SaaS: Maybe Plan for 30+ Years as a Founder

A ways back on SaaSr, we wrote that it takes 7-10 years to get anywhere real in SaaS.  It’s still true today.  It usually takes 1-2 years to get to product-market fit, another few generally to get to $10m+ in ARR, and then a steady march to $100m in 7-10 years.  And that’s if you build something exceptional.  It can take longer.  And it can seem long at the time.  Very long.

But fast forward to today, and we’re getting to SaaS companies that are crossing into their third decade in operation — and not slowing down!

Mailchimp was acquired for $12B at $1B in ARR (!) according to Forbes, bootstrapped all the way.  But it wasn’t done in a year or three.  Mailchimp was founded in 2001 and was acquired for $12B after … 20 years.  And as CEO Ben Chestnut noted below, the first 17-18 years or so were “just a warm-up” 🙂

The same with Salesforce as it crossed 20.  At $30B in ARR in fact, after 23 years, it’s growing faster than it has in years:

Here’s a quick look at a few next-generation SaaS leaders from Atlassian to RingCentral that will soon be in their third decade of operation … and are adding more revenue per year than ever before:

Even Oracle is probably only reaching its revenue peak now.  It’s finally stopped growing this year.  And it was founded in 1977.  Well, well before The Cloud.  It’s hard to kill these things, once they get good.

Power laws are an annoying concept VCs talk a lot about.  But they are also real and true.  The best SaaS companies just keep going, and breeze past $100m+ in ARR.

If you have something — go long.  You can do it for 30+ years in SaaS.  If you want.

Decacorns are here in SaaS, and it’s because the Cloud is far bigger than any of us thought.  And it’s still growing.

Published on October 8, 2018

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