How to make your product photography shine

The skill of product photography can benefit not only the product, but also the photographer. Here are some tips to get the most from your product photography.


How Samsung NEXT helps tech startups foster innovation

TechRepublic’s Teena Maddox talked to Brendon Kim from Samsung NEXT at SXSW about how his division works with technology startups to bring software and services innovation into Samsung.

Two Routes to Starting Great Startups: Audience Building and Consulting

Earlier this week I was at SalesLoft’s annual Rainmaker conference and couldn’t help but be in awe of the palpable energy from 1,000+ attendees. People were smiling, talking (go figure with a bunch of sales people attending a sales conference!), and genuinely excited to be there. After reflecting on the event, it reminded me of the early days of SalesLoft at the Atlanta Tech Village.

From the start of SalesLoft, Kyle Porter, the founder/CEO, focused on building a passionate audience of modern sales professionals through public speaking, blogging, and interviewing of sales leaders. Site traffic, email subscribers, and Twitter followers grew tremendously. Only, the company didn’t have a product sales people wanted — the first product was a nice-to-have and not a must have.

Despite limited commercial success with the first product, the passionate audience was there and growing. So, if the product isn’t working but there are a ton of fans of the company, the next step is to ask the them what they want. After many conversations, and more product iterations, sales engagement was identified as the next major opportunity in the sales technology market. Today, SalesLoft has thousands of paying customers and is one of the fastest growing startups in the country.

Now, contrast it to another amazing startup: Terminus. Terminus is the leader in account-based marketing and was founded by Eric Spett. The first year of Terminus was completely focused on consulting for marketers with an eye towards finding a product opportunity and turning it into a SaaS platform. And, that’s exactly what happened.

Consulting is generally a tough way to start a startup because it’s easy to get comfortable with a decent paycheck and not have the time to build a compelling product. Yet, consulting actually works well in that there’s a professional that needs a problem solved, and is willing to pay money to solve it — the perfect environment to do customer discovery. In the case of Terminus, as soon as the market opportunity was clear, the shift was made away from consulting and to full-on product development. Today, thousands of marketers use the Terminus product.

Ultimately, there are many different paths to success. Too often, entrepreneurs get enamored with their initial idea and don’t evolve it fast enough to meet the needs of the market. Building a passionate audience and doing consulting work are two different routes that get close to the customer and help accelerate success.


Founding Team 3H: Hustler, Hacker, and Hipster

Continuing with the idea of Team, Stream, and Not a Meme, it’s clear that it all starts with team. No matter how disruptive a trend or product that’s 10x better, without a strong team it’s going to be difficult to build a great company. Only, what’s the ideal founding team? Enter the hustler, hacker, and hipster.

  • Hustler – The consummate sales person that’s always pitching a new opportunity. Think about that guy or gal that’s selling candy at a markup in elementary school because there was demand and they couldn’t help but fill it.
  • Hacker – The builder that loves creating new products, for fun and for profit. This person is constantly tinkering and whips up a new prototype in 24 hours with ease.
  • Hipster – The user experience expert that wants to delight the customer through every product and company interaction. Every detail has to be authentic and true to the brand.

The hustler is typically the leader (CEO) save for the occasional hacker or hipster that comes up with the initial idea and brings it to life. Someone has to make the key decisions, and it’s critical that one of the founders be in charge.

Entrepreneurs would do well to be intentional about their founding team, and look for complementary skill sets like that of the hustler, hacker, and hipster.

What else? What some more thoughts on the founding team 3H of hustler, hacker, and hipster?


18 Ideas to Accelerate the City’s Entrepreneurial Trajectory

Last week I put out a tweet to collect ideas for accelerating the entrepreneurial trajectory of Atlanta, and received a number of excellent ideas. Now, none of these ideas are limited to Atlanta and most are needed in all cities.

Here are 18 ideas for accelerating entrepreneurship in a city:

  1. Run a billboard campaign highlighting local startups
  2. Provide free training and courses for local founders
  3. Develop and support free/subsidized office space for startups like the Atlanta Tech Village
  4. Organize an accelerator program like Y Combinator
  5. Launch a YouTube video channel of local startup stories
  6. Connect local mid-to-large companies with startups
  7. Get large companies to commit to working on their procurement process to accommodate a certain number of startups
  8. Drive a public relations campaign to spotlight local entrepreneurs
  9. Coordinate an “after hours” program for entrepreneurs that have full-time day jobs
  10. Facilitate formal internship programs across startups
  11. Engage with local K-12 schools and get kids involved in entrepreneurship at an early age
  12. Run speed dating events between entrepreneurs and angels
  13. Partner with the local universities to help more students build businesses while in college
  14. Educate potential angel investors so that they feel comfortable investing more
  15. Bootstrapping programs to help startups do more with less
  16. Curate entrepreneurs-in-residence that help startups
  17. Find local mentors that want to help startups with no ulterior motive
  18. Acquire housing options for startups

Wow, that’s a great list. I’m really excited about the ideas and eager to help accelerate the entrepreneurial growth in our community.

