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SaaS Startups for Beginners

Startups and SaaS

The most easiest Startup integration for getting Funding

 

Vardhane Harsh

www.vardhaneharsh.com

 

email- [email protected]

 

 

 

This book is a compilation of what I’ve learned about managing SaaS Startups – particularly about how dealing with subscription metrics can mean the difference between the success and failure for your business.

 

 

 

 

Shakespir edition

© 2016 Vardhane Harsh

 

This book has been published under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. That means you are free to use it’s content verbatim or edited, but you must release new versions under the same license and you also have to give appropriate credit to Vardhane Harsh

Index

 

*
p<>{color:#00F;}. Chapter 1 Introduction

 

 

*
p<>{color:#00F;}. Chapter 2 Data Driven

 

 

*
p<>{color:#00F;}. Chapter 3 SaaS Metrics

 

Introduction

Day and Night you guys work on your innovative ideas to give them a shape of a successful Startup. Of Course the main hurdle you would be facing is funding.SaaS integration can help you a lot for getting that seed you think you deserve.Let me enlighten you on SaaS.

 

There’s an interesting fact behind business metrics: the more you use them, the more data-driven you become. I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to your heart and distrust your intuitions as an entrepreneur or manager, but one thing is true – once you truly tame your numbers you’ll never want to play without them again.

 

 

Entrepreneurs have no trouble on building awesome products, many however don’t know how to take their business to the next level. Clearly one of the ways of doing that is to have the skills and the discipline necessary to collect and analyze the relevant business data.

 

 

 

Running a subscription business radically changes your focus to monetizing long-term customer relationships. Businesses need to recognize that pricing, order management, metrics, financials and revenue all need to be handled differently in this new business model.

 

 

 

If you’re just looking at today’s revenues, you’re in for some nasty surprises. Churn, lifetime value, monthly recurring revenue (MRR), and Customer Acquisition Cost are leading indicators of later revenues and core metrics at the subscription economy.

Welcome to the subscription economy

 

 

The term “subscription economy” refers to the business of offering subscriptions to consumers. For some startups, their entire business relies on a subscription business model. Examples of these include Netflix, Spotify, Zipcar, and all SaaS startups such as Salesforce and HubSpot.

 

 

 

It’s actually not that new: the subscription business model has been around since our great-grandparents had their milk delivered to their door, but over the last two decades it has been increasingly adopted by technology and media startups. Businesses have been selling monthly subscriptions for all sorts of goods and services, offering anything from online software to food for a flat monthly fee.

 

 

 

Subscription is rapidly becoming the default business model for any company looking to accelerate growth, maximize cash, and increase its value. Currently, there is an increase in subscription startups as part of a larger shift from the product economy to the subscription economy. Businesses need to handle customer loyalty, pricing, and selling differently.

 

Why subscription business is different?

 

 

 

Running a subscription company means there is a continuing relationship with the customer. No longer does the business-customer relationship end with the swipe of a credit card.

 

 

Once you acquire a new customer you have recurring revenue,

which means you don’t have to worry about one-off sales every month. Different from traditional sales, it gives you new challenges such as retention and churn.

 

 

Complexity

 

On a subscription business there are more moving parts to every transaction. You’re looking for long-term contracts and commitments. You can’t just persuade a customer to buy something, knowing that we’ll get upset or feel betrayed and leave you the next day. Complexity perpetuates and builds.

 

 

 

 

Visibility

 

Internally, you can see far into the future – and external readers can’t see as much as they’d like. P&L is also more indicative of fundamental structure than of quarterly performance.

 

 

 

 

Speed

 

Business builds slowly – and sometimes expensively – over time.

Subscription business demands patience, no fix is quick. Actions you take today will have effect months or years later.

 

 

 

 

Measurement

 

Subscription business brings additional stress on finance teams and financial systems to provide the visibility for long-lead-time decision making, as well as to manage the complexity as the business grows.

 

 

 

 

A new customer behavior

 

 

 

Today, many powerful business platforms are easily accessible. In many cases, business users can get a 30-day free trial by simply sharing their email address. That’s a pretty low-risk requirement for a business buyer to check out a platform that could save them time and money on the job, help them collaborate better with teammates or create some impressive charts or graphs to add value to their next business initiative.

