SaaS Ideas You'll Want to Steal for 2022
- If you're a founder and you're in the pre product market fit stage or in the pre-revenue stage. And if you're thinking about maybe starting a category, you're like, I'm going to be a category creator. I want to be a category king. It's probably a fool's errand. You're much better off stealing a SaaS idea.
Now obviously, calling it stealing may sound a little weird, maybe a little offbeat, but I really believe in stealing and maybe a better way to position it as to say category hacking. You're much better off hacking a category than trying to create one. See about a year ago, I did my video on SaaS ideas that you should steal for 2021. It turned into one of our best videos and having spent the last year working with pre founders and pre product market fit founders as part of my launch program, which is very different than my go to market program and scale program, which are for later stage companies, having worked with nearly 100 founders in that program, I figured it would be really good to revisit that video, to redo it based on everything that I've learned in helping these founders, especially when it comes to stealing. I mean, category hacking the right SaaS ideas. And when you follow this framework that I'm gonna show you, the three principles in this framework, you're gonna be able to actually accelerate your path to revenues and product market fit, intro.
(upbeat music) What's up everybody, welcome to Unstoppable, I'm TK. And on this channel, I help SaaS founders like you grow your SaaS business faster with an unstoppable strategy. Now, if you are new to this channel, welcome, I drop an episode every single Sunday with actionable strategies on how to grow SaaS businesses faster. So be sure to hit the subscribe button and that bell icon, that way you'll get notified every single time I drop an episode with the TK Energy.
Now if you're already part of this fast-growing community of SaaS founders, SaaS leaders, part of my SaaS coaching programs, my people, welcome back. It's really awesome to see you over here. So about a year ago, I did a video on SaaS ideas that you should steal for 2021. And it turned into an incredibly popular video on this channel, based on everything that I've learned, I should revamp that framework and bring you the latest and greatest on how to steal the best ideas if you're that founder that are really trying to break through the market and get to product market fit and get to initial revenues. Now, why do we believe in stealing better than creating a category? And maybe stealing is the wrong word, which is why I also refer to it as category hacking. Well, here's the thing, Slack.
If you think about Slack, if you think about some of the most successful SaaS companies, Slack was not the first chat software. In fact HipChat was, and even before HipChat, there was other chat software. If you think about Salesforce, Salesforce was by far not the first CRM system.
There were plenty before that. If you think about Notion, Notion, in regardless of how you think about it, they were not the first Wiki product, even though they may not completely sound like a Wiki, but there are Wiki. There were another first Wiki product. There were plenty of other Wikis that were being curated by teams to store their knowledge. And of course, Snowflake, which is the darling of SaaS right now, one of the most successful SaaS companies with epic valuations. They were not the first BI tour, the data warehousing product, none of these companies, which are the category kings right now started the category.
They were not the first movers. And a lot of times, SaaS founders confused first mover for category kings. What you wanna be as a category king. You don't wanna be the first mover. So what founders really do is they're actually hacking categories. They're figuring out what are the SaaS ideas that are doing well, what are their merging categories? And they're saying, I'm gonna go hack into that.
I'm gonna actually dig into that and that'll save them months of building the wrong product and feeling the pain of trying to find product market fit. That's why I really believe in stealing. It goes back to that really popular quote by Pablo Picasso. He said, good artists copy and great artists steal. Of course, no one thinks of Pablo Picasso, when you think about that quotation, it's really Steve jobs that said it. But same time, stealing is what you wanna be doing.
I'll call it category hacking. This is why in this video, we're gonna dig into three key ideas that you can steal for 2022. I'm gonna walk you through my framework for category hacking slash stealing. I'm gonna walk you through some examples and I'm gonna teach you exactly what new information I learned from helping nearly 100 founders in the pre-revenue, pre-product market fit stage over the past year. So if you're excited dig into this framework and these key ideas go ahead and smash that like button for the YouTube algorithm, really likes it when you do that, and let's dig right into principle number one. Okay, so what's principle number one? Principle number one is, before you think about categories, before you think about what your product does, you know, this is the big thing that I try to teach first time founders that every second time founder now knows, which is products don't matter, markets do.
You wanna be figuring out who are you gonna be selling into, especially in B2B SaaS, which is what I specialize in. So the first thing that you really wanna figure out in this piece is identify which department of a company and what type of company you're gonna be selling into. And the reason this is important is because a lot of times, people don't really define their ideal customer.