What else? What are some more ideas to accelerate a city’s entrepreneurial trajectory?


The Simply SaaS Forum – Network and Learn from SaaS Pros

Next month we’re hosting the first of many Simply SaaS Forums in the Southeast. Taking a page from Jason Lemkin and SaaStr Annual, we’ve set out to build a community for SaaS entrepreneurs and professionals that want to network and learn from other experts. The faster you learn, the faster you grow.

As for the structure, it’s a 4.5 hour event from 1-5:30pm with an optional dinner afterwards. Being in Atlanta, we have direct flights and short drives for more than 80 million people in the Southeast whereby you can travel here in the morning, get a tremendous amount of value in the afternoon, and be home that night without having to even get a hotel room. We understand the grind and are providing a program and format to take actionable insights across a variety of functions for SaaS pros.

As for the program, we’ve broken it out into sales, marketing, product/engineering, and people/culture followed by a founder discussion on scaling from $0 to millions in recurring revenue. Here’s our first lineup:

  • Tonni Bennett, VP of Sales at Terminus – Tonni will share her lessons learned as a sales leader growing Terminus from $0 to tens of millions in ARR.
  • Tami McQueen, Co-founder of 31south – Tami McQueen, formerly of SalesLoft, will share marketing lessons learned when growing SalesLoft into one of the largest sales engagement platforms on the market.
  • Hubert Liu, Engineering Lead at Atlanta Ventures – Hubert Liu will share experiences from his time as CTO at Rigor about what it takes to grow a product from $0 to Inc. 500.
  • Karen Houghton, VP of Atlanta Tech Village – Karen has been with Atlanta Tech Village since the beginning and will share lessons learned on building great culture for startups.
  • Craig Hyde, CEO of Rigor – Craig is the founder/CEO of Rigor and was recognized last year in the Inc. 500 as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States.

Overall, we’re on a mission to connect the Southeastern SaaS community with great content and programs to ultimately increase our quantity and scale of success. Please join us on our journey.


Venture-Backed SaaS Must Have a Fast Path to $100M Revenue

Rory O’Driscoll just published an excellent post titled Understanding the Mendoza Line for SaaS growth where he argues that the minimum requirement for a SaaS company to raise venture capital is a path to $100 million of revenue growing at least 25% at that milestone. Of course, as a startup grows the law of large numbers kicks in and fast growth becomes harder and harder. Historical data from SaaS companies that have gone public (considered best-in-class) shows that they typically grow between 80 and 85 percent of the prior year once past $10 million of revenue.

From the post, here’s an example with numbers:

  • Year 1 – Grew 120% from $4.5M to $10M
  • Year 2 – Grew 98% from $10M to $19.8M
  • Year 3 – Grew 81% from $19.8M to $34.8M
  • Year 4 – Grew 66% from $34.8M to $59.6M
  • Year 5 – Grew 54% from $59.6M to $91.9M
  • Year 6 – Grew 44% from $91.9M to $132.8M

SaaS entrepreneurs need to understand the calculus for raising venture capital and have the requisite growth rate to make it worthwhile.

Want to learn more? Head over and read Understanding the Mendoza Line for SaaS growth.


State of the Cloud 2018

Byron Deeter of Bessemer Venture Partners has an excellent slide deck titled State of the Cloud Report 2018. Byron and his team do an excellent job reviewing trends in the industry and predicting the next big areas for cloud-enabled B2B software.

Some notes:

  • Five largest companies in the world by market cap are tech companies
  • IPOs are sill below historical norm
  • Public cloud companies outperform the overall market
  • Many private companies are getting premiums compared to public companies due to faster growth rates
  • VC-backed startups exits have gone down the last three years
  • ARR growth rate from $1M to $10M is a major indicator (best is doing it in two years)
  • ARR Multiple divided by Year-over-Year (YoY) annual growth has stayed constant
  • Example: 10x ARR multiple divided by 150% YoY growth would be an ARRG value of 6.7x
  • Best valuations for SaaS startups as follows:
    • CARR revenue growth of 200% (e.g. tripled ARR in last 12 months)
    • CAC payback < 12 months
    • Churn is net negative
    • Cash flow efficiency > 1
  • Predictions:
    • Rise of serverless computing
    • API’s drive innovation
    • Blockchains finds a home in the enterprise
    • Payments-as-a-service
    • The move from system of record to system of results
    • The screenless software movement
    • Values create value
    • The cloud is flat; innovation outside the Valley

Interested in SaaS? Head over and read State of the Cloud Report 2018.