 

 

 

If a product provides value for today’s B2B market, a “tryer” will become a “buyer” by utilizing the platform on a trial basis with a current work project or initiative. If your product successfully adds value to a current initiative, that value will become associated with your company and your products.

 

 

 

Many subscription economy startups base their sales strategy on ways they can acquire the masses. By design, their strategy is to continuously provide more “free access” to increase usage, embed information, establish value and build loyalty. If done well, at some point, users of your “freemium model” are going to want to collaborate on projects with others, share more information and

have more security controls.

 

 

 

That’s when it happens. Your tryers officially become buyers. They raise their hands and cross the threshold into the world of a paying customer.

 

 

 

 

The shift to subscription

 

 

 

Last year, Adobe decided to move its software suite for creatives to the cloud. The transition was far from perfect, but the results have mostly been positive. The company says 20% of customers that are purchasing the updated online tools weren’t Adobe customers before the switch. And now that the software is cloud-based, Adobe can better track how customers are using it and constantly push updates to individual users.

 

 

 

Most of the complaints primarily seem to be coming from users who don’t wish to have every upgrade, or those who don’t need an entire suite of apps. However, Adobe’s managed to move over 500,000 cloud subscriptions in just under a year, so they’ve decided to ignore that hue and cry.

 

 

 

On the other hand users says many of the new upgrades are too good to resist, and spreading out the pain over time let them invest the bucks elsewhere – like the inevitable hardware updates required to keep such software running smoothly.

 

 

 

Other startups who have made the switch have found they’re able to attract a broader customer base by offering a subscription-based model, which has a much lower upfront cost to consumers. But the transition is sometimes easier on the customer than on the

company, where the transformation to a new business model can be incredibly disruptive to the way sales and marketing is run.

 

 

Why should your company consider it?

 

 

Paying customers means recurring revenue for your company, and it’s a driving factor behind a company’s decision to decide for the subscription model. It helps startups maintain profitability and make informed decisions about future operational initiatives, creating what Aaron Ross calls predictable revenue.

 

 

 

In the subscription model, sales process decisions are more likely to be focused on “buyer first,” versus the “product first” approach of traditional models. Internal conversations focus more on customer success metrics determined by changes in your customer acquisition cost, changes in your customer lifetime value and your success rate in upselling a percentage of your accounts to a premium product or service model.

 

 

 

This new approach requires a very different way of looking at your sales process and your overall business model. The luxury of having more predictability in your business model comes with some caveats: (1) the responsibility of successfully navigating scores of customer interactions and (2) the inherent risk that each interaction will either strengthen or weaken your customer experience.

 

 

 

Transitioning to or enabling integration of a subscription-based sales model will fundamentally change the way you operate your business. It will also affect many key functional areas of the organization.

History shows us that it worth the shot, and the present says that’s the future ahead of us. Are you ready to make the shift?

Recurring revenue

 

 

 

Recurring revenue is simply the portion of a company’s revenue that is highly likely to continue in the future. This is revenue that is predictable, stable and can be counted on in the future with a high degree of certainty.

 

 

 

Recurring revenue streams are usually based on a subscription business model. It’s common to use monthly and annually subscriptions – but the period may vary according to the business characteristics and its consumers.

 

 

 

According to John Warrillow, the author of the book “Built do Sell”, there are few things more important than recurring revenue for a business owner who is prepping to sell a company. Recurring revenue is predictable revenue that can be expected to continue in the future.

 

 

Warrillow ranked the six different types of recurring revenue, described on the list below:

 

 

 

 

Hard contracts

 

 

What’s the holy grail of recurring revenue? Look no further than your cell phone contract. “When the iPhone launched in the United States, AT&T insisted that you buy a three-year contract. Why? Because the stock value of AT&T mobile went up and down based on that contract revenue,” Warrillow says.

Auto renewal subscriptions

 

 

Even better than these two subscription models are the kinds of subscriptions that go on forever, or at least until a customer tells it to stop. In the world of recurring revenue this is known as an “evergreen.” Document storage subscriptions are good examples of evergreens.

 

 

 

 

Sunk money subscriptions

 

 

A sunk money subscription requires the initial purchase of a platform or product. A good example of this is the Amazon Kindle

 

– that requires you to buy the e-reader in order to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited read-all-you-want e-book subscription.

