Tales from the SaaS Graveyard – A Podcast Where Employees Discuss Their Startup Experiences

Tales from the SaaS Graveyard - A Podcast Where SaaS Startup Employees Discuss Their Experiences at Startups Stuck on the Middle of the Bell Curve

By Guest Authors: Stephen Chisa and Jake Hadary -- Hosts of the "Tales of the SaaS Graveyard" podcast

Our society loves to celebrate tech unicorns and it is easy to find books or articles about their rise to success.  Similarly, it is not hard to indulge in the guilty pleasure of learning about rocket ships that have crashed and burned.  But what about the middle of the bell curve? Companies, especially SaaS startups, not going out of business but definitely not hitting the big time?  

On our podcast, Tales from the SaaS Graveyard, we interview employees to understand their experiences at tech SaaS startups that are viable entities but can’t get to the next level.  It starts with excitement when they first join.  Over time they develop concerns about the worth of their options. Eventually, the concerns lead to their departure, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not.  

Through our interviews, common themes have bubbled up as to when employees should update their resumes:

  1. Change in startup leadership - The unofficial slogan of most startups is “the only constant is change”.  So a new CFO or VP of marketing is not an immediate red flag.  But was a Head of Sales brought in because of their enterprise experience and then departs 6 months later as the company announces it will focus on SMB?  Are execs leaving to “spend more time with their families” but shortly afterward you see a LinkedIn update of a new role?  Look into the circumstances of turnover and whether or not this is a recurring pattern.
  2. Market opportunity is not as big as originally thought - When creating a business plan, huge assumptions are made.  “The market for widgets is $10bn.  If we can capture 1%, we have a $100M business.” As a company matures, it refines its product-market fit.  Perhaps legal requirements in Europe make international expansion less attractive.  Maybe certain customer segments are priced out of what your company sells.  While the total addressable market is going to change, you want to make sure your company’s revised growth projections can support its expenses and cash burn.
  3. A seismic change in the landscape - Technology moves fast and there is the constant threat of disruption.  It is not just your direct competitors that you need to keep an eye on.  A saddle maker in the early 1900s would be hard-pressed to keep the same business model after cars became widespread.  Disruptors are easy to identify in hindsight but at the time it is harder to distinguish between the game-changers (iPhone) and the hype (Google Glass).

We interview people after they’ve left the SaaS startup and they discuss their experiences on the podcast.  Despite describing tumultuous times nobody regrets it.  They’ve made lifelong friends, they’ve gained valuable work experience and they’ve learned what to look out for before accepting their next role at a potential “unicorn”. 
Check out Stephen & Jake's podcast at - https://linktr.ee/saasgraveyard