What does Jason Lemkin think is the best way for an early stage SaaS company to get its first 1-3 pilot Fortune 500 paying customers?



It’s not magic.

There are basically two paths, and one predicate step

The predicate step is your product has to do >one< reasonably important thing that is 10x better than the “enterprise”-proven solutions already out there. So much better, just this one thing, that it’s worth it for a BigCo to take a risk on using you, not Salesforce-Oracle-Microsoft-Box-SAP-whatever.

If it’s not 10x better, no one is going to take the risk.

This doesn’t mean everything in your product is 10x better than the competition (of course). Just one important piece of it.

Related to this, the risk needs to be measured. No one is going to rip out Workday or SAP to try your product. The risk needs to be able to be contained. To one small group. One addition to a business product. Somehow — contained.

OK, so you have a feature-poor, insecure, buggy product but it does one interesting, important thing 10x better than all the legacy providers (which could also be paper or Excel) and can be tried without putting a job at risk.

So how do you get those customers?

Outbound or inbound.

You call call / email them (this is how I landed my first F500 customer in my first start-up).

Or you can wait for them to come to you. Tradeshows sometimes actually work well here. So does an insane amount of PR (this is how I did it the second time).

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Published on September 5, 2016

One Comment

  1. Hi Jason,

    I actually find myself in this exact situation. I have an early stage B2B SaaS startup, with a fully functional alpha stage product and in dire need of landing those 1-3 F500 pilot customers. I am actually locked to these financially more capable companies as they are the ones that can afford to have sandbox deployments and try my solution risk free.

    It’s a service that offers some amazing, game-changing, benefits in the field of on-line security, if only I was given the chance to explain. I contacted Twitter (CEO and CISO), I got no response although they’ve been hammered by account hijackings this year (including the CEO’s). I contacted WordPress and got to talk with the Marketing Director who did not forward my message upward and rejected it personally. And so on …

    I haven’t exhausted the list, as this solution could literally help any on-line service, but it would be awesome to improve my chances of being listened to. Do you have any suggestions about who the right person would be to cold call/email to have the proper authority to forward a message and generate a lead?


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