📕 Gamification gone wrong; 2021’s Unicorn stampede; The 10 - 20 - 30 presentation format...

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🤑 We have a SaaS unicorn stampede on our hands this year, with 22 new ones popping up in February 2021 alone (Tiger Global is almost comically a lead investor in 20% of the 22...). So how is that even possible? Well, the SaaS market’s explosion has led to more $100m ARR+ companies growing at or above 30%, which seems to just about get you to a $1b valuation. And the math continues to work out for VCs – the average public SaaS company is worth $27b, and even companies with sub 30b market caps are worth ~10b on average. That means investors can get in at $1b valuations and still see 10x returns from later stage investments. Expect to see more investors “playing the long game” by investing in these larger, more mature businesses.

🕹️ If you use the CRM, Pipedrive, you are familiar with the fun animations that pop up whenever a deal is moved to “Closed/Won”. For the last decade, that sort of gamification has been one of the most popular strategies to drive user adoption. But we now have better ways to measure the success of gamification than we did 10 years ago, and the data shows how it can actually cause more damage than good. The linked article shares a story of a sales team which used a basketball themed game that awarded closed deals with “layups”. Those who bought into the game performed well, but those who didn’t actually declined in output. The key was that these employees felt the game was being forced upon them, so when considering gamification in your product, make sure you aren’t enforcing actions to the extent that it brings users out of the game.

⚔️ While the big player’s in your space can seem insurmountable, remember that there are advantages to being smaller, leaner, and scrappier. The Goliaths are generally comfortable in their position, and don’t want to take unnecessary risks that could alter their cushy state. This gives way for smaller up and comers to be more disruptive, and try things that more established groups wouldn’t even consider doing while also having the ability to iterate quickly (big ships move slow). That said, you may not want to come at the competition with a full on assault, as that can spur them to be more proactive in blocking your path. So angling for a slightly different market may be a safer place to start.

🎤 Whether you are a CEO pitching to potential investors or an employee presenting a project to your team, your ability to persuade is almost as important as the content you are sharing. We liked Jessica Stillman’s frameworks for giving 10 - 20 - 30 presentations, which provides a quick guide for powerful, persuasive presentations. The high level format is to use no more than 10 slides, take no more than 20 minutes to present (TED talks are all 20 minutes for a reason!), and use a 30 point font to ensure you are just highlighting the ideas on your slides rather than spelling them all out word for word. While your actual idea will ultimately be what makes or breaks the presentation, this format should put you in a good position to succeed.

🏎️ We are all for short podcasts that can be knocked out on the drive to work, so Stephen Cummins’s 14 Minutes of SaaS has been one of our recent favorites. In his latest episode, he talks with Trustpilot CEO Peter Mühlmann, who discusses how your market is most important to success, followed by your team and your actual product. He also argues that most startups take 10 years to succeed, rather than the overnight success story we often hear of the hyper-growers. It can take 2-3 years to even figure out if you are right about your product and that it truly works as intended, so he urges founders to be more patient with their idea. In a world where we are encouraged to pivot quickly and “move fast and break things”, that can be a difficult balance to strike.