Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a highly attractive business model: customers who buy your product pay you a regular fee to use it, and there’s the prospect of higher revenues to come if they add users, expand the use of your software throughout the business, or subscribe for additional tools and services. That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, growing numbers of SaaS businesses worry that problems with onboarding are standing in their way; customers fed up with issues at the getting up-and-running stage are less likely to stick with the product, let alone to start spending more.
It is exactly this issue Rocketlane was launched to address, explains CEO and co-founder Srikrishnan Ganesan. The business, which describes itself as a “purpose-built customer onboarding platform”, is today announcing the closure of an $18 million Series A funding round – just seven months after its seed round raised $3 million from investors.
Ganesan and his colleagues launched the business in April 2020 after a stint running an SaaS business of their own. “We were experiencing lots of success, selling to large customers globally, but we found it very difficult to keep track of onboarding,” Ganesan recalls. “We had very little visibility of how our clients felt and we worried we had ‘watermelon’ problems – situations that appeared green on the surface, but red on the inside.”
Talking to clients and counterparts from across the industry, Ganesan and his co-founders – Vignesh Girishankar and Deepak Balasubramanyam – realised they weren’t the only ones worrying about the onboarding challenge. After all, the longer it takes to get customers to start using products successfully, the longer the time to convert a sale into real value. And customers suffering frustrations at this early stage are much less likely to become enthusiastic adopters and users of the product across their business.
Onboarding is a deceptively complex process, Ganesan points out. It requires SaaS providers to work closely with customers to understand how the product will work with their existing systems; users have to be set up on the tool – and trained to use it properly; data has to be migrated. The list of obstacles standing in the way of a successful SaaS implementation is a long one requiring close collaboration, yet most providers manage the onboarding process using manual spreadsheets and ad hoc communication methods.
“Your relationship with a customer can get off to a good start or a bad start, depending on how you handle the onboarding,” Ganesan adds. “And increasingly, that is become a point of differentiation – so many SaaS providers have good products, but customers also want to understand the onboarding plan before they make a commitment.”
Rocketlane’s promise is to help SaaS providers achieve that. The platform offers a distinct set of project management and communication tools in one space, designed in order to enable SaaS providers to onboard companies much more quickly and efficiently. Sales teams can use the platform to provide a tailor-made onboarding plan to customers, with onboarding teams then taking over to execute on it. “It will help them close more deals quickly, accelerate time to value and increase staff productivity,” Ganesan promises.
The signs are encouraging. Rocketlane has developed a community of 1,200 SaaS professionals who share ideas about onboarding, implementation and customer service. The company deliberately chose to launch a full-service version of its platform when rolling out its product last June, and has picked up customers quickly. Early adopters include the likes of Delhivery, LinkSquares and Chargebee.
One advantage for the business, Ganesan believes, is that its platform appeals to a broad range of SaaS providers. Small, start-up businesses can use its services to build credibility with new customers, presenting a clear plan for onboarding with a sophistication that belies their early-stage status. At the other end of the spectrum, the largest SaaS providers, often handling many complex onboarding processes simultaneously, will find their workload much easier to manage.
It’s a pitch that has impressed investors. Its seed funding round last summer attracted support from Nexus Ventures and Matrix Partners. Both have added to their investments in the Series A round announced today, which is led by the technology investment firm 8VC. “Rocketlane has dared to provide a fresh new take to serve this category,” says 8VC partner Bhaskar Ghosh. “They have shown stunning execution to deliver a thoughtful and extensible product that is experiencing rapid adoption.”
In a new area of the market, Ganesan stresses the need to build awareness and educate customers. The funding will be deployed in sales and marketing, with Rocketlane keen to build a presence in key markets globally, as well as ongoing product development.