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Top 10 Learnings Going to $10 Million

Leo Widrich, CEO of Buffer, now boasts 50,000 paying customers and $8.5m ARR. In this panel, he chats with moderator BJ Lackland, CEO of Lighter Capital, on everything from analyzing data to learning from customers to the “bullseye” channel strategy.

Over the next three days, DataFox will summarize the SaaStr 2016 panels. If you miss the tactical theater or strategy stage, are networking on the ground, or didn’t get a chance to attend this great conference, we’ve got you covered.

View all SaaStr 2016 panel summaries

Special thanks to Jason Lemkin of SaaStr for putting on this conference and giving us the chance to publish these summaries.

In a nutshell:

  • Don’t focus on data too early - you probably won’t have enough of a sample size to make meaningful conclusions.
  • Check in with co-founders and customers early and often.
  • Stay flexible in your thinking and your data.

Learning 1: Experiment with a weekly mastermind

Once a week, Widrich recommends that you sit down with your cofounder for a 1-2 hour meeting. Take 10 minutes to talk about achievements, spend 40 minutes each on the challenges you’re facing, and share feedback with your cofounder at the end.

Learning 2: Don’t get stuck on data too early

You’ll face the small sample size problem when you’re just starting out. Rather than risking spurious conclusions, look for other ways to predict success.

“Most early stage startups won’t have enough customers to rely on quantitative data. you need to be acquiring hundreds of customers a month to do that. Use qualitative data instead.”

Learning 3: Ask these 5 questions of your customers

Tell me about how you do ____ today.

Do you use any [tools/apps/tricks] to get ____ done?

If you could wave a magic wand and be able to do anything that you currently can’t, what would it be? don’t worry about feasibility - just anything.

Last time you did ____ what were you doing right before you got started? Once you finished, what did you do afterward?

Is there anything about ____ that I should have asked?

“The magic wand question is awesome. Everyone loves to be a magician every so often without worrying about reality.”

Learning 4: Keep a copy of your data in-house to stay flexible.

Widrich bounced back and forth between analytics tools before settling on Looker. He recommends keeping records in-house so you can shift more easily.

"You always want to keep one copy of your data in house. No tool will be perfect for your business."

Learning 5: Pick one channel to double down on.

Use the bullseye framework to frame your marketing tactics: Rather than spreading yourself thin, choose one marketing channel to build expertise in and double down on. That helps build momentum, and avoid false negatives.

Learning 6: Seek conflicting advice from at least two mentors on big decisions.

This helps avoid a herd mentality, and encourages critical thinking.

Learning 7: Experiment with pricing structures as you add value.

Pricing is one of the most powerful changes you can make, but it’s largely overlooked.

“When we changed our free plan to be $10, our conversation rate stayed the same. We literally doubled our revenue from one day to the next without losing a single customer.”

Learning 8: Use the lean startup model for every feature.

Especially post-launch, be disciplined about using the lean startup framework. Create a process around it that includes:

A hypothesis for your feature

A customer research phase

Creation of a clickable prototype to get feedback (InVision is great for this)

The roll-out of working version that slightly embarrasses you

Learning 9: When you get an offer to sell, list the experiences you’ll be missing.

Building a company is a great opportunity for personal growth. Money aside, what will you be giving up if you sell your startup?

Learning 10: There is no learning #10. They aren’t quite at $10m ARR yet.

Check out all of our SaaStr panel summaries here, follow us on Twitter at @datafoxco to see live tweets of the event, and visit SaaStr itself for more great content.