Amit Ashkenazi is VP Business Strategy at Fiverr, and also formerly a Partner at Viola Growth. This post was written during his tenure at Viola.
Most of us were raised with the frame of mind that if we need something, we go and buy it. Throughout history, families saved up to buy everything from big-item things like houses and cars to little things like records and bikes. Ownership became a status symbol, and people strived to own as much as they could, until eventually they’d end up with a pile of hoarded stuff they no longer required. In modern times, this gave rise to online marketplaces such as Craigslist and eBay, which help people to monetize their no longer needed property and sell it second-hand to people who might find it valuable. But what if we didn’t actually have to own anything?
In the business world, we’ve seen a significant shift towards the Software as a Service (SaaS) business model, where companies no longer need to spend a ton of money to buy software licenses, instead paying to use the same software “as needed”, on a monthly or yearly basis (a model that’s very beneficial to both sides). Some examples of this include well-known B2B services such as Amazon Web Services who offer cloud storage, SalseForce’s CRM, Workday’s HR systems, Netsuite’s business management system and more.
One of the advantages for SaaS companies is that they have better clarity on their future cash-flow and revenues, but they often struggle in the beginning with cash flow issues, since they need to invest initially to develop their product while only earning small revenues from new clients who pay on a monthly basis. However, their growth is much more aggressive, and once they reach scale thanks to recurring revenues from existing customers, the J-curve can lead to very compelling profitability and cash flow. In addition, while companies that sell licenses usually need to support multiple generations of the software, SaaS companies serve the latest versions, thus reducing support and maintenance costs.
From the clients’ perspective, since they only need to pay small amounts at a time based on their usage, they’re also much more inclined to try out new software. It’s also easier for budgeting purposes because they don’t need to factor in large sums when investing in new technologies and software.
The SaaS business model is also prevalent these days in the world of B2C, where end-users (consumers) pay for services on a monthly basis. Examples of such services include DropBox, Office365, Wix, Adobe Photoshop and more. Some of these services were initially offered as a perpetual license, but they transitioned to monthly subscription fees in a SaaS model. Most of these examples might be considered “old news” by now, but they deserve a respectful mention anyway since they helped to pave the way for a new era of consumption in which we now consume a variety of things “as a service”, like music (with Apple Music and Spotify, which means we no longer need to own actual records) and movies (with the likes of Netflix, eliminating the need for us to own DVDs).
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) will also eventually eliminate the need for us to own cars or bikes that lay idle for most of the day anyway, with services like Uber, Lyft, Gett, Via and Citi Bikes. And if you really want to go to the extreme of MaaS, you can also find on-demand private jets (in case that’s something that’s on your radar right now!).
I’m also very intrigued by Apple’s new subscription service which goes beyond software licensing to actual hardware ‘rental’, allowing you to own the latest version of the iPhone at the cost of a monthly fee.
Even the biggest items we’re ever likely to fork out serious money for – our homes – are starting to be ‘nudged’ by the “as a Service” business model. AirBnB, for example, already offers fully furnished apartments, but it’s mostly only for tourists or short-term stays. An interesting alternative is emerging, however, from the team behind WeWork, a company that offers shared work spaces (eliminating the need for companies to invest in office furniture and appliances). Their new service is WeLive (still in beta), which offers a co-living space where people can lease apartments that are fully furnished, decorated, and set up with cable and an internet connection. The service will also include recreational activities like yoga and movies, and even cleaning!
I’m not sure whether this new concept will change people’s habit of buying houses but it’s definitely an interesting trend to watch.
It seems that so many day-to-day products we’ve previously been used to owning are now becoming available on an “as needed” or “per usage” basis, that it’s difficult to predict what the next “thing” will be (hence “Everything as a Service”). It feels like we’re living in the midst of a revolution in the way we purchase and own products and services, disrupting the prestige that was once associated with “ownership”. Who knows? Perhaps the very next thing you look at – whether it’s at home, your office or out in the street – may become the premise for the next billion dollar EaaS empire!
More posts by Amit Ashkenazi:
From Don Draper to Sheldon Cooper: The Transformation of CMOs
Why spending big to grow a company that’s based on shaky unit economics is a lousy idea
Change Agents and how they impact new technologies
Raising money for your startup? Why you need to beware of inflated valuations
Love thy Competitor: Why competition can be a good thing for startups
What your approach to recruiting top talent says about you and your company (and why it really matters)
Seeking a strategic investor for your company? Here’s what you need to know