Hosted at SaaStr.


Information that I used were pulled from Eventbrite. Questions or statements about the discussion sessions were reinterpreted in my words and embellished by adding my own ideas in the mix.


Much appreciation to Kevin Walkup from SalesLoft for graciously inviting me to this event after having an onsite demo at PresenceLearning. It was also nice running into Oleg Rogynskyy, CEO of People.Ai and Ben Daters, VP of Sales. Great conversations on how SalesLoft and People.Ai can help PresenceLearning solve some problems we are currently facing or to enhance our processes and operations.


The SaaStr CoSelling Space Speaker Series is back with Phil Fernandez Co-Founder of Marketo and Shasta’s newest Venture Partner and Doug Pepper of Shasta Ventures. They will be sitting down on March 21st at our 15,000 sq. ft. co-selling space discussing how Phil and his co-founders built Marketo into a billion-dollar public company, how they scaled a SaaS company from $0 to $100million in ARR. Event attendees were mostly young SaaS CEOs and other high-level executives.


Phil Fernandez, Venture Partner, Shasta Ventures

Phil is a Silicon Valley veteran, with more than 35 years of experience building and leading breakout technology companies. Phil co-founded Marketo in 2006 and led the company as Chairman and CEO for a decade, overseeing its successful IPO and acquisition by Vista Equity Partners. Prior to Marketo, Phil served as president and COO of Epiphany, an enterprise customer relationship management (CRM) software company.

Doug Pepper, Managing Director, Shasta Ventures

For the past 15 years, Doug has partnered with exceptional entrepreneurs to help build market leading software companies. Doug joined Shasta in 2016 to focus on investments in enterprise software with a focus on SaaS and mobile. Prior to Shasta, Doug was a General Partner at InterWest since 2000.

About the SaaStr CSS:

A unique 15,000 sq ft “CoSelling Space” in San Francisco for post-revenue SaaS startups from the SaaStr Community. We have 125 dedicated & half-time desk options in addition to 14 conference and board rooms.


    1. What differentiates competition amongst SaaS companies? Build a product that is easy to implement. Phil elaborated by referring to Facebook: imagine if Facebook took 6 months to implement their product in user lives, they would have been eliminated from the early competition, subsequently, a different brand name would be associated with the “Facebook” effect or social product. Value exchange between customer and Marketo, feedbacks like your product is not delivering on what it promised ruins Phil’s day. Building a company culture where customer success and satisfaction is a huge priority, and this proves to be one of the most important differentiators amongst competitors.
    2. What is the nature of competition within the SaaS universe? The leader of SaaS gets approximately 75% of the market,hence, making the SasS environment is extremely competitive, hostile, and somewhat intimidating for new aspiring SaaS start up companies. Technology companies face the danger of getting their idea stolen, reiterated into a eerily similar, yet more compelling, competitive product. Combating this fierce battlefield of an environment on the start up company’s perspective, is to employ a timely cadences for each development stage of the company and ensuring strong execution of con
    3. How important did company branding play in Marketo’s success? People are rooting for you or against you in the world. Before Marketo had a tangible product, there existed approximately 15,000 buyers who wanted the product. Consequently, Marketo was always a step late because they didn’t have the manpower i.e. no customer support, implementation specialist against the influx of large demand. Yet, the efficacy associated with the Marketo brand name resulted in a strong desire for potential buyers to want to associate themselves with the company name, and that proved to be extremely advantageous for Marketo in the early stages.
    4. How to create a sustainable company in terms of culture, employee retention, etc? Marketo focused on diversifying programs, enriching culture, helping employees with work/life balance, providing opportunities for community contribution programs. Knowing how to communicate the need for rest and recreation for employees to prevent burnout and encourage commitment to staying at a company that cares and are invested in the growth of their employees.
    5. What type of people you like to interview, hiring process? Individuals who don’t just know domain knowledge, but more on their thought processes, processes being the keyword. Especially how they employ critical thinking and creativity in how they approach problems and generate appropriate solutions.
    6. How long does it take to hire a candidate? Have a good eye on hiring talent and knowing when it is wise to wait. It took Marketo a year to hire the first VP of Sales. Stayed in touch with him for roughly 1 year until they hired him as VP Sales.
    7. What does it take to double $50M revenue company? Hard to 5x development growth with $1-5M Revenue, its harder to double at $50M when you get larger as a company, the gravity and weight against growth is even higher. You can do really well in SaaS even if you are not making $100M revenue. “Why Now” questions, why are the opportunities for consumers to want a particular solution
    8. How does your brand bail you out? Strong brand helps a lot, especially if you can become a default choice, this will help you win businesses against emerging competitors.
    9. How did you deal with strong competitors during Marketo’s growing stages? May 2013 Marketo became public, Salesforce bought another competitor and when Marketo’s competitor Eloqua was bought by Oracle and posed a threat to Marketo. Short-term fear of competing with Oracle and Salesforce became advantageous because prospects wanted to work with a start-up instead.
    10. What is the future or present tech standard? Is AI & AL (i.e. active learning, machine learning, etc)  the new standard on delivering a great user experience for modern companies? The ability to design a beautiful user interface, high premium on design and UI is a top standard. Absolutely, research shows that in 2017, 90% of all pitches talk about AI and AL. There’s going to be a window of opportunity in the next 5 years to go beyond the standard expectation of high volume workflow and a shift into leveraging AI & Machine Learning to drive prediction, automation, and automation of other manual process. This would give opportunities for new start ups to plant their ground in this new emerging era , market and evolution of technology. Cloud base businesses are slowly becoming outdated, new trends like AI and other innovations are needed to breakthrough the noise in our current market.


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