And they'll say, oh, we'll sell to SMBs. But it's like, well, who holds the budget? And do they have enough budget? And what's the problem. Is there an important urgent enough problem, which is why I always force founders to think about exactly which department or which person in the company is gonna be buying your product and do they have sufficient budget to spend on software? And when you start to force the conversation that way, you start to understand, okay, who are we really selling to? What how do they get paid and why would they pay for software? And where's the budget coming from? Now, one of the things that's super important as you thinking about stealing is when you think about departments, there's a natural pecking order. And so in this framework that I always think about, there's essentially some key departments that you can target as a B2B SaaS company.
The first one is R and D. This is essentially engineering, that engineers need lots of tools and they have budget and they have a lot of money to spend. If a company is heavily investing in R and D, then their engineers will be able to spend money on tooling and infrastructure and all those pieces. So this is some of the richest areas of budget that exists out there.
The second group that has a ton of budget is the marketing team, and marketing team, this is why MarTech is so huge. There's over 1000 applications that are integrated just with HubSpot, HubSpot is huge, and all those apps are huge, the ecosystem is huge. The reason is marketers have a lot of budget because companies will allocate a lot of dollars to get more pipeline, to get more leads, to get more revenue, to get more brand awareness, 'cause that's the core engine for growth. So that's naturally what they're gonna be spending a lot of money on. So on one hand they're gonna spending a lot of money on their product, what are they building? And then gonna spending a lot of money on their distribution, which is how they get people to buy that product.
So that's the second group that you can go after. The third group that you can go after, and this wasn't always true, but it's very true today, is the sales team. When I first started Tout App, people didn't really believe that sales teams had budget to spend on software beyond CRM, but that's changed.
Now sales teams have lots of budget. They spend money on sales engagement tools, sales enablement tools, sales analytics tools, you name it. And so sales teams now have a lot of budget to spend on software. Not as big as marketing, marketing spend's way more, but pretty damn big, and depending on the company, it can vary between R and D and marketing. That's one more department that you can go after.
Then you can get into support slash customer success. That's another department that you can sell into. Now this is where, you'll notice there aren't a lot of huge SaaS companies that are selling into customer success. There are companies that are selling into support and they're massive businesses, but they're not as big as say the sales players or the MarTech players or the R and D players. You don't see like a GitHub got acquired for $8.5 billion. You don't see sales like that for the support side, generally smaller.
Why, companies tend to spend more money on top of funnel, marketing, what they're selling, what their distribution is, than they do below the funnel. It's just kind of how it goes and you can't argue with it. So while you can sell here, the budget sizes are not as big over here. Again, the idea behind this is to think about what market you're going after. So you can identify the right category.
So you can't just jump into categories. You wanna think about the market first and thinking about departments is a great way to really start to narrow things down. The last department that you can look at is HR.
And these kind of go together, but I'll put them out here anyway, finance, and there's another N there. And then there's ops, and all of these departments essentially have much less budget than these guys. They all have some budget, there are HR platforms. There are finance platforms, there are operations platforms, but their budget size is not nearly as big as these guys.
And so what you're really doing as principle number one is starting to get very specific. Only if you're gonna build business software, you're gonna build a SAS tool, exactly which department you're going after. And there's a natural pecking order where the further up you go over here, the bigger the budget and the more problems they tend to have, but budget is what matters the most. So that's principle number one, once you've figured out principle number one, then you wanna look at this map and say, cool, we wanna build a SaaS platform or SaaS tool. Let's just say, we wanna go after R and D.
We wanna go after marketing. You wanna build a SaaS platform on that. And what are the emerging categories there that we can hack into or steal? The second principle that you wanna think about is the type of SaaS . And the reason I say this is there's essentially three golden types of SaaS . Let me explain, now everyone thinks like, oh, SaaS , there's so many different kinds, but if you really zoom out, there's only three kinds of SaaS products, okay? And I'm gonna walk you through it, again, the same thing applies here.
The more up the stack that you go, the more valuable it's going to be. So let's start with the most valuable, there are three golden types, the most valuable type of SaaS business is your system of record. And all of these are gonna be systems, right? Those are the most valuable types, systems of records. Essentially the piece of platform or software or database, wherever you wanna call it, that the entire department or series of departments runs on always tends to be the most valuable type of SaaS business. So if you think about marketing, you know, marketing automation is their system of record. That's where they store all the customer data.
