It was at the end of our 2020 edition that the moment that defines SaaSBOOMi for me happened. This was before the pandemic, remember, and all of us were actually there, in person — founders, volunteers, everyone.
It was around 5 pm, and the evening breezes from the sea were just starting to arrive when Girish Mathrubootham took the stage
He started to talk about how all constraints that we have in the ecosystem are internal. Girish is a wonderful storyteller, and he had the audience spellbound with his experiences of building Freshworks. As he wound down his session, the last slide came up.
It was his father’s photograph.
Girish had lost his father just a few weeks back, and he told us, and the audience, about his childhood, his growing-up years, and how much his father believed in him. As he told us about how much of his success he owed to his father, he choked, unable to continue.
Suddenly a voice came from the audience — Girish, we love you — and the entire audience clapped and stood up in unison. Though it was tough, and he was in tears, the audience gave him enough strength to continue and complete his talk.
The ovation he got was something to behold.
It was a wonderful moment, like a great movie had come to an end, but one in which the audience did not want to leave the hall.
That evening was very special. Many folks had assembled at the Sheraton property at Mahabalipuram. Though many had to get to the airport or take a ride back to the city or head back to the station, everyone tried to stay as long as they could. People felt good, they felt like they belonged among this set of people and founders, and they wanted to help each other and enjoy what they had together: A community.
Here’s a beautiful blog by Krish on the spirit of #SaaSBooMi as a community and its purpose. It’s easy to read the passion and the ambition in it, in the idea of realizing India as a ProductNation.
What makes SaaSBOOMi what it is
There are many people who bind this community together, like Girish, and who are willing to bare their hearts and minds to help the next generation of founders. Founders have opened their playbooks and even shared hard-won experience, as they want these learnings to be made available to the community to benefit from.
We are really happy with how far we have come together. On 24th November, it will be two years of a community that is changing the Indian SaaS ecosystem. There is still a long way to go, but this feels like a milestone to mark, so I’m marking it.
But all this did not happen automatically. To build a community of this scale means that there need to be many platforms you have to provide so that founders get comfortable: both offline and online. For us these things work amazingly and as we envisioned, a result of many years of building trust with founders and using their willingness to help other founders to great effect.
But it took years for this trust to develop, and it started, as it often does, before there was a term called SaaSBOOMi
The road to SaaSBOOMi: How it all Began
It was under iSPIRT that the SaaS Founder ecosystem got together at Chennai for the first time, in March 2015. The event was called SaaSx. We had around 75–80 founders in Chennai, and about 30–35 founders came from Bangalore in a bus we had arranged. We called it the SaaSy bus (of course we did).
It was a tremendous success, the camaraderie and the feeling of not being alone that founders discovered that day was what kickstarted the movement that has got us here.
We had only 3 or 4 sessions that first time, and we only started the event by 3 pm so that the folks from Bangalore could reach. Though it was a roaring success, we could do 2 such events in a year, which gradually became 1. As time went on, the team struggled to put together the same kind of event, so we tried to change the format and do a few things differently. This included Playbooks and Round Tables that quickly became very popular. There was a lot of demand, and so much knowledge sharing that they quickly became synonymous with the Product Nation brand of iSPIRT.
It was a heady time.
And it was from the goodwill and friendships forged from that time and energy that SaaSBOOMi came to be. I actually still remember the day when Girish and a few of his colleagues were sitting in the cafe of the Taj at Yeshwantpur ideating on the names. We had a few good options, but SaaSBOOMi was easily the one that stuck.
Two years, then, and we wanted to put together a quick snapshot of what we achieved. This blog here captures well the journey of building SaaSX and my love for Chennai. With Chennai fast becoming the epicentre of Indian SaaS, this became important as we built SaaSBOOMi.
What we are doing next
This is where it’s going to get really interesting.
Earlier, we focused most of our activities around founders, and we noticed that founders always wanted to bring their team members to learn too.
