Located: San Francisco, California
Geography: North America
Market: Enterprise Microblogging Platform
Key Customers: Deloitte, AMD, AAA of Northern California, Nevada and Utah, SMG, Cargill, Thomson Reuters, Sungard, Hill & Knowlton and SunCorp.
Blog: Yammer Blog
I asked David Sacks, Yammer’s Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board few questions about his business and his view of the SaaS market in 2010.
Did you start out as a Software-as-a-Service company?
Yes, we did start out as a SaaS company. Our company was incubated inside of Geni, which develops family tree software. I was also involved with the consumer Internet with my experience starting PayPal. As both companies scaled, I found it was hard to keep tabs on what everyone was doing, and Yammer was developed to address this challenge. We found that microblogging was a great way to keep current on the status of important projects, individual profiles and information feeds inside of an enterprise.
Then in 2008, we spun out Yammer and that same year won the TechCrunch 50’s Best in Show award.
Initially we were targeting small and medium sized businesses but we are now seeing that Yammer has strong appeal for large enterprises like AAA, AMD, Cargill, Cisco, Deloitte, and Thomson Reuters.
Yammer is very viral because it was very easy for anyone to sign-up, confirm their company’s email address and start using the system. You don’t need to wait for an IT administrator to set up Yammer and you can quickly invite your work colleagues, with the same company email domain, to join in and begin collaborating with you.
When a company wants to claim the network being used by it’s employees, they pay a nominal subscription fee, and then we provide a set of administrative tools that allow them to manage upgrades, security, compliance, deliver premium support, and customize their site.
Part of our initial business model was to base Yammer on the consumer model of software, but make it enterprise-class. We wanted to remove the traditional friction from our software sales process by making our product as easy to use as Facebook.
Why do your customers buy from Yammer?
Our customers never have to pay or upgrade our software unless their employees are using it. This is very attractive, when you compare it to the traditional software selection process where you have to vet vendors, choose one, negotiate the contract, implement the product, pay a lot of money and then no one uses it. Yammer is de-risking the traditional enterprise software value proposition. Employees are valuing it because they use it.
When large companies see thousands of employees using Yammer what do they do? They can do three things – wait and see what happens, shut it down or buy it and we are finding the vast majority of companies are buying Yammer because their employees are being productive and want to collaborate using the software.Our customers also really like our administrative tools for e-discovery, security, directory integration, and network administration.
“If Facebook and Twitter had a baby, it would be Yammer.”
We are like Twitter because we offer a real-time feed of information; you can follow any one, join groups and sort information feeds by hash tags. We are like Facebook because there is no 140-character limit, you can have attachments, threaded replies and we offer a variety of enterprise management tools.
Yammer is a like a virtual office where workers can feel more connected to each other, especially remote workers. We act like the traditional company water cooler for these distributed organizations. As workforces become more mobile, Yammer just make a lot of sense for enterprise collaboration. Today we only offer Yammer in English but we have noticed that there are an increasing number of new customers who are signing up outside of North America. In the near future we will be supporting multiple languages in addition to English.
Customers also like our value-based pricing model. We charge between $3 and $5 per seat per month, depending on the level of support and administrative tools. We also provide volume discounts for our larger customers. This is much more cost attractive than purchasing Chatter from Salesforce.com for $15 per seat, which is quite expensive and most employees don’t want to communicate through the company’s corporate CRM system. Our very fast viral Freemium approach appears to be working, because since we have been live for only the last 18 months we now have over 1 million seats today.
What do you see as the key trend emerging in the SaaS industry?
The first trend is the consumerization of enterprise software; Yammer is a great example of this trend. Real innovation in the technology space over the past 10 years has been on the consumer-side of the software market with products like Facebook and Twitter. At Yammer we want to take these learnings back into the enterprise software world. When I was at PayPal, we were very successful using the Freemium model to promote adoption. This type of approach to software can definitely result in the overall democratization of enterprise software. SaaS is the first step, when the delivery model changed, then there were no upfront costs and the risk is dramatically lower. Using techniques developed by consumer software firms, more and different kinds of buyers can now access enterprise-class software.
The second trend we see is that enterprise software products will be designed more for the end-user than power users or administrators. A good example is how Facebook and Twitter don’t do every possible feature or function and they don’t clutter the user’s screen. This simplified approach to software allow causal users to be more engaged with their products and other users. These types of causal use software products will also appeal to younger employees who have used Facebook and LinkedIn and expect their enterprise software products to be that easy to use.
Social Networking is also a major trend we are seeing. We started thinking about this over the last couple of years, since 2007. Now it seems so obvious, that social networking would grow into an unstoppable trend. The ability to connect workers, to leverage expertise and content all in real-time, which allows everyone to work smarter, just makes a lot of sense. I still think that there is confusion about Enterprise Social Networking, for instance Salesforce sees it as a CRM newsfeed, and we see it as enterprise real-time communication. Eventually we see Enterprise Social Networking replacing corporate email and instant messaging.
What is your outlook for 2010?
In January we raised $10M, led by Emergence, that provided capital to allow us to expand our team. Our investors liked the fact that we have built a very cost effective business, based on our viral distribution model. Our Q1 sales were greater than all of our sales for last year combined.
The software industry is realizing that Enterprise Collaboration is going to be a huge space. Most software companies will want to get into this market because every company will want one of these collaboration platforms to deploy. The only problem is that most enterprise software firms looks at these types of tools backwards, because they already have multiple different product lines, then they will need to stuff it through their sales channel. At Yammer we have already solved this distribution channel problem and we can actually open up our channel to these companies as a Distribution as a Service model.
We continue to sign up a number of large customers, and this type of adoption makes other large companies comfortable using our technology. Things look great and our traction is accelerating.