Hand World Image by David Bruyland from PixabayEnterprise Times recently spoke with Brandon Metcalf, the co-founder and CEO of Place. Based in the US, Place was founded in 2018 and has attracted seed funding of $10 million, according to Crunchbase. Most recently, an injection of $3.3 million from the Geekdom Fund. How would Metcalf describe Place?

“Place is a software platform built for SaaS companies where we manage subscription management, renewal processes, revenue piece, billing and then FP&A, and have metrics and analytics all wrapped around it. Essentially an operating system for SaaS companies to run the business effectively.”

Where are the key business metrics of Place?

Brandon replied, “We’re growing 2 to 3x year over year, which is what we’ve done since we’ve started. Place has about 65 employees, and we’re headquartered in Austin, Texas. We have about 15 people in the United States, the rest are in Jaipur. We have roughly 40 customers, and we’ve been selling the product since the beginning of 2020.”

On vision

Brandon Metcalf, the co-founder and CEO of Place.
Brandon Metcalf, the co-founder and CEO of Place.

What’s your vision for Place?

“Essentially, we want to solve the pain that I lived with building my last global software company. Real-time updated information so you can make proper decisions with actual facts, not only for the CEO or the executive team but throughout the entire company. I really feel this information needs to be visible to normal team members as well. So that they can understand what’s happening within the business and leverage that information to make more informed decisions about what they should be doing and what they should be focusing on.”

What do you want Place to be famous for?

“Helping SaaS companies run a more efficient business, so they have the best chance of success. Most SaaS companies fail. There are many reasons they fail. Ultimately, they all fail because they usually run out of money. What can happen to influence that and give them the best chance of survival is being uber transparent, but also making it stupid, simple to get the information that they need.

“I’m passionate about this because Talent Rover had nine offices in eight countries. I would spend two weeks a month just doing around-the-world trips. While I was running a company and meeting with people, and selling, at the same time, I was still spending about 20 to 30 hours of my personal time working on spreadsheets and models, while my accounting team was spending hundreds of hours. I did it because I needed the information to ensure we understood what was happening.

“At that company, we raised $28 million, 25 of that came from angel investors. We essentially had an always-open round, so I needed that level of detail to communicate with investors. We had to do it that way. I want to solve that for other people so they can focus on running the business and not have to scramble to get all this information for investors when they need it.”

On the focus?

What is the focus for Place?

“We’re trying to specifically focus on SaaS companies that use Salesforce. We play in the Salesforce ecosystem and just make them run better companies and make better decisions. Especially right now, with the current economic climate, knowing your options and costs you can cut without impacting sales. How’s the business really performing? How do you pitch yourself to investors, using different financial scenarios and truly understand what’s happening with your business?”

What do you mean by play in the Salesforce ecosystem?

“We’re natively built on the platform. We work directly with Salesforce Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud. We leverage Salesforce reports and dashboards. Essentially, when you plug Place into the rest of the Salesforce environment, you suddenly have a full-blown operating system that’s all connected to run a SaaS company. From sales, we have bi-directional integrations with the accounting system, so we’re bringing that data into Salesforce. You get to see data in visuals, reports, and dashboards about your entire company from the initial lead all the way through where you’re at with cash.

In terms of those integrations to ERP, which ones do you currently integrate to?

“Xero, QuickBooks Online, NetSuite and Sage Intacct is rolling out later this year. Then we also have integrations with Stripe.”

Not with FinancialForce or Accounting Seed?

“No, we’re exploring both, as they’re on the platform. It’s a bit of a different scope when integrating with them since the (finance) data is in Salesforce. It’s really do they fit our ICP (Ideal Customer Profile); we sell to high-growth SaaS companies. Typically Series seed, A, B, and C. Looking at the demographic of accounting systems that fit that profile that use Salesforce, the four that we’ve integrated with are the primary ones that people use.”

Metcalf also revealed that they have been in talks with Accounting Seed since the change of ownership.

What about outside the Salesforce ecosystem? You already integrate with NetSuite financials.

“The play is Salesforce. The Salesforce ecosystem is just continuing to grow at a crazy rate. No product can do exactly what we do on all fronts. There are subscription and revenue management products, and we definitely see more competitors with the finance piece. There’s no one else focused on the SaaS play.

“Our strategy is to nail SaaS for Salesforce. Then, instead of focusing on leaving Salesforce, we’re going to focus on the next industry inside of Salesforce. We can go after Manufacturing Cloud, Retail Cloud, etc. and continue to expand in the Salesforce ecosystem. I’ve been building Salesforce products since 2009 and in the Salesforce ecosystem since 2004. I’ve got 18 years of experience in the ecosystem, and I genuinely believe in the direction that the company is going, especially after they bought Slack and that whole strategy that they’re executing. I think it’s fantastic.”

On product

What’s next on the product roadmap?

“Currently, we’re focused on ongoing enhancements to the existing features. To make them easier, faster, and more flexible. We have a lot rolling out around subscription management because that’s a fairly new product feature. We released that at the beginning of this year. Things like the ability to set up a paywall, meaning you can go to your website, and the customers can pay for stuff on your website, that’s coming. Lots more around metrics and analytics to give even more flexibility with what you can report off on and visualise, especially at a departmental level, and forecasting.

“We have a lot in the works probably for next year around further enhanced scenario modelling and deeper integrations with more partners. We’re also looking at rolling out some human capital management features as well. Right now, in the product, you can do workforce planning. I think there’s a disconnect between planning and actual hiring that I want to solve with the product.”

On expansion

Do you have plans for expanding internationally?

