VIDEO: State of SaaS: ARR Data from 1000+ Private B2B SaaS Companies – Nathan Latka

Nathan Latka is host of the B2B SaaS CEO podcast ‘The Top Entrepreneurs’. He’s interviewed thousands of CEOs and gets them to share revenue data, valuations, customer counts, and more. He takes this data and makes it usable for the rest of us to benchmark and predict who may get acquired, raise, or IPO next. He has interviewed over 3,000 private B2B SaaS CEOs via – – as he’s trying to find out who the next Salesforce or Atlassian or Adobe’s going to be.

In this video you will learn:

  • 8 x steps on how to grow your SaaS company valuation and ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue).
  • How and why you should spend to grow your ARR rate
  • Why It’s a bad thing to say all your growth is ‘free’ and ‘organic’ and based on ‘content marketing’
  • The cost of making sure you always have ‘leverage’ before you do a funding round
  • How a ‘Churn Funnel’ can save you customers, and increase your ARR
  • + See what world class ‘Net Revenue Retention’ looks like with examples & case studies from over 1000+ interviews


* This keynote was presented at SaaStock18 in Dublin. If you would like to join us in Dublin this year for SaaStock19. Grab an early bird ticket at the best possible price to see over a hundred other fabulous speakers.

Nathan Latka

Nathan is founder of SaaS Database – Nathan Latka grew his dorm room business to $5 million in revenue when he was 21 years old. Before he dropped out, he passed 10,000 customers, and built his team up to 20 people – including hiring his old college professor. After a failed bid to buy Success Magazine for $5 million, Nathan turned 28 and launched what INC calls “The #1 Business Podcast”​ called “The Top Entrepreneurs.” 6 million business people now listen in. Nathan also buys and sells software companies out of his private equity firm Latka Capital, running his private playbook on them to drive growth. He’s done this so effectively that Random House bought rights to his book, “How to Be a Capitalist Without Any Capital: 4 Rules You Must Break to Get Rich,” where he decodes how he built his first business from nothing, and how he now buys and sells other companies.


Start of Transcript

– Guys, my name is Nathan Latka. I spend most of my life interviewing B2B SaaS founders, and over the past three years I’ve interviewed about 3,000 private B2B SaaS CEOs via my podcast. The reason I do it, because the market’s big. As you guys know, over $305 billion in Cloud spend eclipsing here in 2018. And this is kinda the current list of the big players and what I’m trying to do is decode who the next Salesforce or Atlassian or Adobe’s gonna be. So here’s what I look at, the way I decode it is eight steps. David Skok, I took this from his kinda workshop. There’s eight steps. You know first off, who do you sell to? And you go from there. These are the steps. This is actually how you grow valuation. Once you de-risk your company, and you prove these steps, it’s how valuation grows, it’s not just a function of you’ve raised capital, and you’re worth more. So let’s dive into step number one.

First things first, if you’re out here right now, and you’re trying to start a SAAS company, a great place to start, and you look at the most successful ones, is to launch an agency. And you can see here, this is a company called SaleCycle. You’re gonna hear from Dominic here, how he gave up his agency, and his numbers are incredible.

– And I stepped fully away from the agency, so growing at 30% year on year.
– I mean, for a bootstrap company, that’s healthy. And what are you at now today in terms of total customers you’re serving?
– We’ve got north of 500 customers. We’ve been profitable.
– So profitable, $30 million bucks in ARR, again, launched as an agency, sold the agency, and now all in on SaaS. Another example but smaller, you have Qebot here. You can see, they’ve grown incredible value over the past first 12 months in business, now they’re raising a million bucks on 4 PrE.
– Pre-raised at about $4 million, and then have a $5 million all-in once the money’s into the account.
– No funding, nine people on the team.

Who do you sell to?