 

 

 

 

Straight-up subscriptions

 

 

These are finite subscriptions, like for magazines that offer an optional re-up period at the end of the contract.

 

 

 

 

Sunk money consumables

 

 

This is when a customer makes an initial investment in a platform. For example, what if instead of going to Starbucks, you prefer to make your own coffee at home, and purchase a $300 Nespresso coffee maker to prepare hundreds of cups over the long haul.

 

 

Now you need to buy the capsules to make it work. This means that as a consumer, you’ve bought a platform rather than just a product. In the world of recurring revenue, platforms trump products every day of the week.

 

Simple consumables

 

 

Are you desperate for a grande, three-pump cinnamon dolce, soy, no whip, no foam latte? Or maybe just a drip coffee? Either way, if you’re a loyal Starbucks customer you’re coming back for more of the company’s products.

 

 

 

Of course some models are better than others, and we don’t want customers to stay around because they’re tied to a contract, but because they actually can’t live without our product or service.

 

 

Subscriptions business with recurring revenue operates in a way that is fundamentally different than traditional business. Customers are the center of a subscription business, so key metrics are more often about customers than products.

 

 

 

Because the subscription economy is built on long-term customer relationships, the longer and stronger you can build these relationships, the more successful you’ll be.

 

 

 

What makes recurring revenue so valuable is that you can spend more of your energy growing your business rather than on trying to acquire enough new or repeat business just to hit the same revenue level you did the year before.

CHAPTER 2

 

Data-driven

 

It’s clear that embracing existing data is the most accurate, scalable and cost-effective solution for the subscription economy.

 

 

 

Unfortunately, most startups lack the advanced data integration capabilities needed to make it possible. For many, data is captured and stored across many different platforms and applications, making it almost impossible to gather and manage data that is constantly shifting.

 

 

 

Even harder, is to know exactly what to do with the data.

 

 

 

A business metric is a quantifiable measure that is used to track and assess the status of a specific business process. It’s important to note that business metrics should be employed to address key audiences surrounding a business, such as investors, customers and different types of employees, such as executives.

 

 

 

Every area of business has specific metrics that should be monitored – marketers track campaign and program statistics, sales teams monitor new opportunities and leads, and executives look at big picture financial metrics.

 

 

 

SaaS and subscription businesses are more complex than traditional businesses. Traditional business metrics totally fail to capture the key factors that drive SaaS performance.

In the SaaS world, there are a few key variables that make a big difference to future results. This section of the book is aimed at helping subscription professionals understand which variables really matter, and how to measure them and act on the results.

 

 

 

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of different metrics that can be measured in a subscription business, and that’s only considering the standards. If you sum up your own specific metrics – like product usage – the number of things to keep track gets insanely high.

 

 

 

The right thing to do is to focus on specific metrics according to the stage of your company. You don’t want to start a startup on your garage and measure EBITA from day one, right?

The right metrics for each stage of your SaaS business

 

 

For a subscription business, there are a few key metrics that need your undivided attention. And the priority of these metrics shift as you grow.

 

 

 

This means that instead of measuring dozens or hundreds of different metrics, you should start with the core only and evolve from there – as your business grows and demands more control and higher complexity.

 

 

 

The following guideline will help you:

 

 

 

*
p)<>{color:#000;}. By focusing only on the key metrics, you’ll also be focusing on the core problems you need to solve to get your business to the next level;

 

 

*
p)<>{color:#000;}. Data doesn’t do you any good unless you act on it. Each of these metrics clearly tells you how you’re doing. Right away, you’ll know where you need to spend your time;

 

 

*
p)<>{color:#000;}. Each stage complements the previous one with more comprehensive and complex metrics. You probably want to add (not remove) metrics along the way.

Metrics are limitless. You can segment and cross-reference almost any data point, such as customers by region, size, industry – revenue, customers and churn growth month-over-month, year-over-year and etc. There are hundreds if not thousands of possible combinations.

 

 

 

But be careful: there’s a thin line between not going deep enough and over-measuring your business numbers.

 

 

 

What we’re going to see in the next chapter is an overview of the most important metrics for any subscription business, but keep in mind that it’s up to you to decide what should be measured.