If you think about R and D, the GitHub repository, and before that was subversion if you were around back then, that's the most valuable piece. And then everything else layers on top of that. And even if you go below the stack for R and D, the infrastructure is the most expensive piece. That's the system of record, where you store everything and run everything. Systems of records are the most valuable in SaaS .
And so you wanna think about if I'm going after a certain department, well, do we want to be a system of record? Now, here's the thing. If there's already a well-established system of record, then it may be tougher to actually displace that or compete against that. That's why there are other kinds of SaaS as well, because systems of record tend to be old, kind of stodgy. And so now, people do so much more on software, there's a second type, which is system of engagement.
And system of engagement is essentially something that sits on top of the system of record. And you're able to say, cool, this is the system I'm engaged, this is where we do our work. And while we do the work in here, it'll automatically right to the system of record. So I started a company called Tout App, and ToutApp was a pioneer in the sales engagement category. And we were a system of engagement.
We sat on top of the CRM and instead of salespeople saying, I worked on this deal, I made this phone call. We said, cool, make the phone call, send the email. And we logged everything for them automatically. As they engaged, we wrote everything down. Now, systems of engagements are not as valuable as systems of records, but they're still very valuable.
The sales engagement category for example, is expected to be valid on nearly $5 billion next year. And it's gonna continue to grow multiple winners in this space. So systems of engagements, regardless of which department you're selling into, there's gonna be valuable platforms to be made over there.
Now the third golden type of SAS is the system of decision. I'm running out of space here, but you get the picture. So here, engagement and decision.
So that's the third golden type. The system of decision is not where work gets done. It basically pulls the data from the system of engagement. It pulls the data from the system of record, and then it helps you make decisions. This is your business intelligence tool, your reporting tool, maybe your AI tool, where it gives you insights. These are not as valuable as a system of engagement, not as value as a system of record, but they're still very valuable.
And the reason they're not as valuable for the most part, is because generally they're easy to swap out. A system of decision is pretty easy, you can go introduce a new tools, cool, there's all my data. Go look at my system and engagement and system of record and, cool, here's a new. So it's very easy to replace these. A system engagement isn't medium level in terms of being able to swap out and churn.
And so that's why they're a little bit more valuable. They're stickier, 'cause if you're doing all your work in there and you're used to it and you have everything in there, it's kind of hard, but not impossible. But if you look at a system of record, once you're in it, it's really hard to move stuff because all these other things hook into it. And systems of records are very sticky, very hard to get rid of, that's why they tend to be very low churn because companies are not gonna switch them every year. Whereas these things they will switch.
And so what you're doing in this principle number two, the first one is like, hey, what's the department we're selling into? The second one is what's the type of SaaS , the three golden types. You have system of record, the most valuable. So this is essentially for dollar signs and systems of decision, which is $1 sign. And it's all relative, right? They're not, not valuable.
Snowflake is an incredible company, but not as valuable as say Salesforce. And that's how you wanna think about it. So that's principle number two. And the reason I gave you these two is because once you think about things in this framework, once you think about SaaS ideas in this framework, this gives you the framework and the way of thinking, this is the lens you wanna use to identify what the emerging categories are that you wanna hack into versus trying to just create something new and falling into a trap of trying to be the pioneer. And the pioneer always has arrows on their back. It's not the worst thing, there are pros to it, but it's way harder than hacking an existing category that's emerging.
And these two first principles, what it will do it, this is one of the things I talk about inside of my launch program with the pre founders and the pre-revenue founders and the pre product market fit founders is, hey, we've got to find the heat for the solution, for the technology that you have. And so let's figure out what's the department, what type of SaaS? Because once you start to do this, then you'll be able to apply principle number three. And I'm gonna tell you principle number three. But before I do that, let me just pause here for a second.
Are you starting to see the power in this? Are you starting to see the power of, instead of just me saying, hey, here's three great ideas, by the way, if you want three great ideas, I did an episode on this very recently. In fact, it was like two weeks ago. I'll link to it below.
You don't have to go right now. I'll give you the concrete ideas, but are you starting to see that, if you look at the SaaS landscape and the category landscape through this lens, where you see the types of SaaS and which ones are more valuable and the departments and which ones are more valuable, then you'll be able to pick the category, the emerging category and spot them way better. We starting to see the power in this. Can I just get a yes in the comments below? Also, smash that like button for the YouTube algorithm, it really likes it when you do that.