A great place to start to figure out who you sell to, one problem you solve is to launch an agency. Now, once we plot these start-ups, I’ve interviewed about 71 that are less than 12 months old, this is where they fall, and this is a big question on price point, where do you price? And the trap people fall into is here in the red. Orangedox is a good example, they’re in big trouble, right? Not enough customers at a high enough price point. So you gotta either push yourself way on the bottom axis or way on the up axis, or just generally up and to the right, otherwise you get stuck. So let’s compare Postalytics to Orangedox here in a different graph. Customer count on the left side, across the bottom you’ve got ARR. Again, if you wanna cheat sheet on how to get to $1.5 million bucks in ARR the fastest, you wanna make sure that, again, you have less than 500 customers, and more than a $300 per month price point. You see these four or five companies in that bottom right sector. I’ve done that Skubana Lead Crunch Core DNA in Postalytics and this shows up in the valuation metrics. So Orangedox, again, smaller price point, churn is obviously a little bit higher, but year one ARR is materially different with basically the same amount of customers. So, Postalytics is now raising, right now, about a $500,000 round on a seven million dollar pre-money valuation which, again, all this stuff that I’m citing is all revealed on the podcast when I interviewed the CEOs. So that’s the first step.

What problem do you solve?

The next step is kind of, what problem do you solve? And the best way, the best example I have of this is I wanted you to listen to Michael Chang here with Lumen5 and understand how it describes his product.

– [Michael Chang] With the style of videos that we’re helping people produce at a very low cost, people can now mass-produce these videos and test different messaging

– So again, his core, functionized core activation metric is get people to launch lucrative video from a blog post. You guys probably see this from like CNN you see it go through Facebook and so here’s how tight his on-boarding process is, you sign up, you put in your email address, after that you’re then saying, how do you wanna start the post? You know, is it a blog post? Copy and paste your own content? Start from Scratch? After you do that, you put in your blog URL, and then they say well, what kind of video do you wanna build? Right, they’ve been moving to pick your style, they templatize it, and then they, boom, they give you a preview. So in under 30 seconds, you’re getting from basically sign up to valued creation. He knows if he does this, your ability and his ability to retain you increases dramatically and you can see that from the numbers he showed earlier. This is what you don’t wanna do.

You want choice – but make it super simple

A lot of start-ups will use a screen like this and it’s just paradox of choice. You want one choice, kind of, per screen. Make it super super simple. Now, when you get your activation metrics right, this is kind of what happens to your metrics. You know, teamwork obviously bit bigger than this now, you just had saw the founder on stage. Their number one activation metric is at a project. This is what that screen looks like. One decision, add a project. Number two, you’ve heard from Patrick Price, Intelligently, less than 1% churn, the number one activation metric, again, they’re gonna connect your Stripe account, connect the bank account.

Saas Example: Treehouse

Another example, Treehouse, right. They help you learn, they help you learn how to code, and the core thing there is start a course. You can see here, there’s one option here. Get started on your course after they make a recommendation for you. Then lastly, we talked about Expensify already right, theirs is submit a receipt. You can see, screen number one, there’s a bottom-up sale cycle. The employee submits a receipt, they didn’t land and expand, and they’ve driven incredible growth with very very low caps. So that’s step two, what problem do you solve? Keep your on-boarding tight.

Does your on-boarding work?

Number three, does it actually work? The number one way to understand how it works, assuming you got the right value metric, is this graph. The blue line at the bottom basically says churn starts off high and is tapering off over time. This indicates that your on-boarding is becoming more and more successful. Right, your month one, your month two, your month three churn decreases over time and that cohort is more sticky. Eventually you should see it hit what I call a churn trough where your expansion revenue on these historical cohorts actually turn negative, and your start the get this trough, and they actually grow revenue themselves after you hit that bottom point. And the goal you wanna optimize for is make that trough happen as quick as possible and start driving expansion. So that’s how you know your product’s working.

Increasing ARR and Driving Viral Growth

The next question is, you know, you do wanna de-risk and understand how many people actually pay for this thing? And, so I wanna use an example here called GetAccept document signing, you guys know this base, well, you put in your email, it has natural viral co-efficient built-in ’cause I wanna send someone else to sign the document. So how does this work? Well, very simple, there’s a lot of kinda different ways to look at this, but very simple viral co-efficient is you know K factor equals I times conversion percentage. I is the number of invitations a new user might send out. Conversion percentage is how many of those invitations actually get accepted and come back in the platform, and K is how many new users get driven from you know the one user that sent the invitation. So the trick is to get K greater than one.

