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PagerDuty was founded in 2009 by 3 former Amazon engineers who were often on-call. To engineers, being on call means carrying a pager to respond to crises when software breaks or services go down. In the 10 years since that day, PagerDuty has built an exceptional business.
Their product has evolved from on-call management, which includes routing calls, triaging alerts, and creating workflows to handle crises in real time; to an incident management platform that manages the standard operating procedures for responding to crises; to real-time operations dashboards that provide visibility and health scores for infrastructure.
Rewind a decade. Angel investing was an important part of the Startupland ecosystem. Today, you can’t make the same argument. 2018 observed the fewest number of angel-led financing rounds since before 2010. Angels led 156 rounds last year, a figure that collapsed from 714 in 2015. In that same time period, the median angel round has fallen from $500k to $270k. And the total number of dollars invested by angels halved from a peak of $365M to $177M.
A founder posed me a question earlier this week: Do you have any data/perspective on whether it’s worth keeping the unassisted free trial flow vs. providing only one path which leads to a demo and an assisted free trial? This is a complex question. Let’s break it down.
The unassisted free trial has benefits. There’s a deeper discussion in this post: Confessions of a Perpetual Freeloader.
You capture the buyer at the point of maximum intent and reduces the activation energy of the sale.
Last week, the dynamic Harry Stebbings and I recorded episode 213 of the Saastr podcast, where we discussed the learnings from the free trial survey in a bit more detail. Harry’s a wonderful interviewer, and moves effortlessly from topic to topic. I made him laugh once later in the show when I told him about the last book I read. Normally, he’s the one making me laugh.
Discussing the results with Harry, the data that is the most baffling to me remains the activity scoring data.
I remember the first time I visited China. We landed around 11pm local time in Beijing in the midst of the summer heat wave. As we landed, humidity fogged the Boeing’s windows, and the runway lights projected mirages from the haze. I could have sworn that heat was the product of a billion people’s fervent labor to advance their country and pull themselves into a new era.
Since that trip, when I visited RenRen, Autonavi and a few other blossoming startups, the Chinese startup ecosystem has grown tremendously.
When I was a teenager, I read many books about Dr. Richard Feynman. The irreverent but kind Nobel prize winner in physics became famous for his contributions to quantum mechanics. Though I’ve never understood quantum mechanics all that well, I’ve always admired Feynman, like many others.
To read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman is to hear about his upbringing in Queens, New York, where as a boy Feynman teaches himself advanced math, plays practical jokes and fixes radios during the Great Depression to help neighbors, and impresses all of them with his intellect.
Startups are innovation machines. They identify market opportunities, develop novel products and go out to change the world. Some companies want to change the world in one dimension: a better product or a disruptive go-to-market. Others want to innovate in every dimension and re-invent every discipline from pricing to marketing to support to customer success.
Brad Birnbaum, founder and CEO of Kustomer, discussed the challenges of innovating on two dimensions simultaneously on the [Saastr podcast]().
In Defense of Troublemakers. I love the title. Who doesn’t want to be a troublemaker? Charlan Nemeth is a professor at Berkeley of Psychology. She’s studied the role of dissent in group decision-making and written this book on the topic. It’s a critical part of a functioning team.
Here’s what I learned from the book:
The minority, dissenting opinion in an argument is essential to ensure we make the best decisions.
After publishing the survey last week, I received many questions. I’ve answered a few here. I’m happy the data has garnered so much interest and I hope it’s helping with our two goals of sharing benchmarks and sparking conversations about how to optimize trial. If you have stories or data that buttresses or contradicts any of these findings, please share them. I’d love to publish them here. Also, if you have ideas for future surveys like this, send them my way.
As you build out your startup’s financial model for 2019, a key component will be the hiring plan. You’ll need to calculate the number of managers and individual contributors to achieve your goals. But don’t forget to plan for mishires.
You will make mistakes hiring people. We all do and it’s part of the process of building a company. Someone looks great on paper but isn’t a culture fit. Another doesn’t ramp quickly enough.