TechCrunch+ roundup: Holiday marketing tips, low-cost NFTs, SaaS sprawl study

Boston-based VC firm OpenView interviewed nearly 600 SaaS companies for its annual pricing survey and the results are in: Automation is taking usage-based pricing (USP) mainstream.

Last year, 34% of survey respondents said they were using a flexible pricing model. This year, that figure rose to 45%.

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“Seats are just an outdated way of charging and don’t allow a company to communicate value or invest in features that would add more value,” said OpenView operating partner Kyle Poyar.

“In fact,” he said, “it might even be negatively correlated: When AI can automate tasks, the more successful the solution is, the fewer people need to be logging in.”

The report had many interesting findings, but here’s the one that left the biggest impression on me: Startups that adopt USP and product-led growth strategies pay back customer acquisition costs faster and have higher net-dollar retention.

Thanks very much for reading TechCrunch+ — I hope you have a relaxing weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+

The holiday shopping season is coming: How are growth marketers preparing?

With only three weeks left to the start of the holiday shopping season, Miranda Halpern checked in with several growth marketers to find out how they’re advising their clients to prepare for supply chain disruptions.

Cargo ships are stacked up outside ports, and empty shipping containers are in short supply, as are the truck drivers who would take them to market. This is not the time for doing business as usual.

To gather advice and insights, she interviewed:

  • Julio Lopez, director of client strategy, retail practice lead, Movable Ink
  • Chris Toy, CEO and co-founder, Marketer Hire
  • Kristin Dick, head of operations and growth marketer, Tuff
  • Dipti Parmar, founder, Dipti Parmar Consulting

Bring on the low-cost NFTs

The NFT marketplace is still a bit of a head-scratcher for those of us without loads of expendable income, but new data from DappRadar provides some insight into what the masses value.

As Alex Wilhelm reports, a lot of  activity is focused on games like Axie Infinity, where players can collect and do battle with Pokémon-esque NFTs priced at around $250.

That gives us a look into the nascent non-fungible token ecosystem and what people want to buy and trade: more affordable, value-generating NFTs that “unlock an activity that are not artificially supply constrained.”

The consequences of SaaS sprawl: A real-world study

Spaghetti and sauce spilled on kitchen floor

Image Credits: Lew Robertson (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

There’s no way to avoid SaaS sprawl: When employees can independently select software that meets their personal needs, every organization must dodge this pothole.

In a detailed breakdown of a recent research study, returning contributors Tomer Y. Avni and Mark Settle explore the myriad impacts of running a business partially on shadow IT.

Besides numerous administrative problems, SaaS sprawl can create fundamental security risks, especially for companies where many employees can access IP and personally identifiable information.

We’re still just scratching the surface of the cloud’s potential

The state of the public cloud in 2021 looks pretty good

Image Credits: your_photo (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The cloud storage and services market is nowhere near maturity, according to Battery Ventures’ 2021 State of the OpenCloud report.

According to the firm’s estimate, the market could eventually be worth as much as $1 trillion.

“When you consider that the vast majority of work, development and computing will be done in the cloud at some point, the investment group’s round-number projection may prove modest,” write Ron Miller and Alex Wilhelm, who broke down the report and spoke to Battery General Partner Dharmesh Thakker.

What does Zillow’s exit tell us about the health of the iBuying market?

For Sale sign board in front of a model home

Image Credits: Glow Images (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

I always learn something while editing stories written by TechCrunch reporters: Because Ryan Lawler covers proptech for us, I asked him to explain the significance of Zillow’s decision to depart the iBuying business.

This story has been very well covered, but I haven’t seen anyone else put it this succinctly:

Selling an asset at a loss is a bad idea in most areas of business, but it is a particularly bad idea in a market where sales cycles are slow, unpredictable and largely out of your control.

Via’s Tiffany Chu on the importance of govtech for planning mobility ecosystems

Illustration of Tiffany Chu, SVP and co-founder of Remix by Via

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Robots that can make salads and cheeseburgers are fascinating, which means they’re more likely to hog the headlines than companies making technology that optimizes governmental operations.

But govtech and civic tech has a greater social impact than burger-flipping robots. Startups that bridge the public and private sectors can build sustainable businesses with strong returns, says Tiffany Chu, SVP of mobility firm Via and former CEO of Remix.

“What’s special about this space is that it’s the intersection of a customer base that will always be around,” Chu says.

“Governments rarely go out of business, so there’s a very direct, targeted customer base that makes it clear who your product needs to serve.”

Female founders are making a buzzing, venture-backed comeback

We are nowhere near achieving parity or representation when it comes to startup funding, but the gender gap is narrowing, according to PitchBook data.

Funding for U.S.-based, female-founded startups nearly doubled in the last year: So far in 2021, women-led companies have closed 2,661 deals worth $40.4 billion.

“Thus far in 2021, the backsliding has more than stopped,” report Natasha Mascarenhas and Alex Wilhelm. “Indeed, it has shot the other direction.”

Why LatAm’s fintech boom is more than hype and superlative venture investment

Venture capital is flowing around the world in unprecedented volumes, but it’s not hyperbole to say that Latin America’s fintech startups are having their best year ever.

Unprecedented tailwinds, a wealth of opportunities and strong competition are together driving fintechs in the region to innovate faster than ever, report Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm. And despite intense competition, VCs are jumping in feet first, looking for more opportunities.

“Nubank is setting the bar of how big can a business get on an IPO and will make VCs think more thoroughly about how big can a business get if everything [goes] right,” said one investor.