The diaries (and adventures) of a SaaS entrepreneur: entry one

Kieron Sambrook-Smith
Chief Commerical Officer
28 May 2019

Diary: entry one. (Honestly, I’ll be cramming the last few years of my experiences and knowledge gained into this blog series.) My plan: to chronicle some of the challenges and scenarios Platform.sh has encountered as a SaaS company and as a SaaS infrastructure provider to many companies of all sizes. Companies we’ve been able to help through all the business model changes and shift in thinking that come with PaaS adoption.

If you’re in a C-level business role at a SaaS startup or if your organization is planning to migrate applications to the cloud, and you want some help thinking through various aspects of the SaaS business model, you can keep reading comfortably; this blog series isn’t a technology deep-dive. I may touch upon cloud infrastructure occasionally, but only because it can be central to some other very important components of your business. I hope I can impart some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way, so you can understand how to quickly launch your own SaaS business.

This is me

I’d describe myself as a software entrepreneur. I have a 12-year history of buying and selling technology companies, with revenues ranging from zero to US$30 million. I’ve been a programmer and a consultant. A global marketer, head of sales, and a CEO. I’ve sold projects to midsize and large-size companies around the world. Currently, I’m Chief Commercial Officer for my most exciting venture yet: Platform.sh, a very smart Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) company.

PaaS automates the very complex world of containers in the cloud, providing significant savings and gains (i.e., new ways of doing things).

Platform.sh offers clients full-on step change in business model, and I love that. Working with businesses to vastly improve the way they deliver services, improve gross margins, and discover new revenue streams is very rewarding. Since 2014, I’ve helped hundreds of organizations understand the value of the Platform.sh PaaS, adopt it, and shift their business approaches—so they can develop new projects and make changes far more quickly and safely, at a much lower cost. In aggregate, these changes have translated into business agility.

Build it, sell it, (operate it??)

Building an application brings your business vision and ideas to life. Even if somebody else develops the code, the application is your core IP. Selling that application is another element core to your business. And your entire sales and marketing engine will have been carefully constructed around your unique value proposition. You’ll want to keep functions pivotal to your application’s success (and to your customers’ satisfaction) in-house, like training, onboarding, application support, and issue resolution. But building a state-of-the-art container management platform and then operating it at scale within somebody else’s global cloud infrastructure? Well, that’s difficult and expensive. And very likely not in your wheelhouse.

Let’s take a step back. Historically, software vendors sold licences to customers and left them to host the live service. Those customers were burdened with expensive infrastructure management challenges. Nearly everything between the developer and a live service—managing environments, testing, continuous integration and delivery, security updates, zero-downtime maintenance, disaster recovery—was complex, cumbersome, and costly.

Then, SaaS companies came along. And they took on customer hosting responsibilities. But it wasn’t just hosting; they needed the know-how to tackle new and ever-evolving technologies. They had to get it right, at scale—magnifying the challenges exponentially. Not their core business strength. And not in their budgets.

This is exactly why SaaS companies like PaaS. Because they don’t have to build and maintain it themselves.

Remove barriers, focus on what counts most

Platform.sh has been helping C-levels and their companies get new SaaS businesses off the ground quickly—with minimal effort and without massive investments. By eliminating the time, resources, and costs consumed by infrastructure management, our SaaS clients have turned their full attention back to critical aspects of their business model: new product features, go-to-market strategies, brand building. And actually implementing new (and oftentimes far better) ways of doing things, like providing support and accelerating their roadmaps.

By moving to the Platform.sh PaaS, our SaaS clients have reduced their overall cost per client by as much as 70%.

A PaaS not only solves some large-scale challenges, but it actually creates the foundation for doing many other things differently. At Platform.sh, we’ve lived through many of our own implementations. Our new customers ask us what we’ve seen elsewhere, what’s worked—and what hasn’t.

That’s what I plan to share with you.

So, what’s next?

My next diary entry will cover several key aspects of the SaaS business model, and what’s worth spending time on ahead of launching your new SaaS service.

Here are some of the topics we’ll cover in the blog series:

  • 10x the value of your SaaS business value in two years — a case study
  • Reduce your cost per SaaS client
  • How to determine if a SaaS vendor is worth its weight
  • How SaaS startups can get better funding
  • Transition your licence model to SaaS
  • Should you build your own PaaS?
  • SaaS Business Planning workshops
  • Single tenant/multitenant SaaS: the best of both worlds
  • How to uplift your productivity 20x
  • Make the SaaS transition, preserve partner relationships
  • Identify the best IaaS cloud strategy/vendor for your SaaS startup

I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with you. If you’d like to connect or open a conversation about your SaaS business model, or the value of a PaaS cloud infrastructure, you can find me on LinkedIn or you can contact me directly.