The Finance view on SaaS growth and Zuora’s Subscribed conference


@SUBSCRIBED (Zuora’s annual user conference held in SF last week) I had the fun & privilege to sit on a panel moderated by Zuora’s CFO, Tyler Sloat.  I enjoy this continuous exposure to the Zuora Exec team, their thinking, customers and ecosystem. Zuora Subscribed offered a venue to have a substantive discussion about what’s really important to companies that are disrupting both in technology and business models to solve the problems of a global set of customers.

Last year I signed on as the head of finance and corporate development here @ LogicMonitor.  My first prioritiesfocused on building a finance platform to sustain the high growth initially realized as a lean startup and to extend a reporting regime centered on key SaaS metrics.  It was then that I was introduced to Zuora — which we selected as our billing automation & finance reporting platform.  It is a perfect application for our SaaS business model — Zuora enables us to spend time on growing the business rather than wrestle with suboptimal and mismatched systems.  It now takes us about 15 minutes to bill hundreds of customers each month (it will be effectively the same for thousands of customers in the not too distant future).

For me, Zuora has emerged as much more than a billing platform — it has inspired a way of thinking about the lifecycle of growth and cash management.  First, it is a partnership with our sales team where billing consummates the relationship with customers for whom we are solving a real, complicated IT problem.  Second, it focuses on efficient and balanced investments in new customer acquisition, customer on-boarding & training, and ongoing engineering support.  Third, it is a reporting discipline allowing us to present real-time performance metrics on ARR growth, churn, LTV, CAC to my boss (the CEO) when he wants to see it (which is always!!!!) and to our Board each quarter.  This virtuous cycle leads to optimizing pricing, hiring prioritization, roadmap planning, and making smarter sales and marketing investments for higher ARR growth, and so on……

If you want to interact with me and my team (my email is below) to have an exchange on these topics, we are open in the same spirit that comes with Zuora’s effort to accelerate this movement and proliferate best practices.  Ultimately, it is up to you to adapt this framework to the unique circumstances of your business. The ongoing and fun challenge is to understand how each of the SaaS finance metrics/concepts is related, the interplay between them — and ultimately how to find the best key performance indicators, tune-out the dissonance, and use them to make better decisions.

And at the end of the day, this lets us gain more customers for our SaaS IT Monitoring solution, through a focus on product, support, marketing and sales – and ultimately to more growth. And as Paul Graham says, that’s the essential thing.

Tien’s Zuora Subscribed Keynote & Slide Deck