Getting to Initial Traction

Unfortunately, We (Probably) Have No Idea If Your SaaS Idea is Any Good'

Jason Lemkin

Here’s the thing in SaaS:  I appreciate you asking me.  But, honestly, generally speaking — I probably have no idea if your pre-launch SaaS idea is any good.  So no need even to show me any deck, any static demo, any mock-ups of your product-to-be.  Because I have no idea if it’s truly a great idea.

Why?  First, in SaaS, there’s nothing new under the sun, for the most part.  Another vertical CRM app?  Another syncing app?  Another social monitoring service?  A sales enablement solution?  A prettier HCM app?  I mean, sure, sounds great.  The more, the merrier.

Second, related to the First, making something in SaaS 10x better is all in the execution and the team + market.  There is no Torando like in consumer internet, or at least, the Tornado is slow and after the Chasm.  You need luck to make it in SaaS — a lot of it.  But you can’t luck into pre-revenue SaaS success.

Third, you can’t do cr*p with a seed investment in SaaS.  So it’s hard to just make a series of bets in cool ideas, and hope a few nickels and dimes create the next InstaPinterGram.

So not only can I not tell you if your SaaS idea is any good — really, I’m not sure anyone can unless you find a deep domain expert in your SaaS space.  Yes, I can tell you if your e-signature or e-contract or, possibly, e-document SaaS start-up is a good idea.  But beyond that, it’s a stretch.  And the deep domain experts will probably all be critical anyway.  I’d ignore them.

But here’s how your advisors/peers/friends/potential investors can help:

  • Challenge you if you have the right DNA on the team, or at least know how to get it.  SaaS benefits from experience.  It’s good for Old People.
  • Challenge you if you really understand your go-to-market plan.  Even if you can build it, can you actually sell it?  If not, even best case, you’ll probably run out of time/money.
  • Challenge you if you have the proper commitment to SaaS.  It’s a 72-month slog.  Are you really up for it?  Really?
  • Challenge you if you really understand your market.  Is it really ripe for change?  Is your product really 10x better?  Can you really change behavior vs. the entrenched players?  Even if you do all this, are you in an attractive enough segment ever to have a liquidity event?
  • Challenge you if your capital plan makes any sense.

So I and others can help you a lot.  But really, tell you if your pre-launch SaaS company is great?  We almost certainly have no idea if the pure idea is any good.  I don’t think almost anybody does.  We can just help you figure out if your approach is thoughtful or flawed (or both), and if you’re planted in the right direction.

Published on November 8, 2012
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