13+ Conferences for B2B Startup Founders Seeking Growth in 2017

It’s sometimes hard for B2B startup founders to see the forest for the trees. They get consumed by a business problem and can’t seem to find the solution.

Conferences are a great way to take a step back. Interacting with other founders, specialists and experienced entrepreneurs can lead to fresh insights, new opportunities and a renewed mindset to accelerate growth.

Sometimes, seeing what’s out there is all you need to find a solution.

To help founders find the best conference for their needs, I put together a list of the best events in B2B:

General Conferences for B2B Startup Founders

  • SaaStr Annual – February 6-8, 2018 / San Francisco
    Founded by entrepreneur and investor Jason Lemkin a little over 4 years ago, SaaStr Annual brings together more than 10,000 SaaS Founders, VCs and Executives. It’s a great event to network, make deals, and discuss software as a service (SaaS), fundraising, enterprise sales, customer success and metrics.
  • Dreamforce – November 6-9, 2017 / San Francisco
    Dreamforce is Salesforce’s annual event. It was one of the first B2B conferences and it’s, by far, the largest B2B event with 170,000 participants, 2,700 sessions and lots of corporate money. It’s a good place to learn, but a better place to make deals.
  • SaaStock – September 18–20, 2018 / Dublin, Ireland
    The European SaaStr. It covers a lot of the same topics as SaaStr (Sales, Customer Success, Growth and Funding) with a lot of the same speakers, but it’s a great opportunity to network with European founders and investors.
  • Revenue Summit – March 7-8, 2018 / San Francisco
    Organized by SalesHacker, Revenue Summit focuses on sales, marketing and the intersection between both disciplines. With a strong emphasis on sales processes, account management and technology, it’s a good opportunity to go a bit deeper into B2B sales.
  • Marketing Nation Summit – April 29-May 2, 2018 / San Francisco
    Marketo’s 4-day conference covers all things marketing with a strong focus on B2B. It’s an interesting alternative to Dreamforce especially if your startup sells to marketing departments.
  • Business of Software – September 18-20, 2018 / Boston
    A single-track conference kept small on purpose, the Business of Software conference focuses on creating quality networking opportunities and teaching participants how to build better software, be better entrepreneurs and grow more successful businesses.
  • Inbound – September 25-28, 2017 / Boston
    Hubspot’s conference has long attracted thousands of marketing and sales professionals. It’s a great place to network with now more than 19,000 attendees and learn about B2B content marketing, marketing automation and account-based selling from some of the leading authorities in B2B.
  • B2B Rocks – September 28, 2017 / Sydney, Australia
    Interesting newcomer. B2B Rocks organizes events in Paris, France and Sydney, Australia. It brings together different crowds with a strong focus on local experts. At the event, you’ll learn actionable tactics to grow your B2B SaaS.
  • Hyper-Growth – September 25, 2017 / Boston
    Another new event in 2017, Hyper-Growth is Drift.com’s conference. The event is held on the first day of the Inbound conference (also in Boston). It attracts a similar crowd, but Hyper-Growth focuses more on marketing and customer-centricity than the Inbound conference.

B2B Conferences Around Pain Points

Many B2B startups have created their own conferences around their customers’ pain points. If you share these challenges, or wish to dive deeper into expertises like customer success or content marketing, other great conferences are available for you:

Customer Success

B2B Content Marketing

Industry Events for B2B Startup Founders

Events and conferences are shortcuts to communities and target markets. To speed up product-market validation or increase your growth rate, you can attend your target market’s events or visit your customers’ watering hole.

Whether it’s the HR Technology Expo if you’re targeting HR professionals or the DIA 2018 Global Annual Meeting if your market is pharmaceuticals, networking with your target market is always a great way to create new opportunities.

No matter your goal, conferences are all about networking opportunities. By asking yourself, what kind of people will this event attract and seeing how that fits within your strategy, you’ll make sure to always have return on investment when you attend an event.

