Dear SaaStr: If I Whitelabel My SaaS Product, Will it Hurt Me on Branding?

Q: If I White-label my SaaS, will it hurt me on branding my own company?

Just do it. If it’s easy to do.

Lots of folks agonize over white-labelling. The brand benefits will go to my partner, not me. I’ll be valued less. Etc. etc.

But bear in mind a few things:

  • All money is green, all recurring money is ARR. If the revenue recurs, it counts.  White-labeled or not.
  • Customers often will figure it out, so you still get some brand benefits even if you are a while-labeled product. Unless you are truly a back-end provider like a Yext, the customers will figure it out. Your brand will shine through. Take, e.g. Twilio. Everyone knows what products run on Twilio, at least with a quick bit of Google diligence.
  • It’s a great opportunity to accelerate learnings. You’ll get pulled into new markets and new opportunities earlier than otherwise. This can be a gift.
  • Someone else will do it (i.e., a competitor) if you don’t.  Sometimes, that’s OK.  But oftentimes, you’ll regret it.
  • It hasn’t hurt Stripe, or Twilio, Algolia, or any API leader.  Most of them are effectively white-labelled.  You have no idea you are using them.

But … the real “hitch” is too much customizing. The last thing you want is to end up with two different platforms in the end.

We did whitelabelling in the first startup I worked at for a $1m TCV deal … and it ended up forking the platform. That was a disaster in the end, but probably worth it for $1m back then.

We did it again at Adobe Sign / EchoSign, but it was all on the exact same platform. Every feature was pushed to every customer and worked the same. Little distraction, there.

(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)

Published on June 1, 2021

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