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3 SaaS models to re-imagine


I often receive messages on LinkedIn from new tech entrepreneurs excited to pitch me an ultra-innovative idea. While some of them are certainly visionary, others seem to overestimate the potential of the market to adapt to completely new models.

On the other hand, there are segments of technology that have not evolved in a long time. Those are in my opinion the low hanging fruits for innovating old tech ideas. In this two-parts column I will share which are the 3 categories that – in my opinion – need not to be reinvented, but rather re-imagined.

There is this myth in the start-up community, that in order to succeed in creating the latest tech unicorn, founders must reinvent the wheel. This concept is often referred to as “Category creation”. Those who believe this is the way to go would maintain that the most important building block for success is an idea that could completely change an industry with a new Software-as-a-Service. I found myself agreeing with this theory, before I realised that some of the existing SaaS players had mutated into something that no longer solved the problem they identified. Moreover, getting investors to see a niche that does not yet exist, is much more challenging than explaining a start-up idea with a simple: “We are like XYZ, but better.”

This is what a company like Super Human did. They realised that the email experience with Gmail was getting more and more cumbersome. So they invented an innovative way of approaching emails, and went out to investor with the promise: “We are like Gmail, but better.” And it worked great. So before re-inventing the wheel, I reckon that 3 segments of SaaS could immensely benefit from such an improvement approach.

1. CRM

Let us start from Customer Relations Management software. CRMs today are incredibly ripe for disruption because all the existing large CRM players are continuously trying to go upmarket. Salesforce who started as CRMs, is not really a CRM company anymore. They do not even specialize anymore. They seem to have stopped thinking of how to transform CRMs. They have kept adding new products by acquiring other start-ups, but the result is an unfocused tool with an incredibly complex licensing model.

That could mean that CRMs today do not need to be rebuilt from scratch, but just reimagined for our time. Especially after the pandemic, we work differently, but CRMs were designed for pre-COVID era. I personally have yet to find a company that had no troubles implementing a CRM solution.

Usually the configuration is so complicated that companies need to hire third party specialised agencies to run the initial setup. Imagine how different the industry would be if only CRM software were easy to understand across the whole organisation. Therefore I believe there is enormous room for improvement in the CRM space for the next 3 to 5 years.

In the second part of this column – next week – I will describe the other two categories that need to be re-imagined: Marketing Automation, and Customer Support. The common thread, we will see, is that existing players have decided to stop innovating the core, and moved to up-selling a multiplicity of other solutions instead. Thus losing the focus that brought them the initial success. [The writer is a member of the International Press Association]

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