53 VC Firms and Angel Investors to Fund Your B2B Startup

If you want money, ask for advice, and if you want advice, ask for money. – Unknown

When raising money for your B2B startup, it’s important to realize that, beyond terms, investors don’t all bring the same value to your business.

Some investors will be very involved while others will not. Some will open gates for you, help recruit top employees, show you the ropes and remain solid partners all throughout the life of your startup. And again, some will not.

In B2B, the best investors understand how B2B and B2C startups differ, they have connections in your industry and know what it takes to win in B2B. Those investors can significantly improve your odds of success.

To help you find the right partners, I’ve put together a list of Angel investors and partners at leading VC firms actively investing in B2B SaaS. This is a list I wish I had when we raising money at Psykler.

Angel Investors Investing in B2B Startups

Name Location B2B Investments
Alex Khein London, UK Automatic, Talkdesk, MediaCore
Andy Yang Toronto, Canada TribeHR, Kera, Fuse Powered
Auren Hoffman San Francisco Aardvark, Flowtown, Rapleaf
David Cancel Greater Boston Area Rapportive, Help Scout, Appcues
David Hauser Las Vegas Intercom, Buffer, Unbounce
David O. Sacks San Francisco Palantir Technologies, Yammer, PayPal
Dharmesh Shah Greater Boston Area Hubspot, Appcues, Buffer
Francois Gaouette Montreal, Canada Taleo, Airborne Mobile, Amilia
Francois Gilbert Quebec, Canada Taleo, Coveo
James Geshwiler Greater Boston Area Influitive, TimeTrade
Jean-François Gagné Montreal, Canada Element AI, Planora
Jerry Neumann New York City Taleo, Simple, DataHero
Jim Moran Greater Boston Area Paydiant, MixRank, Edocs
John Landry Greater Boston Area Unica, docTrackr, Jingle Networks
Magdalena Yesil San Francisco Salesforce.com, 3Ware, Securify
Mitch Kapor Oakland Optimizely, Twilio, Asana
Rasool Rayani Victoria, Canada Unbounce, MediaCore, Versly
Robert Shaw New York City Box, Streem, Revolve Robotics
Roham Gharegozlou San Francisco Intercom, ToutApp, Zozi
Ty Danco Greater Boston Area Crashlytics, CardMunch, Incentive Targeting
Victor Belfor San Francisco Influitive, MixRank, CodingTechnologies

Venture Capitalists Investing in B2B Startups

Name Location B2B Investments
Adam Rothenberg New York City Kustomer, Fundera, CrowdAI
Ajay Agarwal Palo Alto Optimizely, Kiva Systems, Symphony Commerce
Brian Christopher Yee San Francisco Box, Appirio, AuditFile
Brian Jacobs San Francisco SuccessFactors, Yammer, Veeva
Bruce Cleveland San Francisco Marketo, Totango, Amplero
Byron Deeter San Francisco Twilio, Involver, Bizo
Chip Hazard Greater Boston Area Mattermark, Crashlytics, MongoDB
Christoph Janz Stuttgart, Germany Zendesk, Geckoboard, Typeform
David Nault Montreal, Canada Lightspeed, Unsplash, Chronogolf
David Skok Greater Boston Area Hubspot, TribeHR, AppIQ
Devdutt Yellurkar Palo Alto Zendesk, Wave, Rethink Robotics
Eric Vishria San Francisco Amplitude, Contentful, Confluent
Ethan Kurzweil San Francisco SendGrid, Twilio, Skybox Imaging
Jason Green San Francisco Salesforce.com, SuccessFactors, Box
Jason M. Lemkin Palo Alto Talkdesk, SalesLoft, Pipedrive
Jean-Francois Marcoux Montreal, Canada Salesfloor, IMMUNIO, mnubo
Kevin Spain Palo Alto Veeva Systems, Zettics, VigLink
Manu Kumar Palo Alto Twilio, Indextank, Boomerang
Mark MacLeod Toronto, Canada Freshbooks, Context.io, Engagio
Mark Suster Los Angeles Burstly, Gravity, Invoca
Mike Cegelski Montreal, Canada Taleo, iBwave, Beltron
Mike Volpi San Francisco Zuora, Confluent, Optimizely
Neeraj Agrawal Greater Boston Area Amplitude, Optimizely, Yesware
Peter Fenton San Francisco Zuora, Zendesk, Optimizely
Rob de Heus Almere Stad, Netherlands Box, BlazeMeter, Streem
Scott Sandell San Francisco Workday, Tableau, Coursera
Simon Chong Toronto, Canada FreshBooks, Influitive, ScribbleLive
Stacey Bishop Palo Alto Hubspot, ExactTarget, Box
Tae Hea Nahm San Francisco Marketo, Engagio, Talkdesk
Thomas Korte San Francisco Heroku, Buffer, Periscope Data
Tomasz Tunguz San Francisco Dremio, Expensify, Looker
Vas Natarajan San Francisco Atlassian, Lightspeed, Qualtrics

