12 Amazing, Unique Sessions at SaaStr Annual to Check Out

Boy we’re getting close now to the 2018 Annual.

There are so many great sessions, picking will be tough.

But I wanted to highlight a baker’s dozen of super interesting sessions you might have missed that I think are pretty special / unique:

  • The Founder’s Guide to Starting an Incubator or Your Own Fund with Alex Bangash, Trusted Insight.  Ok this is a cool topic.  Alex has anchored top next-generation funds including Initialized, Science, SaaStr, Data Collective, EF, Heavybit, and many other leaders.  He’ll tell you how founders really raise their own funds, the honest stories, the odds, the economics, is it even worth it, everything.  Super cool.
  • Journey to Billion Dollar Exit with Dave Yarnold, CEO of Service Max.  Unicorns are shockingly common these days (strange days indeed), but this is one to catch.  Dave has been doing SaaS since the earliest days in sales, CEO and other leadership roles and took a tiny little start-up trying to do something niche-y on Salesforce — field marketing — and grew it into a $1b+ leader.  And sold it to GE — a good old fashioned centicorn.  This will be a great story, and a pretty different one than you usually hear.  Dave is honest, authentic, and someone special to learn from.
  • Facing Some Difficult Truths: From Burn-Out to $100m in ARR with Jason Cohen, Co-Founder WP Engine.  Burn-out and bringing in help is a topic we often tip toe around.  I think this will be one of the frankest sessions on the challenges in reinventing yourself as you go long.  Founder-to-founder.  I suspect this one will be special.
  • Human and Growth Lessons from $1m to $60m with Tracy Young, CEO Plangrid.  Tracy and I did a session at YC startup school last year, and she also joined the YC founder panel last year.  Her leadership stories and drive are always super perceptive to me — I always learn from her.  I asked her to do her own session this year on those lessons. Go to this one.

  • Fireside Chat with Dev Ittycheria (CEO MongoDB) + Jyoti Bansal (Founder AppDynamics).  I was excited when Dev agreed to speak this year, and Jyoti agreed to come back and speak again.  But then they did something better.  They teamed up.  Founder-to-founder on the challenges and struggles to build something enduring.  Dev IPO’d Mongo after a tremendous run-up.  Jyoti sold for $3.7b right as they were about to IPO.  How have their struggles and experiences changed and informed them?  I love sessions where 2 “old friends” talk.  These are the best stories.
  • David Kellogg: 10 Non-Obvious Things About Scaling SaaS.  Dave may be my favorite SaaS blogger (present company included).  He’s held CEO and C-level and SVP roles at so many SaaS leaders from Salesforce to Host Analytics now and more.  His lessons are human, real, and open — and he tells you what to do.  I asked him to pull together his Top 10 posts into a session.  I don’t think he’s ever done this before, and I expect it to be excellent.
  • ICO ❤️ SaaS:  How to Use an ICO in SaaS with Brian Brackeen, CEO Kairos.  Brian co-hosted our Miami Winter Social and is a super transparent, engaging CEO.  He’s going to tell us his learnings doing an ICO for a SaaS/B2D company.  I barely understand blockchain, let alone ICOs.  I am super interested in learning from Brian.
  • Tales of a Modern CEO with Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-CEO Atlassian and Michael Pryor, CEO Trello.  OK, Atlassian isn’t an undiscovered gem 🙂  But this session will be.  I asked Michael to come back and interview his “boss”.  This should be a very interesting format I haven’t seen before.  We’ll learn, I think, how things really get done at Atlassian, where work is just beginning, and what the real hard stories are and have been.  In the unique way you can only get out of someone on your management team.
  • How to Make Real Progress Hiring Diverse Talent with Damien Peters, Head of Product / dev/color and more.  Big thanks to Ryan Carson for pulling this session together, with an incredible panel.   We have about a dozen sessions on how to do better in diversity and inclusion this year.  I don’t want to pick a favorite, but this one could be it.  I want to learn how top leaders really make an impact.
  • Why CIOs Really Buy SaaS Products, with CIOs of Box, Zuora, Symantec and Nutanix.  Woah.  Don’t go if you are 100% freemium.  But if you are, or are trying to go upmarket, this session should be an open and honest gift.  Why CIOs pick one vendor over another.  How they assess risk.  How buying is changing in 2018 and beyond.

  • How to Double Sales in 30 Days with Sam Blond, CRO at RainforestQA.  I know Sam very well and he’s one of the most transparent and thoughtful sales leaders I know.  And three times, he’s doubled sales in 30-60 days.  He’ll tell us the truth on how to do it.  No Sony Baloney, no games, no trite sales, no qualitative squishy platitudes.  What it really takes to do this.  Don’t miss this one.
  • 10 Things I’d Do Even Better:  More Lessons Learned with Phil Fernandez, former CEO of Marketo.  Phil has spoken before, both at the ’16 Annual as a public company CEO and at the CoSellingSpace as a new venture partner at Shasta.  But this session will be special.  He spent a ton of time reflecting on his learnings, the things he did right but also could have done even better.  I think this will be one of the few chances you’ll have to get into the head of an amazing founder of a unicorn that IPO’d and sold, and has had enough time to reflect on the journey.

And finally, the session I’m most excited for:

  • Therese Tucker, CEO of Blackline: Busting the Myths about Startup Success.  Therese did it all the hard way.  No money, bootstrapping, slow growth, tough space.  Then after a decade of hard work — traction, scale, and finally last year, IPO.   Startups are hard.  Really hard.  Therese will share a different perspective than we get on TechCrunch.  I’ve been looking forward to this session for over a year.

These are just 13 gems.  There are so many others.  Sign up for your sessions now.

Published on February 1, 2018

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