CHAPTER 3

 

SaaS Metrics

 

The list below describes the definition, characteristics and formulas of some core SaaS and subscription metrics. We’re focusing on 6 key metrics that are probably the most important of all – no matter your company’s stage.

 

 

 

There are different ways to calculate each one of them. We’re presenting the most accepted and well-know formulas – but it’s ok if you do it differently.

Monthly Recurring Revenue MRR

 

 

 

 

What is MRR?

 

 

 

Monthly Recurring Revenue, almost always referred as MRR, is probably the most important metric at all of any subscription business. It’s what makes this business model so great.

 

 

 

The general concept is that MRR is a measure of the predicable and recurring revenue components of your subscription business. It will typically exclude one-time and variable fees, but for month-to-month businesses could include such items.

 

 

 

As the names says, MRR represents recurring revenue on a monthly basis, but it could me measured as ARR (Annual Run Rate), which is simply MRR * 12.

How to calculate MRR?

 

 

 

 

Customer-by-customer

 

 

The better way of doing it is to simply sum the monthly fee paid by every single customer. Let’s say you have Customer A paying $200/mo and Customer B paying $100/mo. Your MRR would be $300.

 

 

 

See that each customer may be paying a different amount of money – since you can have different plans or event different products in your portfolio.

 

 

 

MRR = SUM (Paying customers monthly fee)

 

 

 

 

Average revenue per account

 

 

An easier way to calculate it is using the ARPA. Once you know the average revenue per account – some times called ARPU (average revenue per user) – all you should do is multiply the total number of paying customers by the average revenue each customer is bringing in. So let’s say you have 10 paying customers and an average amount of $100/mo, your MRR would be $1,000.

 

 

 

MRR = ARPA * Total # of Customers

 

 

 

 

How to calculate MRR growth?

You might think that if you acquire more customers you MRR would grow, right? That’s true, but not the only aspect to be considered on a subscription business model. To analyze MRR – and specially MRR growth – we should consider three different aspects of MRR:

 

 

 

 

New MRR

 

 

New MRR is the simply new revenue brought by newly customers acquired. So let’s say you have acquired on a given month 5 new customers paying $100/mo and 2 new customers $200/mo. Your New MRR for that month would be $900.

 

 

 

 

Expansion MRR

 

 

Now image that you have 3 customers that upgrade their plans from $100/mo to $200/mo. That means you have expanded your revenue from existing customers, we call that Expansion MRR. Your Expansion MRR for that month would be $300.

 

 

 

Keep in mind that Expansion MRR can come from upselling (customers upgrading theirs plans) or cross-selling (customers buying additional products or services).

 

 

 

 

Churned MRR

 

 

And you should also consider churn. Churned MRR is the revenue that has been lost from customers cancelling or downgrading their plans.

 

 

 

So let’s say on a given month you had 2 cancellations of $100/mo

plans and other 3 customers downgraded their plans from $200/mo to $100/mo. You Churned MRR would be $500.

 

 

 

It simply means that you’ll have minus $500 on recurring revenue for next month. Keep in mind that MRR churn is different from customer churn.

 

 

 

 

MRR Growth

 

 

Finally, to calculate your MRR growth you should actually consider all these three aspects on a formula.

 

 

 

Net New MRR = New MRR + Expansion MRR – Churned MRR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What about annual plans?

 

 

 

If you don’t bill on a monthly basis, you should normalize your revenue in a monthly amount in order to measure MRR.

So if you have a $1,200 yearly plan, you’d just divide by 12, which would give you $100 MRR. In case you bill quarterly, you’d divide by 4.

 

 

 

You can also do the other way round to measure the Annual Run Rate, or simply ARR, by multiplying you MRR per 12.

Customer Lifetime Value LTV

 

 

 

 

What is LTV?

 

 

 

Customer Lifetime Value, usually referred as LTV (sometimes as CLTV or CLV) measures the profit your business makes from any given customer.

 

 

 

The purpose of the customer lifetime value metric is to assess the financial value of each customer, or from a typical customer in case you’re measuring it generally.

 

 

 

Customer lifetime value helps you make important business decisions about sales, marketing, product development, and customer support, such as:

 

 

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How much should I spend to acquire a customer?

 

 

*
p)<>{color:#000;}. Who are my best customers? How can I offer products and services tailored for them?