I expect this list to grow and evolve over time. If you see any mistakes or have suggestions to make, just tweet at @leanb2b.

12 VC Funds and Accelerators B2B SaaS Entrepreneurs Should Know

Although there are less investors and accelerators available to B2B entrepreneurs than B2C founders, there are a lot of ways for ambitious entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level.

To help B2B founders understand their options, I created a list of the leading B2B venture capital firms and accelerators:

Investors

Accel Partners: VC firm investing in early-stage B2B startups, Accel Partners has one of the most impressive portfolio out there. Companies like Dropbox, Slack, Atlassian, Braintree and Cloudera were all backed by this firm.

Bessemer Venture Partners: Creators of the Top 10 Laws of Cloud Computing and SaaS, Bessemer Ventures is one of the most respected VC firm. When Bessemer decides to invest, other firms typically follow.

Emergence Capital: One of the oldest enterprise-focused VC firms in the US, Emergence Capital made its first investment in Salesforce.com. They’ve since invested in Success Factors, Yammer, Veeva and Box.

In-Q-Tel: In-Q-Tel is the CIA’s investment arm. Over the last few years, it has become the stamp of approval for technologies secure enough for government agencies. It’s never a bad idea to get In-Q-Tel to invest.

Point Nine Capital: A Berlin-based Angel Venture Capital firm focused on B2B SaaS and online marketplaces. One of the most active firms in Europe with investments in Zendesk, Geckoboard, ChartMogul, etc.

Matrix Partners: VC firm affiliated with SaaS economics expert David Skok who creates the annual SaaS survey (with over 300 startups). Matrix Partners invested in Zendesk and Boston-based startup Hubspot.

Scale Venture Partners: Recommended by many B2B entrepreneurs, Scale VP has an impressive portfolio ranging from Hubspot to Box and Exact Target.

Get the Full List of 50+ B2B VC Funds & Accelerators for Free

Accelerators

Acceleprise: With physical accelerators both on the East Coast (Washington, DC) and the West Coast (San Francisco), Acceleprise has one of the most complete accelerator programs out there.

Alchemist: Dedicated to enterprise startups, Alchemist has one of the best training programs and an extremely high-caliber network of mentors.

L-Spark: Canadian enterprise SaaS accelerator that managed to quickly gain a lot of attention, L-Spark’s goal is to help enterprise SaaS and cloud startups secure Series A investment.

Venturetec: With a focus on Asiapac, its own B2B framework and a network of corporate executives to help validate product-market fit, Venturetec is a leader in the Asian enterprise SaaS market (Disclaimer: I’m a board member of Venturetec).

Y Combinator: Although not exclusively focused on B2B, Y Combinator is the largest accelerator (B2B and B2C combined). Stripe, Optimizely, Dropbox, Xobni, Docker and Mixpanel are just a few of the startups that graduated from their program.

Get the Full List of 50+ B2B VC Funds & Accelerators for Free

How about you? What VC firms, incubators or accelerators would you recommend to B2B entrepreneurs?

