2nd DO for SaaS startups:
Build the right team
I've written about the topic before, so if you've read this post from early this year most of what I'm going to write now won't be new for you and you may want to skip this article.
I'm going to assume that you want to build a modern SaaS solution for the "Fortune 5,000,000" – a great product that's easy to understand and so useful that it will almost sell itself. If your plan is to create a bloated piece of enterprise software with an ugly interface and make it up by hiring a large field sales force from the get-go you might succeed as well, but in that case please don't ask me for advice. :)
Let's start with the founder team. If you want to build a great SaaS product that's (relatively speaking) easy to market and sell you will need
- domain expertise,
- UX/UI talent, and
- a great engineer who can code the application.
What if you don't have that SaaS founder dream team – a CEO with domain expertise, a great CPO and a rock-star CTO? If you're only missing the domain expertise that may be comparably easy to acquire. In many (but certainly not all) markets you can probably learn a lot of what you need to know within a couple of months. If you don't have product and engineering knowledge that's tough. In my opinion you absolutely have to have this in the DNA of your company. Don't even think about outsourcing product design or engineering to an agency, I can almost guarantee you that it ain't gonna work. So if your founding team consists of five MBAs who've never built a product before, don't start a SaaS company, build an eCommerce business instead (there's nothing wrong with that either).
What comes next? The first hires after the founder team usually are, in this order:
- Developers (get even more sh*t done)
- Someone for customer support (in the beginning the founders should do customer support themselves in order to stay as close to the customer as possible, but at some point you'll need more manpower to deal with customer questions and support issues. Your customer support person will also likely act as your first inside sales person who helps converts trial users into paying customers.)
- One or more inside sales people (to maximize the conversion of your inbound leads)
- A marketing person (depending on a variety of factors, this person can also come in before the first sales person)
PS: As you know, this whole series is, and will continue to be for some time, a work-in-progress. Any comments or feedback is very welcome!