InRule CEO Rik Chomko’s Observations from the 2018 SaaStr Conference


Rik Chomko


I love going to conferences. Most of the time, they are amazing events for a meeting of the minds on a similar set of topics that everyone in attendance is interested in. I recently attended the SaaStr conference to learn the about the latest trends in the B2B SaaS market.

For the uninitiated, SaaStr is a three-day conference featuring some of the best and brightest speakers from a number of large and small B2B SaaS companies. Companies like Slack, Marketo, Gooddata, ServiceNow, Guidewire, Intaact, and more were conference sponsors, speakers and attendees. While I learned a lot over the course of the event, here are my top four takeaways:

  • Follow the customer – Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield made this point when he was asked about how Slack became the fastest growing B2B company ever. He humbly explained that they didn’t have some grand master plan to reach $1B of revenue in less than two years. Instead they focused on the customer and what they wanted, and the rest was just execution. It was refreshing and good reminder of where to focus.
  • Sell services with every subscription – I heard this from Phillip Fernandez, the former CEO of Marketo on ten things he’d do even better. This may seem obvious to some people who come from a more service-oriented background, but I think a lot of product companies shy away from it, thinking that their product should be good enough and the customer can figure it out on their own. Sometimes this is true but often not the case. Services are important because you and your customer want to make sure the product actually “goes live”. If it does not, both you and the customer wasted a lot of time and money.  Services increase the chances of success. Your service folks know the product and can provide best practices to alleviate frustrations and fast-track the implementation.  The result? A win-win for both parties.
  • Data quality is the biggest challenge for Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) – This one came from the CEO of GoodData. He said most people would say the biggest challenge for ML is finding data scientists.  His opinion is that while it’s important to have good data scientists, the biggest problem right now is making sure the data is correct. There is a lot of bad data out there and in order for ML to be effective, it needs clean, normalized data. The good news is that there are a number of technologies out there (including Business Rule Management Systems) that can help clean, shape, and classify the data so it can be used to train an ML algorithm.  Every day we learn of a customer using InRule® in this capacity.
  • Share employee survey data with everyone – this takeaway was more about culture and it struck a chord with me. I can’t remember who said it but they said if you are surveying your employees for company feedback, you owe it to everyone in the organization to share any and all the feedback with them. I completely agree and it’s something we are going to change at InRule. We use OfficeVibe to survey InRulians on a regular basis. Until now, we’ve been selective about what we share around employee net promoter score, satisfaction, engagement, wellness, and more. Moving forward, we are going to share the results on a monthly basis across our entire team. It’s only fair.

That’s my set of takeaways from SaaStr.  What do you think?  If you attended SaaStr, what did I miss?