 

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How much should I spend to service and retain a customer?

 

 

*
p)<>{color:#000;}. What types of customers should sales representatives spend the most time on prospection?

How to calculate LTV?

 

 

 

To calculate Customer Lifetime Value we need three variables:

 

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. ARPA (Average Revenue per Account);

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Churn Rate or Avg. Lifetime;

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Gross Margin.

 

 

 

The simplest way to calculate it is just multiplying ARPA versus the Customer Average Lifetime (how many months your customer stays as subscribers, on average).

 

 

 

LTV = ARPA * Avg. Lifetime

 

 

 

To calculate the Average Lifetime you can simply do:

 

 

 

Avg. Lifetime = 1 / Churn Rate

 

 

 

The best way to calculate it takes into consideration Gross Margin. To do it you should take the revenue you earn from a customer, subtract out the money spent on serving them, and see for how long they stay bringing you this profit before churning.

 

LTV = ARPA * % Gross Margin / % MRR Churn Rate

 

 

 

Improving your Customer Lifetime Value can have dramatic impacts throughout your business.

 

 

 

So you should always be looking for higher ARPA (customers paying you more money), higher Gross Margin (costing less to

produce) and lower Churn Rate (paying you for a longer time).

 

 

 

 

Customer Profitability

 

 

 

Some sources may refer this calculation as CP (Customers Profitability) instead of LTV, in a way that CP represents the difference between the revenues earned from and the costs associated with the customer relationship during a specified period; and LTV represents the present value of the future cash flows attributed to the customer relationship.

 

 

 

Although there’s no common agreement, in SaaS we tend to use LTV only.

Customer Acquisition Cost CAC

 

 

 

 

What is CAC?

 

 

 

Customer Acquisition Cost, or simply CAC, refers to the resources that a business must allocate (financial or otherwise) in order to acquire an additional customer.

 

 

 

It includes every single effort necessary to introduce your products and services to potential customers, and then convince them to buy and become active customers.

 

 

 

Some common sales & marketing expenses are: paid advertisement, sales and marketing staff salaries, CRM and marketing automation software licenses, events, sponsorships, gifts to customers, content production, social media and web site maintenance and more.

 

 

How to calculate CAC?

 

 

 

 

Conversion rates per sales funnel stage

 

 

One way to calculate CAC is to consider the three variables that compose it. This method allows you to go into detail and might give you good insights about your sales process cost and conversions, but can be tricky to get right.

 

 

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. CPL (Cost Per Lead) (e.g. marketing costs);

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Touch cost (e.g. sales staff salaries);

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Conversion rates at each stage of the sales process.

 

 

 

CAC = (CPL + Touch cost per customer) * Conversion rate

 

 

 

 

Sales & Marketing expenses

 

 

An easier way to do it is sum all of your Sales & Marketing expenses and divide it by the number of customers acquired on a given period. So let’s say you’ve spend $1,000 this month on sales & marketing and have acquired 5 news customers. Your CAC would be $200, which means you’ve spent $200 to bring each new customer in.

 

 

 

CAC = Total Sales & Marketing Expenses / # of New Customers

CAC and LTV

 

 

 

It’s important to notice that CAC is fairly meaningless without knowing the LTV (Customer Lifetime Value). That is, the ability to monetize a customer. And every company is different, so it isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario; though generally, the more expensive the product, the higher the CAC will be.

 

 

 

CAC plays a major role in calculating the value of the customer to the company and the resulting return on investment (ROI) of acquisition. The calculation of customer valuation helps a company decide how much of its resources can be profitably spent on a particular customer. In general terms, it helps to decide the worth of the customer to the company.

 

 

 

The business challenge is to balance one against the other. Specific numbers are less important than the ratio between them. In any business model the goal is to minimize CAC while maximizing LTV. The best SaaS businesses have a LTV to CAC ratio that is higher than 3, sometimes as high as 7 or 8.

Average Revenue per Account ARPA

 

 

 

 

What is ARPA?

 

 

 

Average Revenue per Account (sometimes known as Average Revenue per User or per Unit), usually abbreviated to ARPA, is a measure of the revenue generated per account, typically per year or month.

 

 

 

You could also say that it represents the Average Revenue per Customer, but remember that a customer may have more than one account depending on your product/services characteristics.