“We already have a handful of customers in Europe, primarily in the UK. We are really focused on better penetrating the UK market later this year and next year. I’m a big fan of that market. That was the largest market for my last company, primarily because of the desire to be on Salesforce there. We won’t limit ourselves to go broader than that because we support a hundred different currencies, and we’re native in 20 languages. We can go anywhere. We’re trying to stay focused on where we put either boots on the ground or marketing and advertising focus. The UK is definitely a prime area.”

Do you have a direct selling or channel approach?

“We’ve been doing direct sales up to date. We’ve changed that strategy since the beginning of the year. I brought on a new VP of Marketing, Carter Severns. He’s doing a great job. We’re doing a lot of social selling, which is new. If you look at my LinkedIn presence, for example, constant conversations are going on. It’s why we released the podcast. We’re part of a lot of different communities.

“For example, I’m part of Pavilion, which is really for sales, marketing, customer success and leadership at SaaS companies. It’s a great networking group of entrepreneurs, organisations and others. A lot of that social engagement leads to sales. A lot of channel play where we’re focusing on partners that we integrate with and implementation and reseller partners, then targeting partnerships with institutional investors, VC funds and private equity as well, trying to get in front of their portfolio clients.”

What’s the potential for Place in five years?

“We’re in a $64 billion TAM. The market opportunity is phenomenally huge. We need to figure out where exactly we will land in that. Right now, we’re taking a smaller portion of that for the serviceable, addressable market by staying focused on Salesforce and SaaS. I don’t see why we couldn’t get to 50 million or higher in ARR within the next five to eight years.”

On achievements

What have you achieved this year?

“We released our metrics and analytics product line. We released the subscription management product line. We’re continuing to grow at a steady rate. We’re also very stable. It’s extremely rare that we lose any customers. Most of our customers are in their second year, and some are approaching a little bit longer than that, which is exciting. We’ve focused on expanding the leadership team and brought on two new VPs, which has been awesome, and we’ve also started to bring on clients in the UK.”

What do you have to achieve in the next six to 12 months?

“Continue to execute. Right now, the economic climate is crazy. We went through an initiative in January where we adjusted the forecast, rationed down our growth targets, and cut as deeply as possible for non-essential expenses to extend runway as long as possible. We’re now focusing on that strategy, and we’re focusing on moving to the inbound marketing and a channel marketing strategy. Those are the big things that the team is laser-focused on, as well as continuing to make sure customers don’t churn, and they’re happy and all of that. We will probably be looking at a funding round in the next six to nine months. Most likely, that will be an internal round with our existing investors, who’ve already expressed that they’re interested in funding it.”

On Challenges

What are your challenges?

“People just don’t know we exist, brand awareness. Why we’re doing what we’re doing? I think it’s a different approach than what I’ve seen in the market from most of the other competitors. That is the number one challenge.

“The other challenges are the normal early-stage software stuff, like managing cash, keeping the team motivated, and keeping the team from burning out because all of them work all the time. That’s a big initiative to make sure they’re taking breaks. I’m really big on culture and transparency. That helps with that stuff.”

On transparency

I’m glad you mentioned transparency because at the top of the conversation, your intent was to ensure that your customers are more transparent about the information they uncover using your solution.

“Totally. It just doesn’t make sense to me. There are some things you can’t be transparent about. I personally feel what someone gets paid from a company belongs to the company and that person, so that has to be kept confidential. Almost everything else, like, for example, yesterday, I shared my entire investor update with all staff, the exact presentation, which I do every quarter with the investors, which is another form of transparency, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, this is where we’re at, this is what’s going on.

“We try to be as overly transparent as we can. Because it’s just silly that you have all of these people who are working hard and are passionate about what they’re doing, but you don’t tell them what’s going on. I’d rather equip them with the knowledge and help them understand this is our burn rate. This is when we’re going to run out of cash. These are the things we need to do to ensure we don’t run out of cash. I’d rather equip them with that than not because now they know where we’re going. Now we’re all aligned and have the best chance of making this thing a huge success.”

Does that get harder as an organisation grows?

“I think it gets harder if you don’t genuinely believe why you’re doing it. I believe it’s critical to keep everyone updated as to what’s going on with the company. The challenge then starts to come in when you have multiple layers of management that it has to go through. Foundationally, if the company’s culture is built around that sense of transparency, it’ll help guide you to what you release and how you talk about it.

“You can’t just release stuff without any explanation or communication. There’s a process of here’s the investor update. Let’s talk about what you’ll see and hear in this so I can answer some of the questions before you get to them. So that we’re all on the same page and interpret it the same way.

“Communication, in general, as we start to get bigger, is hard. At Talent Rover, one of my challenges was we didn’t do this as well. We weren’t as transparent. I thought it created a lot of unnecessary bad friction internally. I started to see some finger-pointing from department head against department head when things were challenging. Whereas if you’re transparent about it, everyone gets the information, everyone sees, and you’re open to having conversations. I think you can get rid of the finger-pointing and get into real problem-solving. It’s another foundation of why Place exists because we visualise all of this work for a company.”

The book question

What’s the latest business book you read, and what was your take out from it?

“The latest was a Founder Brand (by Dave Gerhardt, Amazon Aus, UK, US). It’s about Drift and how they built the fastest-growing SaaS company ever. They leveraged the founder brand. They told the founder’s story. It’s been really interesting for us. My new VP of Marketing, Carter, recommended this because my background is the story that Place is truly trying to solve. Now we’re trying to tell that story and make it less of a sales pitch and more of we’ve lived it. We get it. We use our product internally today to run the company. That book was really, really good, and it gave some very practical guidelines for how founders can tell their stories to drive the success of their company.”


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