At Glenborn we represent platform plays in marketing and commerce technology. All of the firms we work with offer their solution on SaaS basis (Software as a Service). Their solutions are hosted in the cloud (as opposed to loaded onto clients’hardware in clients’ datacenter) and they generally charge their clients on a Monthly recurring basis – i.e. It is MRR (monthly recurring revenue) for our clients and MRC (monthly recurring cost) for their clients. Pretty much universally SaaS companies are hung up on hiring folks who have had experience selling SaaS based solutions. They want experienced sellers and sales managers who have sold platforms on an MRR basis, understand how to articulate the technicalities of a hosted solution sale and how to deal with the associated questions, terminology, processes and negotiations that are unique to that type of sale. It isn’t rocket science – most good sellers can learn it fast but your Saas platform experience ( your SaaS-iness) therefore becomes a key discriminating point. You either are SaaSy enough in the eyes of a recruiter or you aren’t. Here is a VERY unscientific guide on how we have seen our clients interpreting your exposure to platform sales or SaaS proposition selling over the years. The rating scale goes from zero to 10 with your score referring to how it is interpreted outside the ad ecosystem.

PURE SAAS PLAYS – Score – 10
These are the areas within Marketing and commerce tech where you get a perfect score. Delivery here is mainly via hosted pages (with perhaps some level of client customization- generally around the presentation layer), Javascript and/or via API.

Examples within the marketing and ecommerce tech ecosytems include  
Social – Social page management,  Fan Engagement platforms Social listening and engagement firms
Mobile – mobile CRM platforms like Hipcricket, messaging plays like Appboy Ecommerce – Merchandising engines like Oracle’s ended Attribution platforms like Teallium, analytics platforms like Adobe Omniture, Payment platforms like eBay payable
Publishing / video – CMS platforms like Opentext, Online video platform firms like Brightcove. 

These are companies that offer their platform on a sass basis but everything you get is accessible via a password protected site. There is little customization and API delivery is often not an option. Generally the sale is less technical to less technical people. 

Examples in marketing tech include:
SEO platforms – logon to see how your keywords are performing e.g.. Conductor, Brightedge
Market research / competitive intelligence platforms eMarketer, Hitwise, Comscore Trend analysis platforms like WGSN.

In these cases, the emphasis is on selling platforms – not audience and you are generally not trying to capture media dollars in your sale.

Examples include:
Selling DSP/DMP “secret sauce” on a licensing basis (no media). e.g. Crosswise Rich media (where the sale is about adopting platform across the entire agency). e.g. Celtra
Ad verification like Doubleverify
Ad serving e.g DFP or OpenX
SEM platforms which include an ad serving and analytics component. e.g. Marin or Kenshoo 

Here the focus is on media dollars with a little bit of ad tech differentiating the offering. The key here is that media planning / buying teams are often the main client.

Examples here include:
Selling media dollars with some secret DSP / DMP secret sauce e.g. cross device targeting or geo targeting.
Selling pure data within the ad tech ecosystem (e.g. Ninth Decimal)
Selling rich media ad dollars with an element of a self serve creative platform

Here the focus is on the audience. Inventory may be delivered on mobile, social etc but again, audience not tech is the focus. This category includes publisher ad sales and audience based vertical ad networks (eg women / kids).  If you have Exposure to custom content solutions and / or microsite propositions for clients  you can boost your score to 2. 

So what does this mean from a hiring perspective? Pure SaaS plays like hiring folks with pure says play backgrounds They will generally compromise to accept hosted solutions types but it is important that these types really emphasize the SaaS nature of their platform in their resume and their language in interviews. Pure SaaS vendors will rarely accept a convert from the three ad related categories UNLESS there is a redeeming factor for them such as a match in client orientation. For example a SaaS based commerce analytics play may accept a retargeting background if they have a great rolodex in ecommerce firms. Furthermore a content marketing play might accept a background in audience centric ad solutions if there is big exposure to content marketing, micro-sites And a match in client orientation.

It is also important to note that within the ad categories everything is relative. This means platform centric ad tech backgrounds are top of the food chain. You don’t get any extra points for coming from the Pure SaaS or Hosted Solutions categories- in fact you might get dinged with the lack of relevant contacts in your rolodex.

If you are in the market and want to get a feel for your SaaSiness please reach out to us on Linkedin. We generally need a minimum of 7 outside of Ad tech and when we play in the Ad tech space we generally need 3s or 5s!

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