Top Moments: SAAS NORTH Virtual Conference

Day 1:

Hundreds of people virtually gathered in the Remo Virtual Theatre for SAAS NORTH 2020, excited about what was to come.

The day started with a bang; introducing a fun and interactive virtual networking environment, before swiftly pulling the crowd’s attention to our 5-time MC Aydin Mirazee and SAAS NORTH Co-Founder, L-SPARK’s opening presentation about the state of investment in the SaaS industry. Leo Lax touched on some notable changes in the SaaS world such as the growing interest in venture debt.

According to a lot of the attendees, the presentation felt more like a movie than a webinar, which brought excitement throughout the conference. With a touch of humour and lots of information, SAAS NORTH NOW 2020 was off to a fantastic 5th year.

We had so many amazing speakers and incredible moments that we wanted to share with you. However, because of how great the content was, and how it is difficult to pick favourite sessions, these moments were the particular favourites selected by the author of this blog post.

Here are the top moments of SAAS NORTH NOW 2020:

Virtual Theatre Setup

On Day 1 of SAAS NORTH NOW, attendees were introduced to the fun virtual networking world.

As soon as attendees clicked the link they were transported to a table to mingle with people from all over the world, SaaS founders, CEOs, startups, investors, sponsors, etc.

During the networking event, people could click to and from various tables and speak with different people throughout the event.

“Great platform and interaction! It’s been great chatting with everyone” Jeff Dawley, Founder, Cybersecurity Compliance Corporation, had written in the chat.

“Very useful tool for virtual networking enabling users to move around tables and rooms to meet with different professionals,” said another.

The Fastest Growing SaaS Companies of 2020 (and how they did it)

Nathan Latka, CEO at, took the spotlight as he engaged the audience in a fun and informative session.

His session focused on how the fastest growing SaaS companies are going back to the basics by using SaaS marketing channels to acquire more customers:

ZenBusiness – Professional Services + SaaS for higher net dollar retention

ZenBusiness grew from just over $1 million to more than $17 million in 2020 and has more than 70,000 customers.

Latka explained during the session that selling services is an excellent way to boost your net dollar retention.

Rock Content – they grew 85% year over year with a marketplace plus SaaS model

Rock Content has gone from $3 million in 2018 to more than $24 million this year.

They make $10 million through their marketplace (40% of their total revenue)!

Kovai – 12% year over year growth as a bootstrapped company

Kovai was highlighted especially because they built a bootstrapped company.

ClickFunnels – 180% year over year growth

Latka explained that ClickFunnels sells books and other products, which ultimately helped them recover their advertising cost right away.

However, Latka explained that most SaaS companies had improved their results by changing their product – such as adding a use case directly related to the pandemic.

How COVID-19 is Messing With Metrics

Research conducted by SaaSCan found that after comparing April 2020 to August 2020, companies that had a monthly billing model did better than SaaS companies with an annual contract.

During the session, Pablo Srugo, VC at Mistral Venture Partners,  Allan Wille, Co-Founder & CEO at Klipfolio, and Lauren Thibodeau, Founder & CEO at WTC Solutions spoke about how many customers shifted towards monthly plans and those that didn’t end up having worse net dollar retention.

It was discovered that 44 percent of companies were not measuring net retention and 24 percent of companies were failing to measure their logo churn.

Treating Content Like a Product, Not a Strategy

Anum Hussain, Co-Founder and CEO at Acciyo, and Mark Kilens, VP of Content and Community at Drift, enticed the audience in their session about how the importance of applying a product mindset to content will help grow your content audience.

Unsubscribe Campaign

“How many people are opening your emails and engaging with them?” asked Hussain. “What we would do is run an unsubscribe campaign.”

Hussain explained that they would look at the past four months. If someone had not opened their emails within that time, they were going to send them an email letting them know they were going to unsubscribe them.

“The idea was to have a list of engaged people,” she stated. “Because when you get the feedback you know you’re getting feedback from people who have been constantly engaging with your content, versus people who are standing alone on that list.”

Example Email:

Subject: Merry Christmas We’re Unsubscribing You

Thank you so much for being a part of our list, it’s clear that the content is no longer of interest. 

If you’d like to stay on the list click here, otherwise we will unsubscribe you.