 

 

 

Average revenue per account allows for the analysis of a company’s revenue generation and growth at the per-unit level, which can help investors to identify which products are high or low revenue-generators.

 

 

 

 

How to calculate ARPA?

 

 

 

To calculate the ARPA, a standard time period must be defined. Most subscription business operates monthly but you can always calculate it yearly or quarterly according to your plans and billing options.

 

The total revenue generated by all customers (paying subscribers) during that period should be divided by the number total number of customers.

ARPA = MRR / Total # of Customers

 

 

 

 

New Accounts vs. Existing Accounts

 

 

 

There is a good practice of measuring the Average Revenue per Account separately for new customers. So instead of having an ARPA metric for all your customers, you’d have two different metrics: Average Revenue per Existing Account and Average Revenue per New Account.

 

 

 

That way you can have a sense of how your ARPA is evolving and how new customers are behaving if compared to existing ones. Are they more willing to accept cross selling and/or up selling? Measure it separately and you’ll know.

 

 

 

The way of calculating it remains the same, the only different is that you’re doing it with two different clusters, instead of doing it all at once.

Churn

 

 

 

 

What is Churn?

 

 

 

Churn is the enemy of any subscription company.

 

 

 

In a general definition, churn is the number or percentage of subscribers to a service that discontinue their subscription to that service in a given time period. In order for a company to expand its clients base, its growth rate (number of new customers) must exceed its churn rate (number of lost customers).

 

 

 

 

Why customers churn?

 

 

Churn is inevitable. It’s impossible to guarantee that all your customers will remain being your customers forever, because churn happens for a variety of reasons. A few examples of why your customers may discontinue their subscription to your service:

 

 

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Customer out of budget/can’t afford the subscription fee;

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Customer can’t see/get the value our of your product;

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Your product lacks quality/features;

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Your product is good but customer service is not;

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Changed to a competitor’s product;

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Your B2B customer is bankrupted;

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Your B2B customer has been acquired.

As you can see there are some events and variables that are out of your control and there’s almost nothing you can do. But the good news is that – in most cases – customer churn reason is under your control, like product quality, price and customer service.

 

 

 

 

How to reduce churn?

 

 

Your challenge is to deeply understand your customers’ engagement and satisfaction (using standards like Net Promoter Score) and then try to fix the problems that are under your control to prevent and reduce churn.

 

 

 

Churn analysis may lead to a new product roadmap to include/exclude product features, to invest in a higher quality product support or even changing your pricing model.

 

 

 

The best way of doing it is by making your product indispensable. It should make part of users daily workflow. Provide frequent value that they can’t live without. A good strategy is to engage with your customers using email, SMS and any kind of notifications to remind them you’re there for them.

 

 

 

Considering creating email reports showing the most important information/value your product provide to them.

 

 

 

 

Customer Churn vs. Revenue Churn

 

 

It’s important to notice that Customer Churn is different from Revenue Churn. Customer Churn refers to the number of customers that have discontinued their subscription on a given

period. Revenue Churn is how much those lost customers represents in revenue.

 

 

 

Let’s say your product has a $10/mo and a $100 pricing plan. Loosing 5 customers paying $10/mo still good if compared to loosing one single customer paying $100/mo. That’s why Revenue Churn (usually referred as MRR Churn) is more important than Customer or User Churn.

 

How to calculate Churn?

 

 

 

 

Customer Churn

 

 

For example, if 1 out of every 20 subscribers to your service discontinued his or her subscription every month, the churn rate for your service would be 5%. See that churn rate must be calculated for a given period, usually a year or a month.

 

 

 

To calculate churn, all you should do is to sum the number of customers that have discontinued their subscription on a given period. In case you sum all the churned customers in a month you’ll have monthly churn, or if you sum all the customers churned in a year, you’ll have yearly churn – and so on.

 

 

 

Churn = # of Churned Customer

 

 

 

Or you can calculate churn rate, representing the percentage of churned customers compared to total number of customers.

 

 

 

Churn = # of Churned Customer / Last Month # of Customers

 

 

 

 

Revenue Churn

 

 

Let’s say that 3 customers have discontinued their subscriptions to your service on a given month. Now let’s consider that the first customer was paying $10/mo, the second was paying $50/mo and the third was paying $100/mo.

