SaaStr London: Efficiency, Alignment, Ingenuity, Unfundability, & Ice Cream

Summary of SaaStr Europa 2023 at the Tobacco Docks

Daniel Bryant
6 min readJun 9, 2023


I had the pleasure of attending the SaaStr Europa event for the first time this year, and it was a blast. I’ve mostly worked in 0-to-1 startups over the last few years, and so I’ve become a regular reader of SaaStr, SaaStr University, and Jason Lemkin’s content. When I got the opportunity to attend the event and see some of the SaaStr contributors in person, it seemed like a no-brainer!

Here’s a summary of my top eight takeaways from SaaStr London:

  • Brex’s GTM playbook: Ingenuity and repetition
  • Category creation is (still) hard
  • Markets in 2023: Hope for better, plan for the same
  • “Field CTO” could be Developer Relations for Execs
  • Product-led growth: Think distribution, adoption, and expansion
  • Adopt the VC playbook: Look for exponential growth opportunities
  • Rowing crew or running GTM: Aim for alignment
  • SaaS metrics are broken: Kyle Poyar’s new proposal

Brex’s GTM playbook: Ingenuity and repetition

In Sam Blond’s “Top 10 Hacks Scaling Brex from 0 to 400M ARR with Brex’s former CRO”, he provided a lot of insight into how the Brex team applied ingenuity to drive early adoption. This included a lot of what we would call “guerrilla marketing” or “growth hacking” at events, such as sponsoring the hotel room keycards, handing out “Brex-fast” burritos, and scheduling magic shows at a sponsored booth.

Sam made the point that not only were these tactics cost-effective (in comparison with a double-platinum, all-singing, blow-the-budget official conference sponsorship), but they also repeatedly exposed event attendees to the brand at a series of key touchpoints.

Sam continued by encouraging the audience to work hard to identify your ideal customer profile (ICP), and once you’ve hooked these folks as a customer, make sure you are providing as much value as possible — and charging accordingly!

Category creation is (still) hard

In “10 Interesting Learnings to Driving a New Category to $1B+ ARR and Beyond with UiPath’s CEO & Founder” with Daniel Dines and Philippe Botteri, I learned a lot about the early days of UiPath and the robotic process automation (RPA) space. In a discussion I could very much relate to (with some of my challenges marketing Telepresence at Ambassador Labs), Daniel stated that we shouldn’t chase category creation when starting a business. Not only is it time-consuming and not an efficient use of our time, but it often focuses more on a (potential) solution rather than fully understanding the problem that the business is attempting to solve.

Markets in 2023: Hope for better, plan for the same

In the next session, “Kick off to SaaStr Europa 2023 with SaaStr CEO and Founder Jason Lemkin”, Jason provided a whistlestop tour of the current VC and start-up funding market. In a meme that was echoed several times at the event, in the current macroeconomic climate every company should assume they are default unfundable now — they are not “between rounds” or waiting for the next series investment. Jason mused that this isn’t necessarily because things have become harder, but they have “reverted to the mean” against the backdrop of overexuberant funding that took place in 2020 and 2021. The big focus now should be on efficiency.

Jason cautioned that although there are macroeconomic headwinds, companies shouldn’t use this as an excuse for seeing no growth in their revenue. In a statement that saw a number of nodding heads in the room, there is potential that products have fallen out of product-market fit due to the current market conditions because these products don’t provide enough value or solve a painful enough problem.

In a concluding slide, Jason suggested the audience “hope for better, but plan for the same” over the next 18 months. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency…

“Field CTO” could be Developer Relations for Execs

In a fascinating session exploring the HashiCorp Field CTO role, “Bridging the Gap Between Sales and Tech Teams: Playbook to Customer Success with HashiCorp’s CTO and VP NEMEA”, Sarah Polan and Louise Fellows shared a lot of insight that I could relate to as a Developer Relations leader. In previous roles, I have mainly been engaging and working directly with developers, and so it was very interesting to learn that a lot of our tactics overlap with the Field CTO and solution engineer approach.

