Yamini is one of the world's best SaaS founders. From building a brand new product, to increasing sales team DAU on CRMs from 30% to 70%, bringing 100+K fields sales ppl to use Vymo everyday, and much, much more. Read all about her journey as shared at Upekkha's Value SaaS Series on FB Live last week.

The Vymo Journey

  • Vymo is about 6 years old, prior to this, Yamini worked with McKinsey as a consultant in India and the US, on large scale transformation within large enterprises
  • During her time there, she struggled to understand what Sales people on the ground were doing, how that correlated to their outcomes, and what behaviors of theirs could be changed to effect better outcomes
  • She realized that people rarely put their engagement or activity level data into their CRMs, and that salespeople don't actually like these tools that were mostly for reporting and keeping an eye on them, not exactly making their job easier
  • This was around 2012-13 when mobility was coming to the forefront. One of her best friends Venkat Malladi, had been working at Google on several mobility related capabilities such as Google Maps, Places etc.,
  • Together they decided to create a solution that would be a personal sales assistant, positioned as a Sales & Distribution excellence cloud
  • Vymo was then built as a layer on top of existing CRMs, that automatically helps captures sales activities, learn what's actually working for the best reps on that team and suggest next actions to salespeople, which in turn helps them #domore. And all of this was to be done in the flow of how their typical day plays out
  • Vymo targets large enterprise customers with typical deal values at a quarter of a million or more
  • They started off in India and grew to $1M ARR at a time when it was tough to believe that India could be such a big SaaS market, or that Indian SaaS customers would even pay amounts of large value
  • But their solution caught momentum very quickly when they found their Product-Market Fit
  • Initially the temptation was there to start with selling to easier segments such as mid market or lower mid-market type of accounts where CXOs were much more easily accessible, but instead they tried multiple sectors which had distributed field sales teams
  • Slowly, but surely they learnt a lot more nuances: the sectors that were willing to pay, the sectors that could see value in their premium solution, how to position themselves as drivers of sales productivity improvement, and more
  • They learnt that the sales cycles of their initial customers had to be short enough to quickly see meaningful outcomes, literally within weeks and months of deploying Vymo. This way, POCs would show instant value and that would mean they could acceptably charge a premium for added solutions on top of the existing cost that prospective customers were already paying for their CRM
  • All this and more, established their decision to focus on large enterprise customers as it was the only segment willing to pay a premium and was mature enough to have tried deploying all kinds of tools in the past, recognizing the gaps between their sales productivity and their CRM
  • Another key realization was that being a horizontal tool will only ever allow them be as good as the CRM solution used by their client would be, but with a vertical focus and added layers of context, Vymo would become way more intelligent and relevant to the end user
  • However, neither of the founders had ever sold software before this, coming from cushy, comfortable, high-paying jobs. Sales did not come naturally to them, but they decided from the beginning they would do as much as possible between them.
  • Vymo's first customers were actually through references. After the first few conversations itself, they realized that 'free' isn't always seen as adding value, and it most definitely doesn't drive it. So they learnt to always put a price to their solutions even while doing a POC
  • They were open-minded about the companies they did POCs for, from telcos to food companies and agri businesses to insurers and other financial services. Through building these POCs they learnt a lot. Venkat would iterate on code and the product itself, while Yamini would invest in conversing with end users
  • One of the most important aspects that led to their early success, was forcing themselves to think each and every decision through, while having a very clear view on what they will not do. The opportunities were right there to build a mid-market solution or a cheaper version of some other product out there, or go horizontal. There were so many difficult choices to be made
  • A single-minded focus on their DNA and making sure to ask the hard questions of themselves is what helped make the right strategic decisions
  • Another factor was that Yamini and Venkat were both determined about really innovating on the product front, and creating a 10x differentiation in terms of how Vymo solves problems vs. any other solution out there.
  • Gradually realizing that a solution like Vymo could only be bought by certain kinds of customers who would be willing to pay because the problem was big enough, was another guiding factor
  • This meant that they had to start saying 'no' to a lot of things that came their way
  • Even now they stand strong on the thins that Vymo will say 'no' to, and they push themselves to collect all the data they need before saying 'yes' to something
  • Sticking to this focus is what really gave them momentum, along with not operating with greed or getting distracted when it came to mid-market customers
  • Yamini and Venkat also ensured that before building the solution, and before pitching to a customer, the team knew what the product was solving, whether the customer was from their target segment, if they would find value in their solution, and also be willing to pay for it
  • They also wanted to be very, very sure that if they sold it once, they should be able to sell the same solution 10x. They proved this to themselves again and again before they went and tried to raise money
  • Vymo had decided to bootstrap for as long as they could, staying away from angel investors. But there was a point when they had 7 large customers and only 7 members on their team. They couldn't see how they could possibly deliver what was promised without actually beefing up the team. And, enterprise payment cycles being what they were (15 months), they went ahead and raised funds
  • But, by that time they had already proved Product-Market Fit in a specific geography and therefore they were able to raise funds on the back of that growth story for that geography as well as their expansion plans into new geographies
  • When Vymo first started, they were probably the only large enterprise-focused SaaS company at that point of time in India
  • Although USA is the largest in terms of TAM for enterprise SaaS, they made the crucial decision to first launch in neighbouring markets that were similar to their starting point i.e India
  • Emerging markets close to India also made a lot more sense, because Vymo was a mobile-first solution that would be easily successful in markets that were also mobile-first in nature when it came to their enterprise workforce
  • This helped them test some of these markets in a very low-cost manner without overcommitting themselves. At the same time, they were conscious of the fact that the problem they were solving had a massive global market, and they made it a point to test the US market every 6 months. On the back of events like 'Dreamforce' or through concerted outreach efforts, the team made sure to talk to 5-10 prospects in their target segment to understand the market better
  • Those were the years that CRM solutions were just catching on, so enterprises had just begun migrating to cloud. Since these transitions were ongoing, it was very tough for their target segment, to know fully the limitations of the CRM they were using and then understand why they would need Vymo as a solution on top of that. This also led to the decision to focus on S.E Asia at first, than start with the US Market
  • COVID-19 did impact Vymo as they had to revise their planning completely, and were caught in the middle of various life stages in different markets, while having to facilitate WFH. Their TOFU was also zero as until then they had relied heavily on face-to-face field marketing efforts and events
  • The team then focused on building marketing muscle digitally and quickly saw momentum and results. They also recognized that many of their clients wanted to figure out how to adapt to a new, remote-working world
  • So, Vymo quickly worked on repackaging and recommunicating a new and improved value proposition - that of enabling remote sales teams as well as driving execution and productivity
  • Within 5 days, the new marketing campaign was ready, in 1 week they had POC, and within 2 weeks they had customers signing up. They saw increased TOFU action by the first week of April itself, and this gave a lot of heart to the team
  • Yamini said this also led to them to believe that not only would Vymo survive this crisis, but also succeed in pushing the product out at a level relevant to the future, which was anyway inevitable in their sector