Your revenue churn would be the sum of this subscription fees that will no longer come into your pockets next month, so $160.

 

 

 

MRR Churn = SUM (MRR of Churned Customer)

 

 

 

MRR Churn can also be represented in a percentage, referring to how much it represents of your total MRR.

 

 

 

MRR Churn % = Churned MRR / Last Month’s Ending MRR

 

 

 

 

Negative Churn

 

 

Negative Churn is the dream of every SaaS/subscription entrepreneur. It happens when the expansions/up-sells/cross-sells to your current customer base exceed the revenue that you are losing because of Churn.

 

 

 

Getting to negative churn requires that you can do one or more of the following three things:

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Expansions

 

Pricing model that increases according to usage growth;

 

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Up-sell

 

Customers moving to a more highly featured versions;

 

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Cross-sell

 

Customers to purchase additional products or services.

 

 

 

Keep in mind that is not easy to make negative churn happen. As

David Skok says on a blog post “Why churn is critical in SaaS”, in the first 12-24 months of your business it is frequently too early to figure this out. At this stage it is more important to get broad customer adoption, and that often means simple pricing that leaves something on the table for your customers.

 

 

 

 

What’s an acceptable Churn Rate?

 

 

 

Off course the best answer for this question is “as low as possible”, but we know things are not that simple.

 

 

 

An acceptable churn rate depends on two main factors: your target customers and your company’s size/moment. Keep in mind that – if you’re doing a good job – your churn rate tend to drop over the time, so this references I’m about to give you should be considered for startups around 2 years old.

 

 

 

 

Very Small Business

 

 

If you’re selling to in selling to VSBs (very small business) even the most valuable services will churn at a significant rate no matter what. Unlike large startups, a VSB will have very little upsell opportunities unless the company itself grows, and many will go under or change business direction.

 

 

 

 

Small and Medium Business

 

 

If you’re selling to SMBs (small and medium business) an acceptable churn rate reference would be around 3-5% monthly, but you really should target zero or negative churn. Another good

reference would be < 10% annually for more healthy business.

 

 

 

 

Enterprise Level

 

 

If your targeting big corps with tickets higher than 5-digit/mo your churn rate should be under 1% and going down proportionally to your revenue growth. Enterprise SaaS is only a success if you are adding more net revenue from large-ish customers each year than you had the year before.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization EBITDA

 

 

 

 

What is EBITDA?

 

 

 

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, is a measure of a company’s operating efficiency. EBITDA is a way to measure profits without having to consider other factors such as financing costs (interest), accounting practices (depreciation and amortization) and tax tables.

 

 

 

Calculating EBITDA is usually a fairly simple process and, in most cases, requires only the information on a company’s income statement and/or cash flow statement.

 

 

 

 

The usage of EBITDA

 

 

 

 

Pros

 

 

EBITDA is probably the most used financial metric for startups and SaaS startups. It is well known by entrepreneurs and investors, usually used as the main indicator of operating efficiency for valuations and investment rounds.

 

 

 

It can also be used to compare startups against each other and against industry averages. In addition, EBITDA is a good measure

of core profit trends because it eliminates some of the extraneous factors and allows a more “apples-to-apples” comparison.

 

 

 

 

Cons

 

 

While EBITDA may be a widely accepted indicator of performance, using it as a single measure of earnings or cash flow can be very misleading. In the absence of other considerations, EBITDA provides an incomplete and dangerous picture of financial health.

 

 

 

A common misconception is that EBITDA represents cash earnings. EBITDA is a good metric to evaluate profitability, but not cash flow. EBITDA also leaves out the cash required to fund working capital and the replacement of old equipment, which can be significant.

 

 

 

 

How to calculate EBITDA?

 

 

 

To calculate EBITDA, a business must know its income, expenses, interest, taxes, deprecation (the loss in value of operational assets, such as equipment) and amortization, which is expenses for intangible assets, such as patents, that are spread out over a number of years.

 

With those numbers in hand, the formula is:

 

 

 

EBITDA = Revenue – Expenses*

 

*Excluding taxes, interest, depreciation and amortization.

 

 

 

Or, more simply, it equals net income plus interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Keep in mind that EBITDA and any other financial metric should be calculated by an authorized accountant.