- We have facilitated that now. We will have a lot more playbooks and events focused on the second tier of leaders, so the ecosystem has another rung of knowledge to use.
- As part of this process, we are moving to a full-fledged community in the next few weeks. Powered by Kissflow, this will enable us to open up SaaSBOOMi’s space to many other founders and their leadership teams. This helps us go beyond the constraint of 256 members, a limitation of Whatsapp.
- We have an initiative around Diversity (Gender, Skills, Experience and other pivots) in SaaS companies, on which you’ll hear from us soon.
- We are sitting on a lot of data on Indian SaaS, and a team is right now working on finding usable patterns and simplifying them for founders and for industry watchers. We hate it when you have to provide your startup details again and again for every initiative.
- The community is also working on initiatives like Tear Down Sessions, Product Demos, and a lot more. We will be announcing them through our channels. Please follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
- We will be putting together playbooks in a more consumable format so that it becomes easier to read and share.
Recapping our mission
We are now the premier non-profit SaaS community globally.
In the next couple of years, we would want to be the go-to place for SaaS founders globally.
We want to be the number 1 destination for seed/early-stage SaaS startups to learn, grow, and engage with other startups like them.
With over $2 billion in combined annual recurring revenue, 1000+ companies, including 7 unicorns, and hundreds more being created every year, India is becoming a thriving ecosystem for SaaS companies and founders.
With SaaSBOOMi, we want to build the platform that doubles down and makes sure that the best global SaaS companies of the next decades come from India.
We know it’s a lofty mission, but what other kinds are there?
Introducing the ecosystem partners for this mission
We just introduced our really ambitious mission, and on journeys like these, you need partners.
While many conferences and communities trade speaking slots & sponsorships, SaaSBOOMi has actually not taken sponsorships from potential partners when one of their leadership team members was speaking.
We have been very careful about this. This is a neutral, safe space, and we want to keep it that way.
In line with this, we have taken support from these following partners for a year; we are grateful for the belief they have in us, and in their gesture to come forward to support the SaaSBOOMi mission.
How you can contribute
SaaSBOOMi will always be a movement led by founders for founders.
And as stated before, would like to go beyond the founder community. There are many folks who play a role in building a company and gradually we would like to cater to these more niche communities.
To do so, from time to time, we will make announcements on where we are looking for volunteers.
Today, there are more than 50 volunteers who make magic happen behind the scenes. If you have an initiative in mind and would like to contribute towards building it, we would be happy to work with you and bring it to life. Feel free to reach out to me or any of the volunteers.
Two more things
The pandemic has increased the importance for startups to provide health insurance to their employees. However early-stage startups with a lean employee count have a hard time getting insurance that is both comprehensive and affordable.
- Suraksha is an initiative to help early-stage startups avail the best insurance coverage which is affordable. Suraksha plan will allow startups as small as 2 employees to get high-quality insurance for their teams and their family members. We will be sharing more details on this shortly.
- We are also pleased to launch the SaaSBOOMi Awards. There have been other startup awards in the country, but none that took the view of building the community and celebrating our smaller startups and unsung heroes. There is a blue-ocean opportunity here to institutionalize a new brand of awards that can represent the gold-standard of startup awards in India in the time to come.
Beyond becoming an aspirational goal for SaaS founders in the country, the proposed SaaSBoomi awards will try to deliver incremental value in multiple other ways. Do check more on this here.
If you have been part of the movement either as a giver or taker, do take time to join us on our social media channels on 24th November while we celebrate our 2nd anniversary.
Lastly, I want to take this opportunity to thank the volunteers, the founders and the ecosystem that makes up SaaSBOOMi. The support, feedback, and goodwill has been the fuel for this engine of growth. It has been a long journey to get here, but every bit of it has been enjoyable and enervating.
As Nikki Banas writes in Walk The Earth, “You don’t need to have everything figured out today. You don’t need to conquer the entire mountain right now. The only possible way to climb a mountain is by doing one step at a time.”
Here’s to these 2 years of SaaSBOOMi, and to the next step.