NPLG 3.23.23: PLGing Against Sales-led Incumbents (Attio)
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NPLG Startup of the Week: Attio
The market cap of Salesforce — the most popular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform — is nearly ~$200B. Despite its widespread adoption, I frequently talk to customers who are frustrated by the software and are looking for more dynamic and flexible alternatives. With that said, competing with Salesforce directly on GTM is not a recommended strategy as Salesforce has an army of sales reps, consultants and IT vendors who push the product. The CRM category is one of the most compelling opportunities in technology and I have been waiting for a PLG-powered CRM to enter the category with a differentiated value proposition.
Enter Attio. Fresh off a $23.5M Series A round led by Redpoint, Attio recently emerged from alpha and beta mode after 3+ years of building product closely with its customers. Powerful, flexible and data-driven, Attio makes it easy to build the exact CRM your business needs. I love how I can “Sign In” and “Start for Free” directly on the homepage without having to talk a sales rep or sit through a demo. Attio now has 2K+ customers across 100 countries and is growing quickly.
For this edition of Notorious PLG, CEO and Co-founder Nicolas Sharp shares how Attio is leveraging PLG in what has traditionally been a hard category (CRMs) to be adopted without a heavy sales-led organization.
Why PLG for Attio?
“CRM is one of the world’s largest, most widely-used software categories, but it’s notorious for its friction. When a company finally has to onboard a CRM, there is almost always a collective groan throughout the organization, especially startups.
While there are literally hundreds of CRM vendors, the CRM boils down to two extremes: legacy CRMs that have a powerful data model but are slow, complex and costly, and simpler CRMs that are faster but are opinionated on business processes and have limited capabilities. This leaves users in a no-win situation.
That’s why startups – and many businesses – prefer to run on a spreadsheet for as long as they can. They want to experiment with their go-to-market strategies, and don’t want to be locked into a single method. Instead, they’ll stitch together Notion, Airtable, Google Docs and Zapier until they finally have to choose a CRM because they know it is necessary. A “DIY” CRM can be somewhat burdensome, but at least it’s a) much more agile and modern than legacy CRMs and b) more powerful than simpler, one-size-fits-all CRM solutions.
This is where Attio comes in. Attio combines a powerful data model with the best features of no-code software to deliver a frictionless CRM that is powerful, flexible and adaptable. It can meet businesses where they are in their journey and grow with them as they scale. We’re building a product that will take companies from zero to IPO and beyond.
Our mission is to empower our users to build, experiment, change and iterate their GTM motions on the fly, with the full power of an advanced CRM, and this is what our PLG strategy brings to the table.
How Attio Does PLG
Attio’s PLG approach is centered around providing a self-serve, frictionless experience with a powerful free tier. Our strategy has three tenets:
Reduce onboarding friction as much as possible. CRMs are typically a huge buying decision and involve a big, heavy implementation. However, Attio is designed to be implemented as quickly as possible.
Traditionally, onboarding a CRM requires a significant amount of time. Your contacts and their information must be entered manually and continuously updated. We invest massively to ensure that getting started with our product and setting it up is as seamless as possible, without requiring you to talk to us, read a tome or hire someone with a specialized certificate.
Attio has been designed to ingest and sync immediately with a business's primary data sources: their email and calendar systems. With just one click, our users can have a full-fledged CRM in minutes instead of months. For the first time in a CRM, you can immediately see a list of all your relationships, whether tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of contacts, and sort through them quickly, in milliseconds. Each relationship has a profile complete with communications intelligence, enriched data and more.
Invest heavily in data architecture from the very beginning; it’ll create endless possibilities. Attio became generally available this month – after three years in alpha and beta. In startup time, that feels like a decade and maybe sounds slow. But when you’re building a full-fledged CRM, you have a lot of ground to cover. The task of building a highly customizable platform that can manage an endless amount of customer data in business workflows is incredibly challenging.
However, we have never just set out to “check the boxes” and build typical features. Since the beginning, we’ve had the mindset of taking every part of CRM, piece by piece, and making it a world-class experience.
To do this, we’ve built our own unique data layer that powers our product, which we call Particle. It combines the flexibility and speed of a graph database with the scalability and consistency of a relational database, allowing our customers to create a comprehensive, real-time CRM and interact with their data in powerful new ways.
This means we can provide features and capabilities not seen before in CRMs, and for the first time ever in the market, we can deliver a solution with an advanced data model and an amazing level of speed and flexibility.
Keep our (business process) opinions to ourselves. CRM is notoriously opinionated: either they’re advanced but top-down and admin based, or they’re simple and extremely prescriptive. Both try to meet the needs of everyone, but the truth of the matter is that there is no universal customer, even within the same industry. Every business is unique and has different wants and needs.
Attio’s data model allows companies to mold their CRM any way they want for their business. Startups find a lot of value in Attio because it is a quick and flexible tool for managing customer relationships. It requires minimal setup time, can scale and grow with little maintenance, making it an ideal tool for startups. However, Attio is built for anyone: it’s flexible enough to quickly mold it any way you want for any industry, use case or workflow. Using Attio, businesses can build and run all types of GTM motions that intersect with each other.”
I would love feedback. Please hit me up on twitter @zacharydewitt or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you were forwarded this email and are interested in getting a weekly update on the best PLG companies, please join our growing community by subscribing:
PLG Benchmarking (Startups):
This is a new section! I will continue to update these metrics and add new metrics. I would love your feedback on what else I should track.
Conversion rate (website → free user):
Activation rate (free user → activated user):
Paid conversion rate (free user → paid user):
Enterprise conversion rate (free user → enterprise plan):
3-month user retention (% of all users still using product after 3 months):
Conversion from website to free user:
<1 month on waitlist: ~50%
>3 months on waitlist: 20%
For more detail on acqusition rates by channel (Organic, SEM, Social etc), please refer to this prior NPLG.
PLG Financial Benchmarking (Public PLG Companies):
Financial data as of previous business day market close.
Best-in-Class PLG Benchmarking:
15 Highest PLG EV / NTM Multiples:
15 Biggest PLG Stock Gainers (1 month):
Complete Notorious PLG Dataset (click to zoom):
Note: TTM = Trailing Twelve Months; NTM = Next Twelve Months. Rule of 40 = TTM Revenue Growth % + FCF Margin %. GM-Adjusted CAC Payback = Change in Quarterly Revenue / (Gross Margin % * Prior Quarter Sales & Marketing Expense) * 12. Recent IPOs will have temporary “N/A”s as Wall Street Research has to wait to initiate converge.
Recent PLG Financings (Private Companies):
Uno, a security platform intended for managing the passwords of the users, has raised $3M. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz.
Wingspan, an all-in-one payroll platform for contractors, has raised a $14M. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Distributed Ventures, Long Journey Ventures, Ludlow Ventures and 186 Ventures.
Adept, a San Francisco-based AI startup focused on executing software workflows, has raised $350M at a $1B valuation. The round was led by General Catalyst and Spark Capital, with participation from Addition, Greylock, Atlassian Ventures, Microsoft and NVIDIA.
Cast AI, a cloud management platform designed to deploy and operate the application automation process, has raised $20M at a $102M valuation. The round was led by Creandum.
Seldon, a U.K. startup that specializes in the development tools to optimize machine learning models, has raised $20M at a $43M valuation. The round was led by Bright Pixel, with participation from AlbionVC, Cambridge Innovation Capital and Amadeus Capital Partners.
Stripe, a payments processing company, has raised $6.5B at a $50B valuation. The round was funded by Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Thrive Capital, General Catalyst, Baillie Gifford, GIC, Temasek Holdings, and Goldman Sachs Special Situations Group.