Also, if you're in this pre-revenue stage, if you're in the pre product market fit stage and you're building the product and you really wanna figure out like, hey, are we doing the right thing? Are we positioning the right way, how do we launch this? How do we get our go to market going, how do we get to initial revenues? I host a webinar every single week. It's about a 45 minute webinar. It goes through an hour sometimes with actionable steps on here's how you launch. And here's how you get to initial revenues, how to flesh some of this strategy out. So you should definitely join.
I'll tell you more about it at the end of this video, I'll link to it below, but let's go to principle number three, so that you actually know how to pick the right categories to go after. So once you have these two, what you're gonna do is through this lens, you can then start to say, cool, where are the opportunities? What are the categories that are well-established? So maybe, obviously there's GitHub here. Marketing has a well-established category. Sales has one, there's clearly a sales engagement tool. There's definitely a marketing engagement tool.
You know, you can start to figure out like, hey, what are all the players, where's all the competition? You can also start to understand, where are the emerging players? What new categories are emerging? Are there sub categories? Is there a new type of system of record emerging? Like, for example I'll tell you, in customer support and customer success, there's new sub categories emerging, especially around here's a brand new customer success platform. Like there they're players like that, that are going up against Gainsight. Similarly there's new customer support platforms specific to specific verticals that are coming up. So you can start to identify, where's the heat? What are the well entrenched players and where are the new players and what's emerging? And you can start to see what categories are already being created so that you don't have to go create it from scratch and figure it all out, you can actually start to hack it.
What this does is essentially helps you see the full chess board of exactly what's emerging so that you don't have to waste months trying to go create a category or years even. What you can say is like, cool, this is emerging. How do we hack it? And the biggest thing for principle number three, you know, there's essentially two parts to this. And let me put this in blue, three A is essentially where's the heat, right? You wanna identify emerging categories. And instead of just looking at categories and over-indexing, and then you might say like, oh, this company just raised 100 million dollars. We should go into that category, like, don't do that.
Think about it through this map of, well, is this at a department where there's lots of budget? Are we actually going to be a system of record or a system of engagement, or are we gonna be easily swapable as a system of decision? We wanna be a system of record. So what you can find is here are the pros and cons. You can really think through this.
And this is one of the power of really talking through these pieces and looking at it through this lens. And the next thing you're doing is you're essentially saying, cool. Let's just say, we wanna be the new sales engagement tool, right? I'm using that as an example, we wanna say, there's clear players. One of them is gonna IPO. The other one just got bought out by Vista Equity.
And there's a whole long tail of players. I'm gonna be a new sales engagement player, for example. And if you're gonna do that, the key thing you need to figure out is how do I differentiate? And this is something, again, this is part of category hacking because you're saying cool, there's an emerging category, their older platforms are maybe getting a little tired or maybe they're not moving as fast or they're distracted, or they're too enterprise. I wanna start thinking about how I can differentiate and hack into this category. And that's how you can steal that SaaS idea and save months of trying to figure out product market fit.
And so you wanna think about, I wanna differentiate. Now, you might say like all right TK, I wanna differentiate in the sales engagement. Like, how do I differentiate? Like, what do we do? So the final piece of this framework is to actually start to flesh out, how are you gonna differentiate? Now, there's a few key ways you can differentiate. Let's pick a new color for this. We're gonna go crazy here with orange.
I feel like Bob Ross here, happy little orange. So number one way you can differentiate is a 10 X product. That's the number one way you can differentiate, right? You can say like, look, this is an established category or an emerging category. There's clear players, but the product sucks.
So we're gonna completely change how this thing works. We're gonna get the users, the result 10 times faster. The product's gonna be 10 times better. And we're gonna go in and say, hey, we can help you do this 10 times faster. That's one way you can differentiate.
The second way you can differentiate is you can differentiate based on positioning. Positioning can mean lots of things. There's nuances here. Positioning could mean like, if there's a clear enterprise player, you're gonna go after mid-market, if there's clear enterprise and mid-market, you can go after small businesses, right? If you can like start to say like, hey, we're gonna carve out the market. And this segment of the market is underserved. So we're gonna go after it, you can do it that way.
