As-a-Service changes the game for Toronto start ups in surprising ways

Something is changing in the Toronto tech community. The evidence was on display at a recent SalesHacker event.

Prior to the event, host Kenny Goldman was warned he wouldn’t get much of a crowd. Helpful people told Goldman that Toronto didn’t have much of a sales community. Keep your expectations low, they said. Despite that, Goldman set himself a target of 80 paid attendees, with a stretch goal of 100.

When I arrived during the pre-panel networking, the roar of the crowd greeted me as I stepped off the elevator – rooms full of sales reps tend to be energetic. This crowd was boisterous, intense and packed the room full. In fact, chairs were brought out to accommodate the larger-than-anticipated numbers.

Hats off to SalesHacker TO host Kenny Goldman (center) with volunteers from left to right Michael Hofweller, Waylon McGill, Shubham Datta and Maxfield Materne. Image © Brian de Rivera Simon.
Hats off to SalesHacker TO host Kenny Goldman (center) with volunteers from left to right Michael Hofweller, Waylon McGill, Shubham Datta and Maxfield Materne. Photo by Brian de Rivera Simon.

When Goldman finally got the audience to quiet down so he could welcome them, he had the blitzed look of a man who has signed up for a crazy quota, and blown the number away. Before him was a standing-room-only crowd of about 180 paid attendees.

Solomon’s panel gave great perspectives on creating and growing the sales function and sales leadership from their perspectives of early stage (Ted Mercer from Kira Learning), rapid growth (Emmanuelle Skala from Influitive and Steven Silberbach for Clio) to maturity (Dan Ross from SalesForce).

Why is all this such a big deal? Until now, the only path to enterprise sales was to fly reps to customers scattered all over the globe, a very expensive proposition. When the go-to-market game is played by these rules, the chronic under-funding of Canadian startups, especially at the early stage, put them at a distinct disadvantage.

All of this is a big reason that we see so many early exits among Canadian startups. Under funding incentivizes founders to adopt built-to-flip strategies, instead of built-to-last strategies. And top sales talent tends to leave the country to test itself on global markets.

The as-a-service go-to-market model delivers a lot more bang for every one of those scarce bucks invested in bringing in customers. You still have belly-to-belly selling, but much more of it happens via Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, etc. And top talent can show its abilities to the world without having to move out of the country.

Some of the 180 attendees. Image © Brian de Rivera Simon
Some of the 180 attendees. Photo by Brian de Rivera Simon.

The SalesHacker crowd was an as-a-service crowd. All the panelists employ this business model. The majority of the audience were founders of, or worked for, companies that employ the as-a-service model.

The big, boisterous crowd is a sign that Canadian startups that use the as-a-service model are getting traction. A lot of it. It’s deepening the pool of sales talent, fast.

All this could really change the game if this critical mass of talent spills over to products and services that are less amenable to the as-a-service model.

Geoff Foulds
Geoff Foulds
What fascinates me are the edges. And nowhere are the edges edgier… the stakes higher… than startups. There are plenty of sources of friction, compression and tension among founders and financiers, engineers and marketeers. How do you mesh all the edges so they transmit power even when loads are heavy? That’s what I write about.

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