Example: GetAccept

So let’s send out 10 invitations at a 20% conversion rate, your K’s essentially two, and so now, what you wanna try and optimize for is how quickly can you run this cycle? It’s actually how do you compress the cycle time, which is what drives the viral growth. So, and then again, that’s what that looks like.

Creating a “viral effect” = better cash position, better ARR

Now there’s two ways to model this and we’ll get to that in a second, but it really does come back to cash flow as well. This is a huge advantage. Single-Customer cash flow, right, you spent 1,200 bucks per month to get this $100 per month customer. When you do it on a cumulative basis, you see about a 13-month payback period, right? Now let’s, look at this when we start thinking about viral co-efficients and this is just one model of how to de-risk kind of the founder selling, right? You gotta prove obviously you can scale without the founder selling, and so let’s look at what viral co-efficient looks like in this case. Everything in that pink box is the additional revenue per month, from the additional user the first user drove, right, so now it’s not a 100 bucks per month, it’s 200 bucks per month from two customers. This is what it does to cumulative cash flow, it takes your payback from 12 months to eight months, might not seem like a big deal, but it actually does give you additional runway. It gives you more leverage with VC’s if you do wanna raise, and puts you in a better cash position, so really critical that you figure out how to drive some kind of viral coefficient.

Now there’s two ways to look at this, the first model, Andrew Chen came up with, which essentially works the same as compound interest. It means every single cycle, every month your entire user base are sending more invites, your K factor here can be lower, and you can still get viral growth, .6, 1.2 million after 20 cycles, and your goal is how do you compress those cycles. The other model is amended by David Skok, and he said, “No, that’s not how it works, “it’s actually the Big Bang Model,” which is you sign up to a CRM, you invite your entire contact list on day one and they don’t keep sharing each month. So the only difference between the two models is continuous sharing or only new users sharing. Here, obviously, you have to have K factors that are larger to get viral growth. But it’s just important you understand which you optimize for in your onboarding.

Nine Ways to Build a $100 million company

Alright, Chris, uh, Christoph Janz at Point Nine Capital, put out this great blog post about essentially eight, nine ways to build a $100 million company. Everyone should run this exercise and say, okay, ff we have 10,000 customers, you know you gotta be at certain price point and plot this down on the graph. So that’s what I did, and you know the analogies you wanna use is, you know, Palantir, Peter Thiel, he’s selling one deal for a 100 million bucks to the U.S. government. Or maybe two, three deals a year. The other side of it is Whatsapp, a billion users, maybe a cent per year. Very different models, you gotta understand where you optimize for.

So, let’s look where all these private B2B SaaS CEOs fail on this. I mean these are all from interviews that we’ve done, so where is the dead-zone on this? Down in this area, you see there, you know if you have a 1,000 folks contract value but only 10 of them, right? That’s only, you do the math right, 10,000 bucks per year, you drive significantly more value as you drive up and to the right on this, and you definitely wanna get above that dotted blue line. So, after, you’re gonna prove, again does that no-touch funnel work? You wanna start understanding, can you add customers from different sources? And this gets interesting.

So I wanna look at dollar based CAC on the left, which is essentially how much money do they spend to get a new dollar of ARR. All right, so this is 60 cents or a dollar based off how old the company is. Now this is bootstrapped companies a 103 plotted here. What you see here is, none of these guys are above a dollar in dollar based CAC. Let’s compare that to funded companies. Tons of companies pushing not only two a dollar based CAC but higher than a two dollar dollar based CAC. Now why is this interesting? Well, if we look at Pandadox, which is spending a dollar thirty to get a new dollar of ARR versus the SEMRush which is 25 cents for a new dollar of ARR, the reasons behind why they drive these certain things are interesting. In a world where ideally, whoever can pay the most for the customer wins the customer, you actually never wanna give the answer, all of our growth is inbound and organic and we don’t spend any money on marketing, you actually wanna say the opposite. We can afford to spend the most, because our economics are the best. You should be pushing actually your dollar based CAC up as best as you can, in my opinion.

Let’s look and Pandadoc, they integrate into many different app stores to keep their dollar based CAC down. Here’s Mikita talking about his metrics. Ten thousand customers at that ARR where we just articulated, I mean have you broken a million bucks a month yet?

– In bookings, yes. Hopefully we’re gonna pop off on sales forces app exchange in the next couple of weeks. Experiments that fail, we built oracle integration and tried to do that.
– That didn’t work out so well.
– Yeah, how about that for a dumb thing to do.
– Oracle’s not a sponsor right? We’re good?
– So there’s Pandadoc another example, SEMRush, how do they keep theirs so low? Again, an integration model, we’ll use the hub spot example again, they’ve optimized for that top row for a very hot term advertising, here’s where their metrics are at today.
– In terms of paying customers, we’re in 30,000s, in terms of scale of business it’s between 50 and 100.

– [Nathan] So again, healthy company here, 40 million bucks raised. It’s nice that their ratio of ARR to dollars raised is above one. You obviously wanna get to that to have leverage. So, moving forward, this is what I wanna look at next. This ratio, this cost of making sure you always have leverage which means you wanna drive your ARR growth before you do a funding round, versus the opposite, which is you raise more, and then try and scale. You have no leverage in those negotiations with potential buyers or VCs in that perspective. So, let’s look you know, we love Jay, and Jay’s great, and he’s trying to run a big turn around here, but you don’t wanna be Zenefits, right? You don’t wanna have $520 million raised on a 120 in ARR. That’s not a good ratio to be at. Instead, let’s dial in here, so this is a closer up view you see, Looker’s interesting, Zoom, interesting, GitLab is interesting.

Example: Zoom and GitLab

Now GitLab obviously recently raised which changed this chart 286 companies plotted, and so, let’s dive into two of these. So we’ll look at Zoom first, 145 million bucks raised, north of a 150 million bucks in ARR and let’s dive in. I want you guys to listen to Eric here, you can talk about kinda how he’s hit those numbers. On average, what’s a customer pay you per month?

– Either $15 per month or 30 yuan.
– [Nathan] What have you grown your current customer base to, how many folks?
– We have a little bit over 850,000 unique base customers
– [Nathan] Those are paying folks though, right?
– Yeah, yeah
– [Nathan] If I take eight hundred 850,000, and you told me earlier, just your smallest segment minimum is 15 bucks a month, I mean I can multiply those. I mean your doing over 12 million bucks a month right, significantly more than that?
– That’s true, yes, your math is right on, okay.
– [Nathan] It’s a nice way right, you beat the hell out of the CEOs get all the revenue data, but it’s good data for the rest of us and it helps. I don’t think he’s every shared revenue before, got him to kind of shared some insights there, but remember, he’s on that bottom part of the, he’s more Whatsapp than Palantir, a lot of customers, lower price point. Right, potentially next IPO, GitLab. Again, this is the trend you wanna do, kind of up and then across, up and then across, it’s leverage. So, again, Sid’s done a great job here. I want you to hear how he talks about his net expansion.
– A net expansion basis is over 175%, so if you spent $100 with us last year, you can spend $175 with us this year, this same co-board.
– What do you like to optimize payback period for?
– We try to keep our payback period on a cash basis to like zero days. As soon as the deal is signed it should be paid back, and on a revenue recognition basis the first year.

– Okay, all right, so healthy growth, he has leverage going into the $100 million realm obviously raises that capital. Moving forward, so if you look at ARR targets relative to how much capital has been raised, again, you can see here where people fall. That green line is the one to one line, so if they’re below that, you could argue that they don’t have leverage. They haven’t grown, they haven’t spent the money they’ve raised to essentially grow their ARR rate. If they’re above this, they’re probably likely to raise very soon. They’re gonna move across the graph like GitLab did.

Saas Companies that have raised $50-$70m in ARR

So, that’s less than 70 million raised, 275 companies here, less than 50 million bucks in ARR. Let’s zoom into this little red square, it might be more relevant for you guys, you know, maybe in the $10 million range. This is what that looks. So, again, bids on HelloSign, Shoppable, Aptivo, Hornet Stories, you know, high-leverage companies, potentially about to be raise or potentially raise or exit. Bottom right raised to much. They need to figure out how to grow valuation or grow ARR faster to get above that green line before they go raise again. So just plot yourself on this graph and see where you’re at.