So you can actually differentiate based on positioning. You can say like, look, there's no sales engagement tool for three person companies, or there's no sales engagement tool for agencies. So we're gonna be the only white label sales engagement tool, for example. So you can actually differentiate based on positioning and the last piece, and this is the least effective, but I also put it in there.
You can differentiate based on pricing. Let's just say, so I live in Dallas and I spent 10 years in San Francisco, and then I moved to Dallas 'cause I really like it here. And I'm close to family, but Dallas is headquartered to a lot of corporations. A lot of fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Dallas. We have more direct flights to anywhere in the world. Like it's an awesome place, which also means that we get these billboards for enterprise software because they're always selling.
And so I saw one where it's like, it's literally sorry SAP. And then that was the name of the company. And they said they cost $5 per seat or something like that. They'll say like, hey, we're gonna disrupt SAP.
We're gonna serve a different segment of the market, maybe the mid market or the little enterprise, plenty of those in Dallas, plenty of industries. And we're going to differentiate on price. We're gonna sell like, look, you're gonna get exactly what SAP does, but you can get a faster in the cloud and at a lower price. So you can differentiate on price also. And sometimes you can do a 10 X product and position it for a different segment of the market because it's purpose-built for them and be competitive in price. And that way you can really differentiate.
And so what you're essentially doing here is using one or more of these to really differentiate into a category that is emerging. And what you're doing there is instead of trying to be in love with your product and trying to convince people that they need it, you're saying cool, here are all the departments. Here are the types of SaaS platforms that exist, system of record, system of engagement, system of decision. I'm gonna figure out where the heat is, where the merchant categories are, I'm gonna hack into it with a point of differentiation.
And when you do it that way, you're gonna be able to steal some of the greatest ideas in SaaS today, especially if they're a series B company, great, great stage to steal and go after them or hack them. These are emerging categories, based on this framework, you'll be able to flesh that out. So to recap, number one, first, think about the pecking order and departments, then think about the pecking order and the types of SaaS tools.
Then map out what are the well entrenched players, what are the emerging categories? And then figure out how you're gonna differentiate and compete in there and hack into that category. And that way you already have this initial product market fit. What you're really doing is saying, cool, how do we actually differentiate and really enhance the marketing, and enhance the product to really fit that product market already better. And that way we hack into that category and save us years of trying to figure out what the category is going to be and educating customers and creating that category and making it a thing, you just like, you just show up to the party, which is amazing.
Now, you know, the SaaS ideas to steal in 2022, basically using this framework. Now what you may not know is, okay, cool. Let's just say, I'm one of these, like I slot into one of these, how do I actually 10 X the product? How do I think about the positioning? How do I think about the go to market? How do I think about pricing? So I run a webinar every single week, exactly on how to think about taking a pre-revenue company, pre-product market fit company and getting it to initial remedies. It's an incredible webinar, it runs every week, super pumped about it, so you should join that. And in that webinar, it's about 45 minutes to an hour.
We go in-depth into exactly how to break through initial revenues and breakthrough product market fit. So I'd love to have you in that webinar, come to tkkader.com/webinar, tkkader.com/webinar. You can register right away. And as soon as you're registered, you'll get all the details, you'll get a calendar invite, make sure you add it to your calendar so that you don't miss it. And what you'll get is essentially we'll talk through exactly how to approach these pieces and really go from that pre-revenue, pre-product market fit phase two initial revenues. This is what we're gonna be focused on.
If you got value from this video, please smash that like button for the YouTube algorithm it really likes is when you do that, also, I drop a video every single Sunday with actionable strategies on how to grow your SaaS business faster. So be sure to hit the subscribe button and that bell icon, that way you'll get notified every single time I drop an episode. Also, we've been growing like crazy.
And the reason we've been growing is for people like you, who've been liking our videos, sharing our videos, commenting on our videos, subscribing, but most importantly, sharing. It's been incredible to see when founders share with the rest of the community. So if there's a fellow founder or a team member that would get value from this video, please share it with them. It would just mean the world to us.
My team puts a lot of love into these videos. I wanna make sure we can help as many SaaS founders and founders as possible. And lastly, remember, everyone needs a strategy for their life and their business, when you are with us, yours is gonna be unstoppable. I'm TK, and I will see you in the next episode or the webinar, go to tkkader.com/webinar
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