How Spendflo Took Their Idea To Consumers On a Lean Budget

June 16, 2022
“When trying to penetrate a new category, try vigorous outbound sales and drive out referrals because your happy customers are your best sales folks.” - Spendflo’s Siddharth Sridharan

Playing in a more challenging ground requires three major ice breakers - patience, people, and a founder-market fit. Spendflo was born out of a real-time SAAS spend issue he faced while heading the business operations team in his previous company.

What started with three co-founders, including Ajay Vardhan and Rajiv Ramanan, has now become a 25-member team. They have some of the fastest-growing companies using their platform worldwide for hassle-free SAAS procurement.

Siddharth and I met virtually to discuss how he landed upon Spendflo as a viable idea, his take on outreach and acquisitions, secrets to scaling, the advantage of having a founder-market fit, his biggest takeaways from the Accel Atoms program, and more.

What real-time problem is Spendflo trying to solve today? Can you give us a brief overview of that?

Most high-growth companies use tons of SAAS tools within the organization. As per Harness’s SAAS Cloud Spend Survey 2020, the average spending across all responses was around $4.69 million. That’s quite a staggering amount, right?  

In a typical scenario, we’ve seen that the more you scale as a company, the Finance team becomes all haywire on who owns the particular tools, where the contracts are, and the renewal dates. Also, fundamentally, due to the rather opaque SAAS tools pricing, one is almost always clueless about how much is to be paid for them. That’s where we come in.

At Spendflo, we do all the heavy-duty work for companies. We discover, negotiate, bundle, and manage all their SAAS tools in one place in half the time. We also help cut down on the total SAAS spend by automating their entire procurement cost through our platform. So, it’s a no-brainer for finance teams to work with us.

There have been entrepreneurs who have invested plenty of time just to identify a gap in the market to come up with a solution. Was it the same for you?

Well, I wasn’t really looking for a problem - I faced it while working with Volta Charge, who are in the business of building an EV charging network in the US. I saw the company go from seed to IPO during my tenure, during which I ended up buying over $10 million of SAAS tools myself. My CFO used to walk up to me every quarter asking about our SAAS spend, with instructions to cut that down by half. Honestly, it was a real pain since I had at least 180 different subscriptions at the time.

In that phase, it struck me that perhaps other folks are also facing the same issue. I started asking around in finance communities to figure out if there could be a solution for this. That’s how Spendflo happened to me.

In fact, my co-founders Ajay and Rajiv have also worked in early-stage SaaS companies. All of us come from a deep understanding of SaaS companies and their challenges. 

Moving onto acquisitions. Many tend to bank on paid promotions in their initial days. Did you also have a mix of organic and paid acquisitions?

No, we didn’t. We led with a very sales-centric approach, playing to our strengths. Moreover, in the early stages of ideation, you’re not sure about whether you are a product-market fit. When you’re struggling with positioning yourself what will you run your ads on? So, we haven’t had paid promotions because they would’ve been a waste of resources at the time, but now we will venture into paid acquisitions because we can.

Startups tend to face a considerable amount of challenges while trying to reach their potential customers. Can you share your take on customer acquisition and what are the costs involved?

The main challenge for us was to get CFOs to actually reply to our emails. We were venturing into a relatively new category. So, our initial acquisition strategy was outbound sales from calls, email, or LinkedIn and driving out referrals from our existing customers. Remember, your happy customers are your best sales folks!

As for cost, people and time were the major costs involved. Getting the right kind of people on board, who could be creative enough to help us open doors, was key.

Spendflo is in talks within the SAAS service community for its rapid rise. What does an outreach strategy look like, especially in the pre-seed stage? Would you like to share a few tweaks that may ensure target audiences are more receptive when the idea is taken to them?

Vague messaging can be a game killer. Your outreach program should not just be creative, but specific as well. We use a bunch of tools ourselves to gather information on what kind of SAAS tools a company is presently using, to be specific while emailing the CFO with our offers. Since we work across verticals, having industry insight helps to make our offers and messaging industry-specific.

Building a strong LinkedIn profile also played a huge role for us. If your profile isn’t impressive, customers are not going to come to you. You need to be someone a CFO would like to talk to and your LinkedIn must reflect that.

Also, if you want a CFO to reply to your messages, make yourself a thought leader, irrespective of whether or not you are a founder-market fit. When you’ve encountered the problem yourself and identify with it, sticking up conversations is easy. On the other hand, if you are a tech guy trying to sell finance, it is doable but a lot harder.

What do you think has made a difference in your acquisition success rate within such a period? Can you give us a peek into your secret formula?

VC portfolio companies were our main fodder. I mean, we’d ask for very specific portfolios when chatting with an investor. This strategy worked immensely in our favor because when we finally met the CFOs we could bring specific saving offers to their table and also mention our money-back guarantee as a value proposition deal. So, if you want a particular CFO to reply to, for starters, ask the investor to connect you.

Drawing from your experience, why would you recommend fellow entrepreneurs to join the Accel Atoms family?

Accel Atoms is like a testing ground for startups, no matter which phase of the journey you’re at. You may be pre-revenue, someone who’s just started or already with revenue and 30% manpower, like us. More so because their terms are also structured likewise. Your assigned partner will assist you with personalized advice to help you set up the next stage of your company. 

Applications for Atoms’ Holi cohort are open!

If you are a very early stage startup, we are waiting for you to apply. Atoms is meant for you. All late applications will be considered until March 30th.

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