This post introduces a 45-minute video (below) where I talk about the things that can, and often do, go wrong as you scale a company from $10M to $100M in ARR. I originally delivered this presentation as a keynote session at SaaStr Europa in Barcelona in June, 2022.
Even if your company is below $10M today, the advice I share should provide you with a preview of what lies ahead, and hopefully help you avoid common mistakes before they happen.
If you have time for nothing else, use the chapter bookmarks in the video below to listen to the sections on repeatability and technical debt.
The slides that accompany this webinar are embedded at the end of this post.
Here's a summary of the top scale-up mistakes I cover in the video.
Stepping on the gas too hard, too early, and wasting millions of dollars because you thought (and/or wanted to believe) you had a repeatable sales model when you didn’t. This is, by far, the top scale-up mistake. Making it costs not only time and money, but takes a heavy toll on morale and culture.
Everybody knows that the people who helped you build the company from $0 to $10M aren’t necessarily the best people to lead it from $10 to $100M, but what do you do about that? How do you combine loyalists and veterans going forward? What do you do with loyalists who are past their sell-by date in their current role?
At one startup I ran, I felt like the board thought their job was to distract me — and they were pretty good at it. What do you do when the board, like an overbearing parent, is burying you in ideas and directive feedback? And that’s not mention all the other potential distractions from the market, customers, and the organization itself. How does one stay focused? And on what?
This presentation was built for a European conference so I’ll focus on the mistakes that I see European companies make as they expand into the USA. Combining my Business Objects operating experience with my European board experience (Nuxeo, Scoro) and my Balderton and non-Balderton advising, I’m starting to get pretty deep on this subject: see the multi-part series I wrote about it for Balderton Build.
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” said Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol and so it is with your product. Every shortcut, every mistake, every bad design decision, every redundant piece of code, every poor architectural choice, every hack accumulates to the point where, if ignored, it can paralyze your product development. Pick your favorite metaphor — Marley’s chains, barnacles on a ship, or a house of cards — but ignore technical debt at your peril. It takes 10-12 years to get to an IPO and that’s just about the right amount of time to paralyze yourself with technical debt. What can you do to avoid having a product crisis as you approach your biggest milestone?
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