“We’d have about 2 percent hit the ‘wait keep me subscribed button’ and sometimes we’d lose 10,000 people on our list at a time,” said Hussain. “But we found that our list was healthier, open rates were higher, and we were able to do better retargeting campaigns because it was based on people who were actually engaged on our list.”

Hussain and Kilens recommended that in your unsubscribe campaign, you should have an option so the unengaged reader can send their feedback about why they lost interest in your content/emails.

“I think that’s one part of treating content like a product that we lose,” she said. “We focus so much on the content and not enough on the actual list and the distribution.”

Wrap Up

At the end of the day all attendees, investors, speakers, and sponsors were invited to the virtual happy hour located in the Remo Virtual Theatre.

Everyone had the opportunity to chat with one another, share what they learned during the sessions and crack a real beer in a virtual world.

Day 2: 

Positioning for Advantage — Reaching Your Best Customers in Noisy Crowded Markets

The first session of the morning was presented by April Dunford, Founder at Ambient Strategy, with a presentation that made everyone in the audience crave cake and donuts.

Dunford’s session focused on how you can make your product stand out among the crowded and competitive market.

In an example that made the audience very hungry, Dunford explained the importance of properly positioning your product so it doesn’t end up like this:

“I call up the gal at Starbucks and am like ‘I got this amazing thing, it’s cake innovation.’” she started. “‘So what I did was I took the cake and I made it kind of small, but I wanted to make it portable so what I did is I gave it a handle so we could carry it – but it’s not really a handle it’s more like a stick. What I created is next-level revolutionary cake on a stick.’”

Dunford explained that because of the way she had positioned that product, it was now in a contest that it couldn’t win. However, if she positioned in a different way it could be evaluated in a different criteria.

Dunford flipped to the next slide and re-positioned her cake offer:

“If I said ‘we need a lollipop but we want a lollipop for grown-ups to eat with their coffee. So I made it out of cake.’ that’s a whole different thing” she stressed on. “Your best category puts the strengths of the product right at the centre.”

Afterwards, she explained that market competition often comes in different forms:

The Hordes: Me-too copycats that claim to do what you do

The Giants: Established market leaders who are a “safe” choice

The Ghosts: The invisible but very real option of choosing nothing and sticking to the status quo.

Throughout the session, Dunford taught the audience how to position themselves so they can outrun the Hordes, use the strength of the Giants against them, and use trends to bust the Ghosts.

Virtual Exhibit Hall

Our exhibitors had the opportunity to create their own virtual booth which allowed attendees to stop by and see what their company is all about. Attendees had the option to bookmark companies that interested them ahead of the event.

With our SAAS NORTH app, people found it easy because they got notified when their selected booth was able to connect with them either on-site or online during the virtual event.

What the Future of SaaS Means for Your Product Strategy

Hiten Shah, Co-founder & CEO of FYI, presented a session focused heavily on the rise of all-in-one SaaS and how you can learn from past companies.

The Rise of All-in-one SaaS Solutions

“It’s this idea that’s driving everything about how everything’s an all-in-one.” Shah said.

Companies such as MailChimp, HubSpot, G Suite, Freshworks, Intercom, and Notion are prime examples of companies that have turned into all-in-one SaaS products.

For reference: Mailchimp was once known as an email marketing tool, but that is no longer the case. They now offer various other services including landing pages, digital ads, CRM, insights and more.

Power Users Are a Critical SaaS Market

The second thing Shah stressed on was the strength of power users. He explained that one of the newer trends he’s noticed in SaaS is the importance of building for the power users.

“There are millions and billions of people who use email and some percentage of them are power users – a significant enough percentage that multiple products can exist in the market and target those people –  which is kind of where we’re at today.” he stated. “You can target them in different segments and slices and that’s the strategy I’m seeing a lot of folks starting to use – and I think we’re going to see this more going forward too.”

Introducing SaaS Remixes

According to Shah, the days of bundling and unbundling are over. Instead, he said the SaaS remixes are the future.

“There’s this idea that you’re just adding features together and either servicing a different type of customer or servicing a different type of need but with similar features,” he said. “In the future sets, you can create something either unique or something really valuable to a certain audience.”

A lot of software products that have been successful in 2020 have been remixes of different features including: Clockwise,,, Figma, Drift, and Value.