Key Takeaways

  • When you're starting out, be very sure about why you're building a solution for that space in particular, and why you're building that particular product
  • Build SaaS that are intelligent solutions and recognize that context is very important to drive that intelligence
  • Establish your distinct advantage in that space, whether it means in-depth insights, or potential customer access, or your ability to really innovate in that space
  • In the early stages, the path that took Vymo from $100k to $1M ARR was paved by having a vertical focus, targeting the large enterprise segment, and aligning their product, sales approach, customer access etc., to suit that model
  • You should use your instinct and experience to see which segment you can create value for, and ensure that it always aligns with your DNA. You should also say no to anything else outside that focus, because it would only be a distraction
  • Bootstrap for as long as you can. Do all experiments at your cost, because many times, raising funds to do experiments leads to a lot of burn. Sure, you might feel like raising money to test things out, the dollar cost is less of a pain, but at the end of the day, the team could get extremely distracted and you lose valuable focus, sacrificing capital efficiency and optionality
  • At Vymo, they actively chose to conduct their experiments with their own backs against the wall, that way, they had real skin in the game, felt a real sense of urgency and the burning need to prove that their solutions either worked or did not work. The wishful thinking period is much shorter this way, and more gets done without much dilution
  • Once the experiments work to scale is when you should feel confident about going and raising funding
  • Be extremely clear on why you're choosing a particular market. Choosing to launch in markets closer to home may be cheaper and faster as a first step
  • If your intent is to eventually build for global markets then the ideal way is to start building for the market you actually want to end up being in
  • If you have the option or the ability to pick your largest market at the get go, then even if you need to invest a few extra years, go ahead and do it. You'll grow faster
  • Any initiative Vymo takes, a lot of hard work goes into evaluating potential ROI, and whether it would actually lead to success, before over-investing or overcommitting themselves to it
  • Ask yourselves hard questions early on and up front
  • Leverage existing SaaS playbooks and don't make mistakes you could have easily avoided
  • Dig into the SaaS mentor network, because founders in the community have seen most of the problems you are facing, and have already come up with very unique solutions. If you have a question, just talking to another SaaS founder could get you an answer in 5 minutes, and probably save you a whole year of making mistakes and learning on your own

Thoughts on Upekkha

  • Although Upekkha was not yet formed when Vymo first launched, Yamini had connected with Prasanna and other members of the team through Microsoft Accelerator
  • Prasanna and the others have been a sounding board, helping her ask the tough and important questions from the very beginning, and that is why Yamini has continued to value them as friends, mentors and coaches on the Vymo journey
  • Vymo also encourages members of their team to actively seek mentorship and guidance from Upekkha so that the Value SaaS DNA continues to thrive in their organization

If you're an early-stage B2B SaaS founder or just about to embark on your SaaS growth journey, then Upekkha is the place for you. The VSF Basecamp program helps you find your flywheel revenue, ensure your freedom, flexibility and optionality, as well as have the support of an elite tribe of Value SaaS founders who will truly have your back. Find out more at www.upekkha.io/apply

Watch the full video of Yamini at Upekkha's Value SaaS Series below