New data shows how SaaS founders have been dealing with whiplash from public markets

What a difference a year makes. If you are looking for proof, go no further than OpenView Venture Partners’ 2022 SaaS benchmarks report, which couldn’t be more different from the 2021 edition.

Both reports come from an annual survey of SaaS companies, and with 660 global respondents, the 2022 sample doesn’t look very different from last year. But boy, the mood has changed.

Among other findings we’ll dive into shortly, OpenView learned that “an overwhelming majority of respondents are slashing spending regardless of cash runway.”

This need to cut cash burn is of course an answer to the public SaaS selloff and the “whiplash” that ensued. Being set off by macro concerns, there’s no reason to think that it won’t continue for some time, which explains why companies are gearing up.

Founders don’t just need to cut burn, though — they also need to turn their startups into the kind of companies that investors will back, and that’s definitely not the same as it was in 2020 or 2021.

But then, what does a great SaaS company look like these days? And how to become one? Well, benchmarks are a good start to answering these questions — knowing what the top of the class is doing can help other entrepreneurs steer their companies in the right direction.

OpenView has some how-to advice on the nitty-gritty, too, which we discussed with the report’s co-authors, operating partner Kyle Poyar and senior director of growth Curt Townshend.

“One thing that we saw in talking to CFOs, as well as looking at the data,” Townshend said, “is that it’s just a really hard time to be a founder today — and you need to be very, very specific about where you’re going to put your dollars.”

Let’s explore what the answer(s) might be.