The ARR of SaaS Companies that are 3 – 6 years old

Next, if you look at how much ARR you should have by company age. This is 684 private B2B SaaS companies plotted here. You can generally see here, you know, by year 15 they’re kind of getting to the $50 million range. Years five and seven it’s hard to tell. But if we zoom in here, and look at just funded companies that are three and six years old, you’ll see a pretty clear trend here. Averages are really dangerous, so don’t read too much into these, but it’s a healthy benchmark and it’s really the only, I think, the only kind of benchmark like this, where there’s actual public AR data figures revealed.

Bootstrapped SaaS Companies with $68m ARR – ClickFunnels

So that’s funded companies. Bootstrapped is a little bit different. No big trend here, but look at Clickfunnels. Why are they doing so well? 68 million bucks in ARR, no funding, how have they done it? Well, they figured out how to scale without crazy churn. I want you guys to look at this. I call this a churn funnel, everyone should have one. Here’s my Clickfunnels account, I go there, I click cancel subscription, what do they do? They say, “Nathan, why are you churning?” I say, “Ugh, it’s too expensive!” You guys hear that a lot, “It’s too expensive!” They go, “Okay, we’ll give it to you free for six months.” I’m like oh okay, I’m feeling good now. I’m feeling like yes, right. I click to sign up, and boom, they show me this screen. So he’s gonna sell me a $979 course, right, a consulting course, which happens to be actually equal to, basically it’s the $97 a month product, but I’m paying it, in my mind it’s a one-time like train me course, and then I get this software for free. Cash-wise it’s the same damn thing, but I’m now not gonna churn, and this saves a lot of people for him. Now if that doesn’t save you, he sells based off fear.

How a ‘Churn Funnel’ can save you customers

Now everyone should have a pause button on their churn funnel. I don’t know why people don’t do this, but it’s very simple. You’re essentially saying, “hey, if you finalize cancellation, “you’re gonna lose your sub domains, “you’re gonna lose your data, “whatever your value metric is, you’re gonna lose it.” Sell it on the churn funnel. And then to say, “Just pause your account. “We’ll take it down to 10 bucks per month, “and then if you wanna finalize, come back in a week.” But if you don’t, they’ll take you back up to full price after 30 days. Make sure you’re doing this in your churn funnel. This is drives an exponential difference. It’s the difference between 3% churn, which you’re flat lined, and -3% churn where you’re gonna have exponential growth. Huge, huge difference here.

How to drive Negative Churn without upsells

Again, we already went over this graph and gone over how that works over time. So, how to drive negative churn without upsells, it’s impossible. A lot of people don’t realize this. You have to have a pricing axis that allows you to drive upsell and expansion revenue to get you to negative churn. If you don’t, you’re screwed. You need to think more about your pricing.

Example: FrontApp

So let’s look at how FrontApp does this. Huge runaway success, European founders. You sign up, you create your team account, you name the team, and then you’re adding, obviously, additional folks to sign up to your team. This is expansion revenue. You sign up. This was Mathilde’s year one pricing page. Notice, 0-99 bucks per month, this was 2015. The next one, they add the kind of catch a big fish option. This pricing page typically also rolls out when you hire your first sales person ’cause that schedule demo button are the leads to that salesperson, right. Drastically increased their ARPU, which you’ll see in a second.

Pricing Breakdown

Their next pricing page, they built a system that actually auto-tested the pricing based of cohort data every three weeks. This is the current winner, you go to right now this is the pricing page you’ll see. Let’s break this down and why it works. Three pricing axis give you the most leverage. First, number of seats, everyone should have something like that. Next, feature-based upsells, basic, pro, enterprise. And lastly, a database or a data usage metric as well. You want all three of these axis. Here’s Front, day one, onboarding, number of seats. Two, you’re gonna get email sequences, single sign on, SalesForce integration, that’s product upselling. Lastly, data usage, number of channels, connect your in-bound channels, 15 versus 100. Think about what you would put on each of these axis because it gives your teams significant more leverage.

