Category Archives: Big Data Applications
Bench Strength: Announcing BCV’s Investment in Bench
Earlier today, Bench announced a $16MM round of funding led by Bain Capital Ventures. This is the story of why we invested.
Bench provides fully automated bookkeeping services to small business owners, eliminating the need for designers / architects / dentists / personal trainers to learn bookkeeping themselves.
Exciting stuff right?
Actually it is. Bench saw close to 3X revenue growth last year and already serves thousands of small businesses across the US. When a company can hit that level of scale and growth early in its trajectory, there is a real opportunity to build a new standard.
Growth like Bench does not happen in a vacuum. Every successful startup has to find a tailwind to ride. So what’s the fuel behind the numbers?
Serving a Retooled Economy…
Since the 2001 recession, the growth of sole proprietorships and the “gig economy” has dramatically outpaced W-2s (corporate payroll jobs).
- In 2013, the IRS received 24.1 million 1040 Schedule Cs (the form filed by sole proprietorships), up from 19.7 million in 2003.
- In 2014, they received around 90 million 1099-MISCs (the form filed by contract workers), up by 16.4MM from 2010.
Those numbers represent a structural shift in the US economy. And an opportunity to serve a new and growing class of small business owners.
…Powered by Small Business Owners who want a New Stack…
That post-2001 cohort of small business owners grew up on the internet. They proactively seek out cloud and mobile products that meet their expectations around ease of use. That generational shift is also behind several important companies that collectively represent a new small business tech stack.
The scale of these companies – each serves thousands to millions of accounts – speaks to the potential in becoming a de-facto standard in any slice of that new stack.
…and have Better Data.
Dial back the clock by 5 years. Stripe and Braintree are tiny companies. Square is just starting to scale. Gusto does not exist yet.
Today, electronic revenue collection and online payroll are ubiquitous. IRS regulations have also evolved and now electronic records are allowed and e-filings are the norm. In same time-frame, online banking (and digital bank statements) became pervasive.
In short, all the key inputs and data sources for automated bookkeeping came online in recent years, setting the stage for a service like Bench.
Harnessing those Tailwinds: Great Product…
Every small business owner has to solve bookkeeping somehow in order to file taxes. The status quo involves some combination of in-house records (spreadsheets, receipt bins, etc.), hired bookkeepers (outsourced or part-time or DIY) and maybe software (Quickbooks, Xero, etc.). All those options suffer from 3 major flaws:
- A low cadence of interaction – you only talk to your rent-a-bookkeeper a few times per month.
- Poor visibility – as a business owner, you send receipts off into the ether, but how do those numbers roll up? How are you tracking against plan? What if you need to run your business differently?
- The business owner has to do all the work around organizing and categorizing expenses and would rather spend that time on growing the business itself.
Customers give Bench very high Net Promoter Scores because it obviates all the problems listed above at 25-35% of the cost of a traditional solution. Customers can interact with bookkeepers at any point via chat, SMS and soon, via a mobile app. They can constantly monitor the financial health of their business by logging in. Most importantly, Bench’s backend automates almost all the data entry, expense classification and other manual work. Small business owners get time back in their day.
…and an Awesome Team
Ian, Jordan, Adam and Pavel saw all these trend lines 4 years ago and have gone on a journey that has taken them to thousands of customers and a 230 person team. Ian has personally worked as a small business bookkeeper and deeply understands the pain he is solving for his customers. We are incredibly excited to partner with the Bench team as they continue their journey towards liberating small businesses from bookkeeping!
PS – Bench is hiring: https://bench.co/careers/
Big Data meets Marketing Again – this time in the world of “offline” CPG
This is a guest post by my colleague Ajay on why we invested in InfoScout. See how this startup is fundamentally disrupting the market research industry via mobile.
Ajay Agarwal: Startups, SaaS, and Steelers
Today InfoScout announced the launch of their company and their analytics dashboard for Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) marketers. Bain Capital Ventures, along with Founder Collective and Dunnhumby Ventures, led a $5M Series A funding round in the company. We are thrilled to be partnering with the InfoScout founders, Jared and Jon, along with the entire InfoScout team.
