📕 Private SaaS Valuations in 2019; The Right Way to Test Your Growth Hypothesis; The Art of Persuasion

On Monday, Salesforce stole Google’s thunder by acquiring data visualization tool Tableau. The price tag—a cool $15.7B, 6x what Google spent on Looker. Logi Analytics also made a little data visualization splash of their own by grabbing Zoomdata. Three business intelligence consolidations of this magnitude in ONE WEEK is far from ordinary, and likely a reaction to big players discounting their BI services. We wouldn’t be shocked to see more to come.


🧙‍♂️ SaaS Capital has a knack for taking public valuations and identifying a private market discount rate to assess how the two differ. In their 2019 report, the magic number ended up being 2x TTM (trailing twelve months)—meaning that on average, a private SaaS company will sell for roughly 2 times less than a public one. Everyone knows growth rate is king, and below, you can see what your business is worth based on that metric. It’s important to note that company size is not accounted for here, and the smaller you are, the lower the multiple you will likely receive.


🚀 We aren’t sure what’s more cliche, using rocket ships to illustrate growth or the phrase “growth hacking”, but we’d probably go with the latter. Despite the cliche, it's not a quick, easy option—it’s instead a balanced approach that considers marketing, analytics, and product data to optimize customer acquisition. There are a few key principles to remember with this approach:

  1. Experimentation provides learning opportunities. You’ll need a data-driven hypothesis to test each of your experiments—Nikolas Vogt’s graphic below provides a solid process.

  2. Behavioral Economics assumes people are irrational, and enables you to look at customer acquisition from a completely different angle. Social Proof is a great example.

  3. Growth Loops leverage new customers to generate more customers, exponentially increasing acquisition (and enabling you to hit those aggressive growth targets).

  4. Speed trumps perfection. Getting your product (or additions) out quickly means receiving feedback more quickly as well, and no market research beats customer data.

🐈/🐕 There are many different stages in scaling a business; going from 0-1M and 1-5M are completely different animals. Each phase requires a different skill set, so it’s inevitable that some early employees, or even your co-founder, may not be a perfect fit for your next phase of growth. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a say in the company’s direction, it’s your job to identify where they are best suited, whether it’s a skunkworks project, business development, or crisis management.

🌊 If you are in that early stage of growth, traction can be difficult to come by. Those first few customers are the hardest to acquire, so consider offering a free version as a means to build a customer base. These aren’t folks who need to have to ride the freemium wave forever, but their feedback and usage data is invaluable, so it’s worth the initial blow. Another way to get the ball rolling is participating in forums that reflect your interests, like Hacker News and StackOverflow. You can offer your product as a potential solution—but be sure to establish yourself as a contributor first and get the lay of the land.


🎨 Sometimes it just takes one sentence to get an enterprise deal across the finish line. Even if you aren’t in sales, the art of persuasion can help in a number of areas such as hiring, leadership, and fundraising. It’s also not something people are born with—it’s a learned skill that you can improve upon over time. These one-liners are some of our favorite from Michael Thompson:

  • “On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are you about this proposal?”. Then once they give a number, ask why they didn’t go lower to create a positive outlook.

  • “Here’s what most people do next.”. This offers validation that others have taken the same path, and also makes them think about what they could be missing if they don’t move forward.

  • “I’m not sure if this is for you.” Most people gun for a yes, but as Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss (more on him in a bit) preaches, going for “no” gives your counterparty comfort that you understand what their needs are.


🕵️ When negotiating for people’s lives, you can’t really find a middle ground by letting half live and half die—finding a “fair” compromise clearly isn’t a winning strategy. In Chris Voss’ Never Split the Difference, the famed hostage negotiator demonstrates why the key to negotiation is appealing to human’s irrational, emotional wants. Voss shares dozens of negotiating techniques including using your tone of voice to persuade someone, and labeling negatives to diffuse a situation. Each tactic is rooted in the idea of showing someone you understand their perspective and can empathize with their situation.

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