“Remix features that are out there to solve your customer’s problems, think about how it can be used throughout your company,” Shah said.

Read the full blog post here:

PitchFest 2020

These 6 amazing companies pitched for the chance to win $130,000 in cash and in-kind prizes! Including:

  • $10,000 cash prize provided by Amazon Web Services
  • Up to $100,000 in cloud credits provided by Amazon Web Services
  • Full-service virtual IP manager (VIPM™) valued at $10,000 provided by Stratford Intellectual Properties
  • Custom explainer video package valued at $10,000 provided by Simple Story

The PitchFest finalists presented to our esteemed panel of expert judges including Eleonore Jarry-Ferron, Investor from Brightspark Ventures, Patrick Lor, Managing Director at Panache Ventures and Snita Balsara, VC at MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund.

Only one was left standing!

On Day 2 the audience had the opportunity to vote to help us decide this year’s PitchFest winner live!

MedStack and MarketMuse made it to the finals but only one lucky company won this year’s grand prize.

We are happy to announce that MedStack won this year’s PitchFest and took home $130,000 in cash + in-kind prizes thanks to Amazon Web Services (AWS), Simple Story, and Stratford Intellectual Property.

MedStack reduces the time and cost to build integrated patient-centric healthcare apps by 60 percent.

They specifically address, through a series of secure cloud tools, the biggest challenges faced by healthcare app developers: data integration and privacy compliance.

Their toolset features a compliant standards-oriented cloud database, healthcare workflow building blocks for identity, data acquisition, storage and messaging, and a unified data model based on Apple HealthKit / CareKit and HL7 FHIR that significantly simplifies healthcare system integration.

Check out the blog post here:

Your Positivity 

When we created the virtual version of SAAS NORTH NOW, we spent a very long time coming up with the best way to ensure that this wouldn’t just feel like another webinar.

The positivity we received was astounding and we are incredibly happy with the outcome.

Here is what a few of you have said about the conference:

“It was a fantastic way to meet a lot of people and a lot of young companies. It was less time consuming to meet a lot of companies, I had a blast.” Josh Raganold, Business Development Manager, Welch LLP

“I love it for the networking and this is the next best thing! It’s great to see the ecosystem come together COVID or not-COVID, tech must go on, and the networking is more important than ever.” – Jarrod Goldsmith, founder of eSAX

“You did an amazing job with the virtual conference – by far the most well organized I attended so far.” – Anonymous attendee from our survey

“I think it’s been really interesting to actually see a conference being brought into a virtual world. The kind of creativity that SAAS NORTH has taken with it and the way they’ve chosen to lay it out has been really interesting.” – Madeleine Lepage, Regional Marketing Manager, MNP

“The virtual conference was really amazing. I think there was a lot of hesitance for a lot of us then we found out that you just kind of get thrown in a table. Intentionally that’s pretty scary for people but as it turned out, when I tried it, it was pretty neat. I got a ton out of experience in it and am feeling way more comfortable being in an environment like this,  and seeing how people are just so much more comfortable on camera now doing this kind of stuff.”  – Tim Mabey, Stratford Managers Corporation, Trusted Advisor

“We really appreciated the fact that we’re still able to connect with individuals.” – Chantal Yelle, Team Lead, Employer and Business Development, University of Ottawa

“Your team has truly pushed the envelope for virtual events, just as you do each year with your in-person events!” – Anonymous attendee from our survey

“SAAS NORTH was fantastic! Thank you.  We set up about 25+ meetings (in the virtual campus)(…) I personally loved the panel sessions, the pitches and connecting with other lenders / investors (…) Wasn’t sure what to expect with the remote but felt it was probably more productive than in person. In-person, you sometimes have a handful of quality conversations but you run into situations where you can’t get in front of the key target. This felt like the networking went beyond the show which has been great.” – Cameron Vernest, Head of Origination & Partnerships at FirePower Capital

“Great conference and networking! Great interactive features with the chat as well.” – Anonymous attendee from our survey

Thank you so much to everyone who attended this year’s conference.

In place of speaker gifts this year, we are paying it forward by donating to ALS Canada who does amazing work with support services, research, and advocacy for those living with ALS.

Those who attended are still able to watch and relive content through the web app and mobile app.

If you enjoyed SAAS NORTH, join us at our next event dedicated to tech M&A! Click here: