What is SaaS? Well, neither S stands for Sexy

Boston Innovators Group attempts to sort out software-as-a-service (SaaS)

No, neither S in SaaS stands for Sexy
Bob Brown/NetworkWorld
beisel Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

VC David Beisel: Who's the SaaSiest of them all?

NextView Ventures partner David Beisel summed up the newly renamed Boston Innovators Group’s gathering that he organized on Thursday night as “a very SaaSy night” and he was right.

All 8 featured startups at the event held at the innovation-infused Boston Seaport’s communal District Hall workspace could be classified as software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies in one way or another, with a bit of platform-as-a-service and foliage-as-a-service tossed in.

(Yes, I did just write foliage-as-a-service, as ShipFoliage.com’s Kyle Waring was on hand to promote his company’s offerings, which include autumn leaves and actual snow that can be shipped off to people who might be nostalgic about such things but don’t live in the northeast anymore. As you can imagine, this no-it’s-not-a-hoax business has received plenty of media attention for its $19.99 3-leaf deal and 700+ pounds of snow shipped during last year’s record-breaking winter.)

It’s no surprise that SaaS would now stand for (fill in the blank) as-a-service given projections for how much the worldwide cloud service market will be worth: IDC, for example, says it was worth almost $50 billion last year and will surpass $100 billion by 2019.


But with startups charging into SaaS willy-nilly, the market has also become something of an exciting mess.

boston innovators group Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

Innovators doing innovative things at Boston Innovators Group gathering at District Hall

One startup at the BIG1 event is called CabinetM, and its goal is to become a recommendation service for marketers trying to plow through the thousands of SaaS marketing apps that have blanketed the industry. As CEO Anita Brearton said, it’s the best and worst of times for those in the marketing technology market in that so many good tools are available to test and use, but also that there are so many tools to test and use.

The company’s platform is currently a discovery engine for about 4,000 tools, from big data to CRM to social media marketing, with another 1,400 being prepped for inclusion. Once people start using the platform, and matching up this app with that tool, CabinetM plans to crunch that data and provide recommendations to customers.

With SaaS providers rolling out offerings left and right, they too are not quite sure what they’ve gotten themselves into. Figuring out how to price this stuff is a real challenge, and a sensibly named startup called Price Intelligently claims to have had SaaS vendors’ backs on this for a few years now.

patrick campbell Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

Price Intelligently CEO Patrick Campbell: SaaS vendors are bad at pricing “but even worse with SaaS metrics.”

Its service helps SaaS vendors figure out how to price subscriptions to their services, some of which no doubt used to come in tidy little software packages for which a pricing hierarchy had been established over the years. Playing off a comment earlier in the night from the founder of customer communications SaaS company Driftt, Price Intelligently CEO Patrick Campbell said that while customer acquisition might be queen and customer retention might be king, “Monetization is actually God.”

During the Q&A following Campbell's talk, Driftt Founder and CTO Elias Torres, who earlier offered a certain number of attendees his new service at $100 for life, asked Campbell about how much Driftt should charge for its offering.

Moving beyond the pricing topic, Campbell last night revealed a complementary and complimentary tool called ProfitWell that helps SaaS companies track what the heck it is they are doing, from monthly recurring revenue to customer retention. Campbell ribbed SaaS vendors in the crowd for being bad at pricing “but even worse with SaaS metrics.”

He went on to say that financial metrics for subscription services “is not the least sexy thing I’ve said in my life, but it’s up there…” And this coming from a guy wearing some unquestionably sexy red shoes. So I’d tend to believe him.

MORE photos from the event on our Instagram account

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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