Dear SaaStr: How Can You Grow a SaaS Startup Without Spending a Ton on Sales and Marketing?

It’s hard but it can be done. A few examples:

  • Mailchimp was bootstrapped to $1,000,000,000 in ARR
  • Qualtrics was bootstrapped to a $6B acquisition
  • Atlassian was bootstrapped all the way to … today
  • $30B+ Veeva is very enterprise but only spent ~$3m in true venture capital. Close to bootstrapped.

The key is you have to be efficient somewhere. Mailchimp was 100% self-serve and viral enough to acquire customers cheaply. Qualtrics has a sales-led motion, but kept a very tight lid on costs until they could scale. And Atlassian is a classic PLG play, and used partners to do the heavy lifting in sales and enablement.

The stories aren’t all the same. PLG and self-serve aren’t magical. Sometimes, enterprise is more cost-efficient if you have a great sales motion. Sometimes, smaller deals can be more efficient since they close faster. Sometimes, bigger deals are more efficient because you don’t need as many sales reps.

What it takes is some low-cost way to generate leads, and a cost-effective way to close them.

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