Custom metrics

 

 

 

It’s important keep in mind that it’s crucial that you identify your key custom metrics and measure them together with the industry standard metrics.

 

 

 

Imagine a company like Slack – they surely measure the number of messages exchanged between their users, channels and etc.

 

 

 

These custom metrics are known as “leading indicators of engaged users”. The idea consists on finding a leading indicator of a user who would turn into an engaged user later on. The growth team would then focus on optimizing for that metric.

 

 

 

Here is how some startups thought about that indicator:

 

 

 

 

Slack

 

Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, said that based on their experience with startups that stuck with them, any team that has exchanged 2,000 messages in its history really tried Slack.

 

 

 

 

Facebook

 

Chamath Palihapitiya, who used to run Facebook’s growth team, said that Facebook’s leading indicator of an engaged user later on was the user reaching 7 friends within 10 days of signing up.

Zynga

 

Nabeel Hyatt, a VC at Spark Capital, and formerly a GM at Zynga, running a 40m monthly active user game there, said that Zynga focuses on D1 retention (day 1 retention). Zynga has found that if someone comes back a day after signing up for a game, that is a leading indicator of them becoming an engaged and paying user.

 

 

 

 

Dropbox

 

ChenLi Wang, who runs the growth team at Dropbox, said that the leading indicator of an engaged Dropbox user is when they put at least one file in one Dropbox folder on one device.

 

 

 

 

Twitter

 

Josh Elman, a venture capitalist at Greylock Partners, and a former growth lead at Twitter, said that the leading indicator of engagement at Twitter was related to Facebook’s metric: the user following a certain number of people, and a certain percentage of those people following the user back.

 

 

 

You can work to find this leading indicator in many different ways, including running advanced analytics algorithms such as linear regression – but no matter how you do – make sure to know it.

Conclusions

 

 

I believe you’re not reading this book by accident. You probably is running or working on a SaaS/subscription startup – and you probably already know the taste of recurring revenue.

 

 

 

I firmly believe we’re living the subscription economy, and we’re just taking off. As the venture capitalist Tomasz Tunguz said on his blog, although we may have been talking about SaaS startups for more than a decade, we’re still just at the beginning.

 

 

 

The legacy software startups including Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and IBM control 83% of the market cap of software businesses, representing $830B in market cap. The largest SaaS company, Salesforce, is just about half the size of SAP, and Microsoft is 8x bigger.

 

 

 

The SaaS market is getting huge, but it stills only a piece of the subscription economy. As in any other business – metrics play a crucial part on the startups growth, and there’s still a lot to learn and to be discovered.

 

 

 

We hope you’ve liked the book and that it can be truly useful in your work. Try to put things in practice and start measuring key metrics today. Start small and stay resilient.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have any comments about this book? A different opinion? Feel free to reach me out.

 

 

 

Share your feedback:

 

Email us at: [email protected]

 

www.vardhaneharsh.com

About the author

 

 

 

Vardhane Harsh

Be it writing a Marketing book at 19 or Opening a Publishing company at 20,Vardhane Harsh is a man of Entrepreneurial Excellence.As a Consultant Marketer for Start ups,He Designs and manages Product based Campaign Strategies , Leads Marketing Teams to their targets and Plays key roles in Client Procurements and Brand Induction and Management. His recent new role as a Capital Adviser has already made him popular among mid level Venture Capitalists and Investors


SaaS Startups for Beginners

Software as a service (or SaaS) is a way of delivering applications over the Internet—as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the Internet, freeing yourself from complex software and hardware management.A good way to understand the SaaS model is by thinking of a bank, which protects the privacy of each customer while providing service that is reliable and secure—on a massive scale. A bank’s customers all use the same financial systems and technology without worrying about anyone accessing their personal information without authorization.Anyone familiar with Amazon.com or My Yahoo! will be familiar with the Web interface of typical SaaS applications. With the SaaS model, you can customise with point-and-click ease, making the weeks or months it takes to update traditional business software seem hopelessly old fashioned. This book provides the basics of SaaS alongwith giving you some basic insights into how to integrate it into your current startup model.

  • ISBN: 9781310429026
  • Author: V.H. Book Studio
  • Published: 2016-03-17 09:05:27
  • Words: 6246
SaaS Startups for Beginners SaaS Startups for Beginners