Between 2015 and 2017, when I was running Quandl and we were becoming more metrics-driven, I collected a set of my favourite articles and memos on startup metrics:
SaaS Metrics by David Skok
One of the oldest articles on SaaS metrics, defines many of the terms in use today.
Growth Accounting by Jonathan Hsu
This is the next evolution of Skok’s SaaS metrics, focused on growth accounting. Update: see Metrics 2020 for new thinking on this by Hsu.
Marketplace KPIs by Angela Tran
What Skok does for SaaS, Tran does for marketplaces.
Systematic Growth by Andy Johns
The point of measurement is to improve outcomes; Johns shows how to do this systematically.
Startup Benchmarks: SaaS Sales + B2B Marketing + Operating Metrics
I find Insight Partners’ annual “periodic tables” incredibly useful – they tell you how much you should be spending on sales, on marketing, on ops, and what kind of returns you should be getting from each of those investments. Update: see Metrics 2020 for latest values.
Using Metrics Wisely by Bill Gurley
Real life is more complicated than simple models suggest; don’t blindly optimize; be thoughtful in how you use metrics and analytics.
How Good Is My Growth?
Articles, 2020 onwards
Here are some more recent articles on metrics that I think are worth saving and returning to:
The Burn Multiple by David Sacks
Definitive article on how to think about your overall efficiency.
SaaS Org Charts by David Sacks
Almost all SaaS companies gravitate towards roughly the same org structure and headcount for a given stage of growth. Sacks delineates this (with lots of useful numbers); see also this video.
SaaS Metrics That Matter by David Sacks
The third in a series from David Sacks; a great set of definitions for modern SaaS metrics.
Updated Benchmarks from Insight Partners
Sales Periodic Table and Sales KPI Report – unfortunately it doesn’t look like they’ve updated the marketing or ops tables since the first version. (h/t Pete Macnee for the latest links.)
Quantitative PMF by Jonathan Hsu
Unit Economics by Jonathan Hsu
Two successor articles to his earlier piece on growth accounting; sophisticated and subtle; perhaps of more use to VCs analyzing a business, than the founders actually running it. In that sense the older piece is more useful.
Three Keys to Sales by Sam Blond
Simple but critical sales metrics that you should start measuring from day one of sales.
Spreadsheets and Templates
Here are some spreadsheets that I’ve built that can act as templates for some of the above:
- Sales and marketing performance model
- Burn and runway model
- ARR and PMF model
- Iron law of sales
Note: I’ll add these if somebody asks; they need a bit of cleanup.
There are a number of metrics platforms designed specially for SaaS startups: Baremetrics, Chartmogul, SaaSGrid. I haven’t used them so can’t advise; but note that SaaSGrid is the newest and is sponsored / incubated by Craft Ventures, who wrote several of the metrics posts linked above.