the name that's speaking for itself. With a precise, straightforward approach to presenting her ideas, Hande's presentation is surely worth noticing. And, of course, extra points for exceeding the expectations (you'll get it after checking out the full presentation).
The Key Takeaways:
- Accept your mistakes
- Take your time when hiring
- Find competitive salespeople
- Establish enablement
- Keep control over pipeline
- Pay attention to expansion performance
By the way, it's available on the SaaStr Slideshare profile (as well as the others): https://www.slideshare.net/saastr/top-10-mistakes-in-building-out-your-revenue-organization
3. Scaling Engineering Teams to the Fast Growth Challenges: The 20/40/80/160 Team Milestones
Our third favorite was presented by Pierre Alain Bouchard, a Director of Engineering at Zendesk. As SaaS enthusiasts, we couldn't miss the opportunity to learn from such a big player in the SaaS industry.
The Key Takeaways:
- According to Pierre, there are different milestones in terms of scaling engineering teams for every time team is doubled
- For a team of up to 20 people, operating an engineering group should be easy because of the focus on developing a product based on a roadmap and user feedback. Here, you shouldn't over-optimize the organization: you need to have flexibility. As soon as you reach 20 people, you will have to start planning work because the team will start to struggle to deliver. The first quality issues will occur because of the complexity of the product. At this point, you should also begin building autonomy around pieces of the product.
- Team of 40 people: you will encounter planning for a very long time in advance, as the team will again struggle to deliver on committed time. People who were going very fast will no longer be able to keep this speed. The first vital contributors will be leaving (as well as their knowledge of the insides of the product).
- At this stage, organizational models like "The Spotify Model" are not always the best choices to implement. You need to focus on fixing the gaps in your people management practices (career ladders, promotions, keeping people in the company) and diversifying the team (in terms of people skills and mindset). Try also to reduce (not remove) cross-team dependencies.
- Team of 80 people: here's when plenty of teams are going together, so you'll need to find a way of keeping their work flowing in the same direction. Planning deliveries is becoming hard. Legacy becomes more problematic, and maintenance takes a long time.
- At this point, you need to have the right engineering leadership in place focused on strategic alignment and communication. Establish company-wide tooling, frameworks, and processes to improve the velocity and the consistency of your teams.
- Team of 160+: business on that stage starts to be super complicated as engineering is now serving multiple businesses and services. Prioritization is very important, and you should be obsessed with the rule: "Keep It Simple Stupid." Consistency and efficiency should be more important than velocity. You need to provide your management team with all the information they need to make the right choices (including financial stats).
Watch the full presentation from SaaStr Live here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFzPLryKnIg&t=6500s
4. Five Keys to Sales & Marketing Alignment
Highspot CMO Jon Perera talked about his experience and learnings from scaling 2 businesses from $10M to over $100M ARR just by focusing on the alignment of those 2 departments.
We believe it's an incredible experience, and we were inspired by it immensely.
Those five simple but genius keys were:
- Shared Goals
- Truth: Open and Real communication
- One narrative
- The frozen middle: consistent execution
- One plan: consistent alignment
Here are the details of this presentation (which was totally packed with the audience, by the way): https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/five-keys-sales-marketing-alignment-jon-perera/?trackingId=MuW8mldURceH3CIU0G0eXg%3D%3D
5. SaaS Pricing Strategies that Work: How to Design an Optimal Pricing Model
Presented by Kurt Smith, a VP of Product, Strategy & General Manager of IQ at FastSpring, we managed to dive deeper into the aspects of SaaS pricing and how to boost revenue with the correct pricing model.
The Key Takeaways:
- Raising prices is normal, and customers are accustomed to it
- Price increases are more common in B2B than in B2C but are equally impactful.
- Inflation is one reason to consider a price increase, but there are many ways to respond to inflation (and ultimately, the right answer depends on your situation)
- Pricing is routinely the most under-optimized lever in SaaS. The best approach is to be highly iterative, so the earlier you start, the better.
- Helpful worksheet to create a pricing strategy: https://www.eloquens.com/tool/lqZsZz/marketing/pricing/pricing-worksheet
You can watch the full presentation on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFzPLryKnIg&t=2620s
Why go to SaaStr Europa?
Well, there are plenty of obvious reasons, like learning and sharing experiences about SaaS. But, here are our top 3 reasons to choose SaaStr among other similar conferences in Europe:
- Awesome location - combine the pleasant and the useful. We took the opportunity to see the magnificent Barcelona, and advise you to do the same in the following years!
- Smooth organization, which allowed us to avoid overcrowding even though there were thousands of visitors.
- Top-notch agenda full of great leaders to learn from.
What could be improved?
Even though we enjoyed the conference a lot, we believe that there's always space for improvement. That's why we couldn't but mention some suggestions to make the visitor's experience even better:
- The mobile app was sometimes quite laggy and didn't refresh the content.
- SaaStr could leverage more networking through the app like "Pitch and Match".
The Bottom Line
SaaStr is a go-to solution for businesses that are way past their startup era and are looking for advice or partnerships that will boost their further growth. And if you're a startup representative, don't come here looking for hands-on tips on how to set off. Finding mentors or investors - maybe. But be ready for hearing mainly scale-up lectures from big-name companies.
Overall, it's definitely worth visiting SaaStr for the sake of the unique connections you can make there and a number of exclusive experiences you can encounter in just 2 full days. So, if we've managed to convince you, we're looking forward to meeting you in person next year!