On this episode of the podcast I interview Alex Theuma, the founder of SaaStock, the first and leading conference dedicated to SaaS companies in Europe.
We discuss the effect of COVID-19 on SaaS companies, the future of online events and how SaaS companies can successfully pivot their businesses.
How Alex started SaaStock
He initially started with a blog and he later created a podcast called the SaaS revolution show which is still going strong after 5 years.
After conducting some meetups, a lot of people started clamoring for a SaaS conference in Europe and told him that he should do it. This led him to quit his job and go all in on creating the conference.
They had five conferences in five different continents last year, the biggest one was in Dublin which featured about 4000 attendees from 74 different countries.
How SaaStock pivoted their approach to hosting their conferences
Their initial plan was to host four conferences this year. They planned to host a conference in Brazil in May, one in San Francisco in June, one in Singapore in September, and the annual flagship conference in Dublin.
They noticed the first cases of COVID worldwide around February, and also saw the problems in Italy and other European countries. They also noticed that about 150 conferences had been cancelled, this made them realize how real the situation was and they had to cancel all their conferences for the year because they did not believe it will be safe to hold them.
The team examined a lot of options they could adopt as a replacement to running in person conferences and they concluded that online conferences was the best option that they could execute with their existing skill set.
They held an online event in June and about 3000 people registered for it.
Their flagship Dublin event is now SaaStock EMEA Online and it is taking place between October 12-15, 2020.
The positive and negative effects of the COVID pandemic on SaaS companies
On the positive side we have seen about 10 years’ worth of digital transformation in about two months because everyone is forced to work from home and there is a new suite of tools that businesses need to run successfully in this environment. The stock market for SaaS companies has never been better as we have seen companies like Zoom, Twilio and Shopify experience massive growth.
For SaaS companies that are non-essential or not really embedded in the workflow that businesses need during this period, they might notice a significant amount of churn.
He spoke with Joel Gascoigne from Buffer on the SaaS revolution podcast and he said that they were about $22 million ARR pre-COVID and they have lost about $1 million in ARR because a lot of businesses are looking at cutting costs so they cancelled some of their subscriptions.
A lot of startups that are still in the early stage and haven’t found product market fit have had to cut their team size and growth plans.
Massive rise of Online Events Tech Platforms
As a result of COVID, there has been a massive rise of online tech platform because you can’t attend in person events, There are great platforms like Hopin which allow you to do multiple stages of content such as breakout sessions, roundtables, virtual expo areas and networking.
Hopin rushed out of beta this year because of COVID, they raised about $6 million seed at the beginning of the year and about three months later they raised a $40 million series from Salesforce ventures.
It will be interesting to see if these companies will be able to sustain their rapid growth when it is possible to host in person events,
How Envoy successfully pivoted as a result of the pandemic
He spoke with Larry Gadea who is the CEO of Envoy, a tool which was backed by Andreessen Horowitz initially for their seed round.
Envoy is a tool that is used at offices. When you go into an office for a meeting you will see an iPad or a tablet there and instead of speaking to the receptionist you can type in your name and title. You can then specify who you want to see and the message will be delivered to the person, the person can then come down to see you or send you to their office.
As a result of the pandemic nobody is really going to the office so their revenue must have taken a hit.
They have sort of pivoted to creating a product which makes it safe for you to go to work. You can look at your app and find out who is in the office, check if anyone isn’t feeling so well or find out if someone has had COVID.
They have pivoted from a product that helps you speed up the way you enter into an office to a product that saves lives.
The future of SaaS conferences and the reinvention of SaaStock
SaaS conferences are going to adopt an hybrid model which involves a mix of online and in person conferences.
COVID was a big moment for SaaStock and it highlighted the need for reinventing the business. It made him think deeply about diversifying their revenue because when they lost their conference revenue, they had nothing.
It made them think about how to create more value to their community outside of their conferences.
They are thinking of launching their SaaS platform in September, they want to solve the problem around startups and investors, startups getting fundraising and how to solve problems in this line.
They plan to have their MVP out in October and they want to use a low code or no code sort of platform to build it out.
SaaStock – Helping SaaS companies gain traction, grow, and scale
Envoy – Envoy makes workplaces safe — no matter what
Hopin – Online venue for virtual events
Buffer – Simpler social media tools for authentic engagement
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