Listen to your Customers

This sounds like the following from customers, “I need more seats! “I want more integrations “or I need to connect more profiles.” Listen to what your folks are saying, and if you don’t know how to find that, do what Front did. Launch a public Trello board where people can put up their ideas, and see publicly when you’re launching things, and then they can up vote. This is potentially how you discover what axis you expand around. So, here’s what FrontApp’s growth looks like over time, over $200 ARPU in 2016, 120K per month cash burn, 200K per month on just solely head count, but MRR growth 10% month over month. About a year later, 2017, net negative churn goes even more negative, obviously healthy place to be, burning 250K per month, 8 million cash in the bank. So you get a sense of runway there. Really healthy. I don’t have their updated numbers ’cause I haven’t interviewed her yet this year, but they publicly said more that 2,500 customers. Here’s how she thinks about CAC and these numbers.

– We tripled our revenues, and as you saw, we didn’t triple the number of customers that we had because what we’ve noticed in the past year, and especially the past two quarters, is we have bigger and bigger companies using the product ’cause we still handle eight million so–

– What are you burning right now per month? Like 100 grand or something very little?

– Very little, 250, I think.

What world class Net Revenue Retention looks like

– [Nathan] How many founders, any of the founders ever been on the show raise your hand, just out of curiosity. I just wanna say thank you for letting me beat the hell out of you and get all your numbers and data. It helps all of us But it felt good, right? In the end it felt good? Okay, good. So, anyways, this what world class net revenue retention looks like. Again, all real numbers directly from the CEO’s mouth. You have expansion minus gross revenue churn equals your net retention. Why is CloudCheckr 140%? They’ve optimized for one pricing axis, it’s a percentage of cloud spend. Listen to CEO, Aaron, talk about that.

– We have actually have 145% net retention rates, which is really incredible, but that’s because we have customers that their cloud is just growing so quickly that what they use last year grows by about 40% a year.

Example: Ping Identity

– [Nathan] All right, so that’s riding the whale. Another aspect to take if you can directly tie your value metric to, again, a data or usage metric. All right, so once you scale and make, or can you scale and make money, you biggest expense is head count. Right, this is what revenue per employee should be based off you team size across the bottom. It’s about 180K, pretty steady, from a small team to a big team. If we go and say, and if you can agree, who can spend the most to win, your biggest other expense at the level is obviously sales and marketing expense. So across the bottom you see dollar based CAC again. A lot of companies north of that $1.50 mark WorkFront, Talend, iSIMS, which is bootstrapped COBIT, doing a great job. Let’s look at Ping Identity here and click in and really understand that data point from their CEO, Andre, here.

– We spend about $1.20 to get a dollar in ARR. I would say there’s a lot of conversations about spending a little bit more. At a 1.2, especially given the lifetime value of the accounts is significant,

– [Nathan] If you have confidence in your lifetime value, you can afford to push your dollar based CAC up, and that’s what allows you to win customers over your competitors. It’s a bad thing to say all your growth is free and organic and content marketing. You’ve got to prove you can spend money to make money, and this is the way to do that. All right, after you prove these steps, what’s next, IPOs. I think these are the next six IPOs in the SaaS space. I don’t have any insider information, but if I was a guessing man, this why I’m guessing the ARR to funding ratios. You see down the middle column there, this is what that looks like when compared to that last 12 major SaaS IPOs. They’re all between a .2-1.2 ratio when you compare their ARR to dollars raised. Here’s what companies more than seven years old look like with more than 25 million bucks in ARR. Again, you wanna be more than 100 million bucks, or around that, to actually have a chance at going public and having some momentum. And, again, you wanna be less than that where there’s some kind of pressure to actually go public and get that capital. So we dive in here to these companies I’ve interviewed, again .2-1.2, north of 100 million, you see a bunch of companies in there. By the way, I think Hootsuite sells before they go public for 750. I think that probably happens in the next four to six months, we’ll see what happens there. But the other companies, again, when you plot them on the graph, or the pink ones that are still private. I think they go public soon. So, we’ll see what happens. If you want more data like this, you can grab the magazine. You can also download the entire spreadsheet at You can run your own metrics, your own data on those accounts. But guys, my name’s Nathan Latka, thank you very much.


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