That is usually the kind of 'so what?' announcement line you see from companies everywhere (including us). But in early March 2020, with COVID-19 concerns worldwide, it is actually quite a statement.
Here is why we wanted to go to SaaStr Annual, what we are aiming for at the event - and why we are still going while others are choosing not to.
Why we wanted to go to SaaStr Annual
SaaStr Annual is the world's biggest gathering of the B2B SaaS world. We are a B2B SaaS company, coming up on our first birthday. We have customer traction. We are scaling up for growth into North America and the UK. We are engaging with investors and partners as part of that work. SaaStr Annual is a perfect event for our business at this stage of our journey.
We have also build up a network of friends and partners in the Bay Area as a result of our time at the Plug And Play Silicon Valley accelerator in late 2019. We won best Insurtech Startup at the Plug and Play Winter Expo, so we have very fond memories of the Valley.
The New Zealand Government through its business assistance agencies Callaghan Innovation and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise were also organizing a contingent of Kiwi companies to go to SaaStr.
It took very little convincing for us to say 'yes' to SaaStr. We were in, with some clear goals in mind.
What we are aiming for at the event
Co-founders Rob Ellis and Hans Frauenlob will be attending SaaStr with some pretty clear areas of focus.
We are starting a capital raising round at this event, to fuel our international growth. We will be meeting with a large number of potential investors and advisers. We are looking for new Sentro partners who get SaaS, get B2B, get insurance, understand group insurance and benefits and where we fit, understand how big an opportunity this is, get our offering and value proposition, get where we are at as a company, and get us as people.
That's an awful lot of 'gets'. That's why an event like SaaStr is really good for us. We won't be for everyone, but there are a lot of investors at events like this looking for investment opportunities, so it is quite time-efficient for everyone concerned.
We are also building out our partnerships. We already have some fantastic partners like Microsoft, and we are always on the lookout for like-minded companies that we can collaborate with.
Our whole promise with Sentro is being the best platform for group insurers and group benefit providers to offer business customers and their employees great products and services. That means we will always be collaborating with others to give insurers and their customers what they are looking for.
There are many such potential partners and collaborators at SaaStr. We're meeting many of them. Some are obvious potential collaborators, others less obvious.
The other benefit of going to an event like this is the inevitable serendipity. You start talking to a stranger at the coffee cart, and 30 seconds in you both realize that it is worth having a longer conversation.
Why we are still going while others are choosing not to
There is no avoiding it - the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak is causing all kinds of disruption. Travel restrictions are being imposed, events are being postponed, and companies and organizations are restricting or banning travel for their own employees.
This has impacted the New Zealand delegation attending. 2 days ago, Callaghan Innovation, the agency organizing the New Zealand business delegation, suddenly announced that they would not be going, and cancelled the in-market activities they were organizing as well. A number of the participating New Zealand companies have also cancelled their attendance. A good number of New Zealand companies, including us, are still going to the event.
We make no value judgments on the decisions that others are making right now, and why. But here's why we are still going.
One reason is the clear commitment of the event organizers to actually run the event as scheduled. In the current circumstances, this was not an easy decision - and has actually made the event newsworthy for different reasons than the usual 'biggest SaaS show on Earth' reasons.
It is actually big news now when someone isn't postponing a major event. Here is an interesting list of tech events that ZDNet compiled, and their current status.
So if SaaStr Annual is going ahead, we feel some extra solidarity obligation to be there as a member of the tech business community. We want the event to be great. We're determined to play our tiny part in that. It is a beacon to the business community that business activity can't and shouldn't totally stop. We all have BCP and contingency plans in place as prudent business people - but that should not and cannot equate to ceasing doing business entirely.
At a business level, we have other meetings arranged in the Bay Area next week anyways, so if SaaStr was postponed, we would still be travelling there next week.
And at a personal level - we listen to the advice of the experts. Take sensible precautions. Advice that you should heed when you are traveling anywhere for any reason at any time.
Seeing our customers and partners in person is really important to us. Of course we are comfortable doing video meetings - we are from New Zealand after all, and our customers and partners are around the globe. But as long as public health experts and Governments permit it, we will always want to see people in person when we can.
See you at SaaStr!