Grown Up: Learnings from the Newstalk SaaS Bootcamp

The Newstalk SaaS Bootcamp was launched in October 2015 with the explicit aim to help scaling Irish B2B SaaS companies build a sales and marketing engine for accelerated global growth.

The programme was funded by Newstalk FM through the office of the Dublin Commissioner for Startups and delivered by the NDRC in collaboration with a contributing team of international experts in the areas of SaaS sales, marketing, and customer success.

For many founders, having built a viable product and gained some initial traction, the prospect of building out their sales and marketing functions to acquire customers at scale can be an intimidating prospect. “The skill set required to scale a business is completely different to the more product-focused skill set these companies had honed to this point” explained Niamh Bushnell, the Startup Commissioner, so the Bootcamp was designed to help founders develop these essential new skills.

“We had over 50 applications for ten places,” said Gary Leyden, Commercial Director at the NDRC and lead of the Bootcamp programme. “We selected companies who would get the most benefit out of the Bootcamp given their growth stage,” Participating companies had to be funded, have a live product, revenue, and customers, and be capable of scaling globally.

The bootcamp was held over six sessions, and a list of high-profile contributors included internationally recognised SaaS sales and marketing experts like Mark Roberge, Lincoln Murphy, and Fergus Gloster as well as an extensive list of seasoned entrepreneurs, executives, investors, and leaders from the SaaS industry around the world.

Bizimply, Initiafy, LearnUpon, edgescan, LogoGrab, NewsWhip, Xsellco, WorkCompass, ViddyAd, and Bright Flag participated in the program, and each was invited to present lessons learned at the Newstalk SaaS Bootcamp Growth Day on June 22nd.

Luca Boschin, founder, and CEO of LogoGrab, explained that his company: “ is now led by the sales team, rather than the product team. And as we’re deepening our expertise in sales it was great to hear from the big guys how they do it.”

Luca gained other insights too, like how Intercom hire sales people. The 5-step process makes sure people are both qualified and a good cultural fit, and it’s something he’s already applying at LogoGrab.

 Adam Moursy, Sales Executive at Bright Flag (formerly LegalShine), pointed to mentors like Orla Moran and Donal Cahalane, who provided actionable insights from the Bootcamp: “They helped us to define our sales process and the steps from identifying who we’re going to target to eventually signing up customers. Sales was previously the responsibility of the CEO and the COO. We set up an office in NY and hired a couple of sales people. The Bootcamp fed into the procedures we implemented to ensure they and we weren’t duplicating tasks.”

From leads to retentions
The content on each day of the Bootcamp was carefully crafted so that specialists from marketing and sales through to customer success and retention would get the most value. As Susan Nolan, Operations Manager at LearnUpon, highlighted, “Our Customer Success Manager found the session with Lincoln Murphy extremely useful. We have passed the 500 customer mark, and we’re at the stage where customer success comes into play.”

Speaking at the Growth Day, LearnUpon CEO, Brendan Noud, echoed that sentiment. “Since the Bootcamp, we’ve designed an engine for sales and marketing and hired the right people. We’ve brought in a team of Business Development Representatives (BDRs), and our lead to demo rate has gone from 32% to 40%, resulting in 6-8 additional customers each month”.

Gerard Forde, Co-Founder & CEO at Bizimply, had a similar success story to share as he spoke about how the Bootcamp helped him to “build a sales culture within the business where everyone knows that metrics and sales are part of every conversation.” As a result of the Bootcamp, Bizimply also restructured and segmented their sales team into BDRs, Account Managers, and Closers, managed to double turnover in the last three months, and successfully launched in the UK market.

The Newstalk SaaS Bootcamp highlights the importance of helping our indigenous startups, not only at the initial stages but as they grow and expand into larger organisations with ever more complex problems. There is an abundance of knowledge and expertise available in Dublin to help them grow and succeed, and creating opportunities for sharing that knowledge is essential. As Fergus Gloster summed it up, “The more people there are in Dublin who understand how to build a SaaS company, make it scalable and make it outrageously valuable for all stakeholders (employees, investors, customers, etc.), the better for this economy moving forward.”

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