Strategy & Best Practices

10 B2B SaaS Companies That Crushed Their Growth Goals—and How They Did It

By Ideas @ AppDirect / May 29, 2018

10 Saas Companies Crushed Growth

SaaS adoption has skyrocketed over the past decade. In 2011, just 13 percent of companies used SaaS. Today, that number is 74 percent, and 45 percent of businesses say they already, or plan to, run their entire company from the cloud. However, that doesn’t mean every SaaS product is a guaranteed success. There are many challenges to reaching the magical $1 million in annual recurring revenue mark, and then scaling to reach even greater heights. Read on for inspiration on how 10 B2B SaaS companies were able to do just that and crush their growth numbers.

1. Intuit: Reinventing Itself As an Open Ecosystem   

The secret to Intuit’s success is that it continuously disrupts itself. Correctly “intuiting” the direction of the software market, the company seized the opportunity to become more than a provider of products and services. Today, it views itself as an open platform, with an ecosystem exchange reseller model where Intuit opens its reseller network to an ecosystem of third-party products that complement its core platform. The company’s bets have paid off. Its stock hit new highs in late 2017 and it has raked in revenue of $5.2 billion.  

2. Atlassian: Fostering an Ecosystem of Add-ons

Now valued at $7.8 billion, Atlassian is the company behind project management tool JIRA, office messaging service HipChat, and other software. Recognizing the opportunity for fostering a technology ecosystem, the company launched a marketplace in 2012 with 1,000 integrations to third-party services. Since then, Atlassian has onboarded more than 1,700 add-ons into its marketplace. The company announced in 2017 that the marketplace generated more than $250 million in total sales, with $100 million generated in 2016 alone. 

3. Salesforce: Creating an Ecosystem Five Times Larger than the Company

Launched in 1999, Salesforce is arguably the original SaaS company. Less than 20 years after it was founded, the company announced that it had reached $10 billion revenue run rate faster than any enterprise software company in history. One key reason for the company’s success is its ecosystem. Back in 2005, Salesforce launched the AppExchange, now a massive ecosystem offering 3,000 applications and components for Salesforce.com. By 2022, the Salesforce ecosystem will be more than five times bigger than the company itself, meaning that for every dollar Salesforce.com will make, its ecosystem will make $5.18. 

By 2022, the Salesforce ecosystem will be more than 5x bigger than the company itself.

4. Xero: Turning to Expert Users as Resellers  

A SaaS-based accounting solution from New Zealand, Xero launched in 2009 and quickly acquired 12,000 customers through traditional direct sales and online self-service. Then it rolled out a new go-to-market approach utilizing resellers. Accountants who used Xero became resellers of the product, pairing it with their accounting expertise. In three years, Xero grew from 12,000 to 135,000 customers, 60 percent of which were acquired through its reseller program.  

5. Microsoft: Soaring High with Its Massive Global Reseller Program 

For more than 40 years, Microsoft has been a partner-focused company, with more than 95 percent of its business generated through its partner ecosystem. Driving the success of its cloud business—which recently surpassed a $20 billion annualized run rate—is the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program. Created in 2014, the CSP program allows partners to resell Microsoft cloud services, such as Office 365 and Azure, in combination with value-added services, either directly or indirectly through partners. The number of partners transacting through the CSP program grew by 83 percent in 2017 to reach a current total of 45,000 worldwide. 

6. Shopify: Operating One of the Most Successful Affiliate Programs

Founded in 2006, Shopify is a Canadian company that provides websites, payments, shipping, and more for 600,000-plus online merchants in 175 countries. Three years after going public, Shopify has a market cap of $10 billion and boasts year-over-year growth rates of more than 70 percent. The company has grown so fast thanks to its highly successful affiliate program. Approximately 15,000 ecosystem partners referred merchants to Shopify in 2017, and the strong symbiotic relationship continues to grow.

Three years after going public, Shopify boasts YoY growth rates of more than 70 percent.

7. Dropbox: Achieving Nearly 2,000 Percent User Growth with Referrals 

Launched in 2007, the cloud storage company Dropbox has since built a $10 billion-dollar business by targeting consumers, prosumers, and small organizations. By encouraging users to invite a friend to join in exchange for 500MB of free storage, the company quickly grew from 100,000 registered users to 4 million in just 15 months. By 2012, it had 100 million users and today it has more than 500 million. Dropbox brought in $1.1 billion in revenue in 2017, setting the stage for the company’s IPO in 2018. 

8. Zendesk: Serving Up Sales Directly 

Customer service software provider Zendesk serves nearly 100,000 paid customers around the world. Starting in 2006, the company reached $1 million in annual recurring revenue within 18 months using only self-serve signups. Still with no direct sales organization, the company then grew revenue to $10 million in another 18 months. Adding direct sales helped Zendesk reach a $100 million revenue run rate in 36 months. The company recently surpassed $500 million in annual revenue run rate, with the goal of reaching $1 billion by 2020.    

9. DocuSign: Reaching Customers Everywhere Through Channel Partners

The electronic signature company DocuSign is another SaaS success story. The company reached $381 million in sales in 2017 and now has 285,000 customers. While the company has an impressive direct sales history, it decided in 2016 that it was time to begin driving massive scale through a global reseller program. By automating the partner program and enabling distribution of DocuSign through a network catalog, the company now has the potential to reach every customer within its addressable market, no matter where in the world they are or which industry they are in.    

10. Slack: Starting with a Robust Freemium Offer   

Founded in 2012, Slack’s exponential growth is the stuff of founders’ dreams. Within two years of launching, it set a record for the fastest-ever startup to achieve a $1 billion valuation. In 2017, it had a $5 billion valuation and annual recurring revenue of $200 million. More than nine million users are active on Slack every week and the company has 50,000 paid teams, with two million paid users. How did it get here? By continuously converting free customers into paying ones. It offers a freemium model that delivers value right from the start by solving some key communication problems for teams. Signing up for the premium model lets teams gain even more value, making the decision to convert a no-brainer.  

What do all of these companies have in common? A thriving ecosystem of stakeholders.

Ecosystems: A Must-Have for Success

What do all of these companies have in common? A thriving network of stakeholders—whether customers, channel partners, software developers, or some combination—that has served as the fuel to power skyrocketing growth. Want to learn more about software ecosystems and the benefits they can deliver? Download our recent white paper, “Creating a Path to Monetization: How Enterprise Software Companies Can Win Developers and Create Thriving Ecosystems,” to take a deeper dive.

Ideas @ AppDirect is a leading source for trends, statistics, best practices, and other information related to the digital economy.