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Bootstrapping a $100 Million ARR SaaS Company: The Netcore Story (Part 6)
Written by
Rajesh Jain
Rajesh Jain
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Bootstrapping a $100 Million ARR SaaS Company: The Netcore Story (Part 6)

Global and SaaS

The one thing we do well in Netcore is learn. That is how we have survived and prospered through the past 25 years. There is a sense of paranoia that we are always one mistake away from irrelevance. And with 25% ESOP, there is a deep sense of responsibility that we are building this not just for ourselves and our customers but also for our employees.

In 2019, we made 3 key decisions: we would need to learn the SaaS way of sales and marketing, we would need to start focusing on developed markets to complement our emerging markets strength, and we would need to look at acquisitions since we would not be able to build the full martech stack on our own. The Unbxd investment and partnership is a perfect example of highlighting all three. Unbxd brings a very good complementary product range – search, recommendations and PIM (product information management) for B2C brands, especially ecommerce companies, retailers and D2C brands. Combined with Netcore’s communications and martech platform, it strengthens the full-stack solution for brands.

We are now going to be up against a different set of competitors. Even as global players from US and Europe sharpen their focus on the growing Indian market, they are also realising what we in Netcore have believed for a long time: that the future is about an AI-driven full-stack solution. So martech companies are also expanding their suite offerings. Interesting times lie ahead.

Netcore has been built with three key tenets: profitable growth, infinite mindset (thinking long-term) and extreme employee centricity. These three pillars have helped us drive 30-40% growth in our Platform (email and martech) business in the past few years. Many companies (even in B2B SaaS) are still losing money even after many years in business. Unlike B2C/D2C businesses where a lot of capital is burnt towards changing buying behaviour and buying customer loyalty, in B2B SaaS capital can be efficiently used towards getting GTM right and locking customers for life. Secondly, the focus of many of the founders is build-to-sell rather than build-to-last, and this drives a very different set of choices. Finally, investors rather than customers and employees take precedence, since the founding team’s stake gets repeatedly diluted over multiple rounds of financing growth (a euphemism for losses). Growth through customer money is more important than growth through investor money.

As I wrote in early 2022: “What got us here will not get us to the future. We will need to transform ourselves. I will need to unlearn and relearn. Most importantly, I will have to ensure that we build a team and culture capable of continuous renewal. The problem we are solving – helping businesses engage better with their customers to ensure retention and growth – will never go away. The methods will change because technology drives new habits in customers, forcing businesses to adapt… We will need to think along multiple operating horizons to make this happen. We will need to become consolidators with smart acquisitions. We will need to tap the public markets so we incentivise employees (25% of Netcore is owned by its past and present staff) and also create a currency for acquisitions. More importantly, we will need to anticipate the tech turns and stay ahead of them. We will need to strengthen our moats and create a sustainable competitive advantage. And who better to learn from than Jim Collins? The 20 Mile March needs Level 5 Leadership, the genius of the AND, a growth flywheel, a culture that encourages the firing of bullets before cannonballs, and of course, a return on luck.”

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