11 months ago
If you don't crush these 3 metrics, skip the Series A.
I recently wrote about getting VCs excited about Marketplace start-ups. SaaS founders became envious!
Understanding how people wire tens of millions is the only Series A hack I recommend.
Few people understand the intellectual process behind investing.
VC is risk management.
Series A-focused VCs must cover two risks.
1. Market risk
You need a large market to cross a threshold beyond which you can build defensibilities. Series A VCs underwrite market risk.
They must see you have reached product-market fit (PMF) in a large total addressable market (TAM).
2. Execution risk
When evaluating your growth engine's blitzscaling ability, execution risk arises.
When investors remove operational uncertainty, they profit.
Series A VCs like businesses with derisked revenue streams. Don't raise unless you have a predictable model, pipeline, and growth.
Please beat these 3 metrics before Series A:
Achieve $1.5m ARR in 12-24 months (Market risk)
Above 100% Net Dollar Retention. (Market danger)
Lead Velocity Rate supporting $10m ARR in 2–4 years (Execution risk)
Hit the 3 and you'll raise $10M in 4 months. Discussing 2/3 may take 6–7 months.
If none, don't bother raising and focus on becoming a capital-efficient business (Topics for other posts).
Let's examine these 3 metrics for the brave ones.
1. Lead Velocity Rate supporting €$10m ARR in 2 to 4 years
Last because it's the least discussed. LVR is the most reliable data when evaluating a growth engine, in my opinion.
SaaS allows you to see the future.
Monthly Sales and Sales Pipelines, two predictive KPIs, have poor data quality. Both are lagging indicators, and minor changes can cause huge modeling differences.
Analysts and Associates will trash your forecasts if they're based only on Monthly Sales and Sales Pipeline.
LVR, defined as month-over-month growth in qualified leads, is rock-solid. There's no lag. You can See The Future if you use Qualified Leads and a consistent formula and process to qualify them.
With this metric in your hand, scaling your company turns into an execution play on which VCs are able to perform calculations risk.
2. Above-100% Net Dollar Retention.
Net Dollar Retention is a better-known SaaS health metric than LVR.
Net Dollar Retention measures a SaaS company's ability to retain and upsell customers. Ask what $1 of net new customer spend will be worth in years n+1, n+2, etc.
Depending on the business model, SaaS businesses can increase their share of customers' wallets by increasing users, selling them more products in SaaS-enabled marketplaces, other add-ons, and renewing them at higher price tiers.
If a SaaS company's annualized Net Dollar Retention is less than 75%, there's a problem with the business.
Slack's ARR chart (below) shows how powerful Net Retention is. Layer chart shows how existing customer revenue grows. Slack's S1 shows 171% Net Dollar Retention for 2017–2019.
3. $1.5m ARR in the last 12-24 months.
According to Point 9, $0.5m-4m in ARR is needed to raise a $5–12m Series A round.
Target at least what you raised in Pre-Seed/Seed. If you've raised $1.5m since launch, don't raise before $1.5m ARR.
Capital efficiency has returned since Covid19. After raising $2m since inception, it's harder to raise $1m in ARR.
P9's 2016-2021 SaaS Funding Napkin
In summary, less than 1% of companies VCs meet get funded. These metrics can help you win.
If there’s demand for it, I’ll do one on direct-to-consumer.