13 Posts You Should Read If You’re Serious About Making it as a B2B Entrepreneur

Everyday, dozens of articles are published to help startup founders succeed. Entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by the amount of — often conflicting — lessons, ideas and advices they receive. It makes it hard to move forward and avoid decision-paralysis.

Having founded 2 startups (Flagback and HireVoice) and spent more than a year researching B2B Customer Development to write Lean B2B, I had to read a lot of blog posts, books and tweets.

Form my research (and the last few years working with startups), here are some of the most valuable posts I found; the go-to articles I re-read from time to time.

  1. All the Startup Advice You Read is Wrong by Evan Williams — Great way to start this list. This post reminds entrepreneurs to take all startup advice with a grain of salt.
  2. The Only Thing That Matters by Marc Andreessen — Part of Andreessen’s Guide to Startups, this post simplifies the goal for the early days of a startup to its true minimum.
  3. Ten Questions Before you Start Something New by Chris Lema — This post provides a good framework to evaluate a business idea before investing time, money and sweat.
  4. Don’t Build a Sexy Startup by Jordan Skole— This post teaches you to see the opportunities around you. On the topic, read How to Turn a Full-time Job Into a B2B Business Opportunity.
  5. Minimize your Time to Product/Market Fit by Andrew Chen — This post makes entrepreneurs accountable for their runway and time to product/market fit; important concepts.
  6. Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR!!! by Dave McClure — Beyond the analytics framework, the AARRR model is the best simplification of what a startup does (Acquire-Activate-Retain-Generate Referrals-Generate Revenue).
  7. Do Things that Don’t Scale by Paul Graham — Possibly the most important post on this list. Reminds entrepreneurs to perfect their core offering before trying to scale.
  8. The Unprofitable SaaS Business Model Trap by Jason Cohen — Great post on the importance of profitability, revenue and focusing on the right things for a SaaS startup.
  9. SaaS Startup Strategy | Three SaaS Sales Models by Joel York — This post helps startups understand their natural distribution model. It also keeps entrepreneurs from hiring sales when it’s not a good idea.
  10. The Long, Slow SaaS Ramp of Death based on a talk by Gail Goodman — Dispels false ideas around success and introduces the importance of measuring your business from the customer view (inward), not from the metrics.
  11. Camels and Rubber Duckies by Joel Spolsky— Thorough pricing lesson filled with insights by a software veteran. A bit of an old post, but still very relevant.
  12. The Next Feature Fallacy by Andrew Chen—This post challenges the misconception that adding features automatically increases user adoption or engagement.
  13. Pivot, Don’t Jump to a New Vision by Eric Ries— Not Ries’s most popular post, but it’s a good reminder of what a pivot really is and how to go about pivoting a startup.

Trust me, you’ll be a better entrepreneur for reading these posts.

Enjoy.

P.S. Anything missing?

How to Uncover Why Clients Buy Using the Five Why Technique

When doing customer development, selling is not enough. You need to learn why clients buy to be able to reproduce sales in the same market with the same model and the same pitch. In other words, you’re looking for a repeatable and predictable model.

To do that, you have to understand why people pay, how they want to pay and at what time they can pay. It’s a long process, but if you can learn from pitch to pitch you can uncover why prospects buy.

Challenge your clients. Ask them to justify why they bought your solution using Toyota’s Five Whys questioning — asking “why” after each answer until you reach the root cause of the purchase.

For example:

  1. Why did you decide to buy our solution?
  2. Why do you like this feature?
  3. Why do you want to be able to do this?
  4. Why is this type of market intelligence important for you?
  5. Why do you want to track your customers like this?

Make your customers calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) for you; does it make sense for them? How has their world changed since they bought your solution?

Try to convince them that your solution is not good for them with negative selling (see video below). Take note of their answers.

All of these inputs will be highly valuable. Getting to the root cause of the purchase is very informative. Your goal is to uncover the thought process of your new clients to improve your benefits and unique selling proposition.

Once you know why a few prospects buy, you can start predicting and repeating sales in their market. It’s a significant step forward for your startup.

More on Negative Selling: