This year, as part of SaaStock18, we embarked on a mission to find the Best B2B SaaS Startup of 2018. To help us find it and give it as much value as possible, we partnered with Zendesk, Frontline Ventures, Voxbone, ProfitWell and Slack, without whose help none of this would be possible. So how did it all go?
We opened our competition for anyone to apply across the world and present at SaaStock18. We wanted to bring as much diversity in the stage startups were at, their founding stories and their solution so we spread the word about the competition far and wide.
Being crowned Best B2B SaaS Startup would bring much needed early publicity to the winner. However, we wanted to also bring more tangible support, so we decided to give the winner a cash prize of $25,000. All of our partners pitched in as well, offering their products and knowledge to the pot.
From nearly 100 applications, we selected 18 semifinalists, a task that wasn’t easy by any stretch. As we counted, they represented 14 countries. We showcased their video pitches the week before the conference to start creating buzz and engagement. You can see each one on our Linkedin page.
All startups, including the 18 semifinalists, took part in our Startup Day, held at Zendesk where they participated in workshops, mentoring sessions and valuable 1-1 meetings with our partners. Refining their pitches on the day, they were all better prepared for the big two days.
We spread the 18 startups in three semifinal groups of six. In turn, each group of six was further divided into two categories:
Traction: Early-stage company with less than $300k in ARR and up to 10 FT employees
Growth: A company with less than $1M in ARR and a team of up to 20 employees
At each semifinal, we had a judging panel of three judges assessing the pitches and scoring them based on target market, problem/solution, team, revenue and traction. We had placed the pitching stage at the middle of the Expo Hall so anyone around could eavesdrop in case they wanted to, which made the task at hand even harder for the startups. As I stood at the side of the stage, jumping on and off the stage to moderate the event, I could sense the combination of exhilaration and tension in the air.
Each participant had two minutes to pitch their startup and then answer one question per judge.
After scoring, each semifinal would produce two finalists, one for each category. The finalists were:
Semifinal 1 winners:
- Traction: Cledara
- Growth: HCM Deck
Semifinal 2 winners:
- Traction: Relayto
- Growth: Vibbio
Semifinal 3 winners:
- Traction: Simvoly
- Growth: Cumul.io
Following the semifinals, our finalists prepared for the toughest step of the competition: a live pitch presentation held on the main stage of SaaStock18. To win, a company had to be chosen and agreed by all four judges.
Our Live Final judging panel consisted of:
- Peter Zotto, GM at ProfitWell;
- Tiffany Apczynski, VP of Public Policy and Social Impact at Zendesk
- Will Prendergast, Partner at Frontline Ventures
- Itay Rosenfeld, CEO at Voxbone
This time, the challenge was to show a pre-recorded one minute pitch to introduce each startup followed by a one-minute answer to the question why they should be the winner of the competition. All six finalists did an amazing job.
While the judges were deciding, we heard from Gidi Pridor, VP marketing of TravelPerk. Their story had been one of the inspiration to create a Startup Program and competition in the first place. From a startup partner at SaaStock17, they had seen tremendous growth in the past year, becoming one of the fastest growing SaaS companies in Europe. A silver partner at SaaStock18 and official SaaStock Travel partner, TravelPerk had just closed a $44m Series C investment led by Kinnevik.
“SaaStock was a whirlwind experience, which included great and valuable input at the Startup Program Day. The workshop held by Vidyards’ CEO resonated especially well with us. We experienced a rush of people wanting to demo our application at our stand over the two days. We also had the nervy, exciting chance to take part in the pitching competition – and reaching 2nd place in the final was completely beyond our expectations. We met loads of great and likeminded people, we speed-dated VCs, and got to socialize in many corners of the great city of Dublin. We’ll be back!”. Marianne Bratt Ricketts – CEO VIBBIO
“It’s an honour being named the Best SaaS Startup of 2018 and to be the inaugural winner of the competition. I am very grateful to SaaStock, Zendesk, Frontline Ventures, Voxbone, ProfitWell and Slack for making it possible. We will invest the prize money in iterating our UX to help more companies take control of their SaaS by easily seeing all the SaaS they’re using, who’s using it, why they need and how much it all costs.
We believe that making SaaS easier to manage will help more companies use it. This prize will help us build towards that mission.” – Cristina Vila Vives, CEO and Founder.
Congratulations Cristina. After all was done and dusted, we asked some of our judges why they had chosen Cledara.
“Cledara are tackling a new and emerging problem: the growth and sprawl of SaaS costs. They are dealing with it in an automated/controlled fashion through the use of a virtual Mastercard which I have not seen before. They have made a lot of progress in a very short period of time – a leading indicator of success.” – Will Prendergast, Partner at Frontline Ventures
“Given that ProfitWell has a pretty good pulse on what’s happening in the subscription economy and how fast it’s growing there is a serious need for an actual vendor management solution that can help companies proactively identify overuse within their business. That is what Cledara is offering, which is great” – Peter Zotto, GM at Profitwell
Totally deserved, you’re working on solving a big problem and you have an original solution. Congrats and all the best!
— Itay Rosenfeld (@Voxitay) October 19, 2018
In addition to the winners picked by our judges, we also had an ongoing competition for social media engagement. The winners to come out of that are:
- Veamly who won $5,000 credit to use Voxbone over 6 months. They wrote an excellent post about their winning social media strategy
- EyesOn won a 1-day workshop with Slack on how to integrate better with their APIs
In the end, it was so exciting to see all this come together.
We look forward to following the progress of Cledara and all the other companies. We will bring Christina on the SaaS revolution Show to tell us more about the journey of Cledara and the lessons learned so far. In a year’s time, we will assess the impact the prize and exposure have had on the company and will report back. So stay tuned.
The engagement we saw around the Pitch Competition was incredible and confirmed that this additional gamifyed experience at SaaStock was a brilliant way to give more visibility to the future of SaaS. We will continue to do so.