We’ve discussed in the past here and here the rise of Marketing as the next great function in enterprise technology. A new wave of startups is leveraging Big Data and cloud computing to deliver incredible power to CMOs, giving them access to real-time insights and helping them drive faster, more data-driven decisions. InfoScout is leading this trend in the CPG industry where the marketing challenge is even more acute since the CPG brands don’t’ have direct access to the customer data (this is owned by the retailers) and the customer purchases take…
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What’s Next After SaaS? Big Data Applications
This is a guest post by Ajay Agarwal, my colleague at Bain Capital Ventures, who was the Series A investor in BloomReach. That company has the kind of story that gets all of us excited to build great tech. Congrats to the team!
Today one of our portfolio companies, Bloomreach, announced a new funding round led by NEA and their partners Scott Sandell and Ravi Viswanathan. Bain Capital Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated in the round. We are thrilled to work with NEA and welcome them to Bloomreach. I have known NEA for 17 years…their managing partner, Peter Barris, was on the board of Trilogy. Peter, Scott, Ravi and the entire partnership at NEA are world-class.
I had the good fortune of meeting Raj De Datta and Ashutosh Garg, the co-founders of Bloomreach, four years ago. At the time, it was the two of them and an idea. The founders wanted to solve the “content discovery” problem online and make sure that every web business in the world could be effectively “found” by their respective customers. Together, we at Bain Capital Ventures and the founders spoke to over 25 CMOs to validate this opportunity – the feedback was extremely strong and helped shape the initial product vision. We subsequently led the Series A funding in March of 2009, alongside a great group of strategic angel investors.
Less than four years later, Bloomreach employs 100 people and is on path to being the fastest growing SaaS company in history. They are one of the pioneers in the emerging Big Data Applications space: using data from inside and outside the enterprise to transform enterprise functions. Bloomreach uses techniques such as machine learning, web crawling, and search technology to mine a massive amount of data. That data drives marketing insights, new customer traffic and most importantly, new revenue. On average, BloomReach customers see 94% lift in non-branded, natural search traffic.
Unlike the last generation of SaaS and cloud marketing applications, Bloomreach is not a “form on top of a database” or a repository of manually entered data and workflow. These types of sales and marketing automation solutions are necessary and important, but fail to deliver real measurable business value and ROI to the enterprise. In contrast, Bloomreach and companies like it are helping web businesses large and small enjoy high margin revenue through an automated service and by doing so, are transforming the marketing function….which we believe is the next 10 Billion dollar opportunity in enterprise technology
Raj and Ashutosh have been outstanding founders and exemplary leaders. They have created a company and culture that is built to last. The last four years have been a fantastic journey. The opportunity for Bloomreach is awesome and we look forward to deploying the new funding in relentless pursuit of our vision.
Keeping it SaaS-y: Valuations for SaaS Companies
But how should you think about valuation? What is “market” for high growth SaaS companies?
Well, here’s one way to think about it:
SaaS Valuations Grouped by Growth Rate & Margin
In short, high growth (30% per year or more) and high margin (65% or more) businesses trade at a big premium. How much of a premium? 7 times your NTM (next 12 months) sales, vs. 4-5 times NTM sales for “regular” SaaS businesses.
Your business (and founder shares) could be worth 40-75% more if you are in that top right category.
Duh right?!? But it raises an important question every founder should care about – how do I get there and what are the signposts?
Some “SaaScid Tests” to live by:
All 3 tests relate to sustainable, high revenue growth:
- If LTV > 3X CAC, every dollar of sales & marketing spend builds strong, sustainable revenue backlog, assuring future growth.
- If months to recover CAC < 12, you are capital efficient (less fundraising and dilution!) and can use your own cashflows to fund your CAC
- Low churn = higher starting point for next years revenue = higher growth rate
If you manage your pricing and your sales & marketing model to these benchmarks, you will enjoy strong profitability. And if you have profitability, you can pursue growth because the customer economics scale.
Oh, and if you’re hitting those benchmarks, we should talk!