Product-led growth: Think distribution, adoption, and expansion

In “Product is King and PLG is King Kong with Connect Ventures, Index Ventures, Our.Space, and PurpleDot” Georgia Stevenson, Stephanie Bowker, Madeline Parra, and Pietro Bezza spoke to a packed room about product-led growth (PLG). They explored the concepts behind PLG and unpacked how this organisation-wide go-to-market approach is really based on getting an effective blend across the “trifecta” of product-led distribution, adoption, and expansion.

Key takeaways included that if your product isn’t generating pipeline, you probably aren’t doing PLG (correctly), and it’s typically easier to move from a PLG motion to a sales-led growth (SLG) or product-led sales (PLS) motion than it is to go from SLG to PLG.

Adopt the VC playbook: Look for exponential growth opportunities

The first day ended with an enlightening overview of the Loom story with Joe Thomas presenting, “From 2 Weeks of Runway to a $1.5B Valuation: The Founder Playbook with Loom’s CEO.” Having been a (free tier) user of Loom myself, it was fascinating to hear about the early struggles. A key takeaway from this talk — and also something I heard Jason Lemkin double-down on several times during the event — is that VC-backed companies have to strive for $100M ARR for a successful exit, and do so relatively quickly (the so-called “triple-triple-double-double-double” of revenue growth). Therefore, you have to aim for exponential growth opportunities.

Rowing crew or running GTM: Aim for alignment

Echoing many of the takeaways from the Loom talk, Sterling Snow began the second day of the event with “The GTM Models We Used at Divvy To Go From 0 to a $2.5B Exit in 4 Years with Divvy’s Former CRO.” Sterling kept emphasising the importance of ensuring alignment across the entire company: “we don’t have a marketing team, we don’t have a sales team, we don’t have a customer success team — we have a revenue team!”

Using the analogy of a rowing crew, he suggested that when teams achieve “swing” (everyone’s blades hitting the water at the same time and with the same power) magic happens.

Particularly well received was Sterling’s mention of the T3/B3 process at Divvy, where each quarter everyone on the team identifies their top three superpowers and bottom three weaknesses and discusses these with their manager. This happens at an individual level, and also team members share what they believe are the T3/B3 qualities of their manager. These qualities are used as a cue for coaching and improvement, and they can also be monitored over a period of time — identifying if someone is struggling with a repeating challenge, for example. Sterling commented that it’s not always easy receiving this kind of candid feedback, but it did drive results throughout the organization. And in general, the high performers welcomed this kind of framework for improvement.

SaaS metrics are broken: Kyle Poyar’s new proposal

One of my favourite sessions of the event was Kyle Poyar’s talk, “Why SaaS Metrics are Broken: Time for the Next Era Metrics Playbook with OpenView.” Having been a reader of Kyle’s “Growth Unhinged” SubStack for quite some time, I knew what to expect. There was an interesting historical analysis of how the standard SaaS metrics emerged, and also a detailed rebuttal on why we need to evolve these metrics. Kyle pitched that we need to move away from the “(Salesforce) SaaS growth playbook v1.0” and embrace new tactics alongside new metrics.

As expected with Kyle's rigorous approach, he explained his reasoning and also proposed new benchmarks for his proposed metrics.

A point that particularly hit home to me was a reminder to deliver value to users “before they hit the paywall”, and potentially use a reverse trial motion. Ed Sim from Boldstart jumped into the conversation and agreed, and he also cautioned not to give away too much for free if we want users to convert to paying customers.

Wrapping up: Knowledge, coffee, and ice cream

The amount of learning and networking on offer at the event was impressive, from sessions to workshops to “brain dates” and more. However, having organized a few events myself, I also know the importance of keeping everyone well-fuelled. SaaStr Europa did not disappoint here either. The main meals were superb, the happy hours were indeed happy, and the coffee and ice cream were plentiful (and there was also fruit and healthy snacks, too!) Kudos to the organizers and event staff.

As echoed in my tweet, I took away a lot of new knowledge and connections. Thanks to everyone involved. I hope to be back next year!



Daniel Bryant

DevRel and Technical GTM Leader | News/Podcasts @InfoQ | Web 1.0/2.0 coder, platform engineer, Java Champion, CS PhD | cloud, K8s, APIs, IPAs | learner/teacher