SaaS Q&A: What opportunities are there in 2016 & beyond?

It’s a great time to be building a SaaS business. The space is changing, technology is changing to enable us to do more with less, at larger scale. Here are some opportunities to look out for over the next couple of years, that we’ve already seen hints of today.

Opportunities emerge from problems.

Since all opportunities are created through the existence of problems, it makes sense to look at where big problems still exist in the space. Of course, not all such problems can be addressed with SaaS solutions. Here are a few highly prevalent problems we see today:

  • Healthcare is inexpensive & inaccessible
  • Education is inefficient and expensive
  • Creating an effective and focused workplace is tough
  • Communication is fragmented across different channels
  • Managing interaction with customers is a headache
  • Implementing advanced AI algorithms in software is out of reach for SMBs
  • Managing multiple devices, platforms, apps is a pain (for consumers)
  • Analyzing and optimizing subscription revenue is still too much of a guessing game

All of these problems present opportunities which could be solved with cloud-based software, of varying scale and reach. Let’s look at some of the emerging trends that may blow up in the next couple of years…

AI as a Service

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning is on the cusp of providing large scale, real value within technology products. Although AI machine learning algorithms in software have existed for some time now, many of the problems surrounding AI implementation have made it infeasible. For many SMBs, home-grown AI solutions are still out of reach. But there’s an answer to this: AI as a Service. Reap the benefits of machine learning in your software, by just plugging in an API-based service.

Large-scale consumer SaaS acceptance

The move to subscription in the consumer software market has been somewhat lacklustre. With big everyday brands now pushing into the subscription space, however, general consumer acceptance of subscriptions should improve.

Personally, the percentage of my monthly outgoings that are recurring payments is already far higher than it’s ever been.

Where’s the opportunity here, then? Scale. If you can offer a consumer subscription that delivers real value at an acceptable price point, go and sell it to the world!

As stated by Andreessen Horowitz:

The entire world is clearly going subscription-crazy. Which begs the question: which other consumer products could benefit from Mass SaaS? What if YouTube does, in fact, move ahead with its rumored $10 a month offering? What if Starbucks took its card to the next level and launched a full-fledged subscription along with their recently announced delivery service, courtesy of Postmates?

Note that the “rumored” YouTube subscription mentioned here has since happened:


Subscription Management

Because if I now have 20+ subscriptions in my life, how do I keep track of them all, turn them on and off when I need / don’t need them?! Give me a single place to manage this — enough said.

The rise of API-based SaaS, with potential for huge scale

API SaaS opportunities

We’re starting to see the emergence of SaaS products which deliver value programatically through an API, rather than a GUI. Products like Clearbit, Twilio and Contentful all exist as purely API-based services. These services are the building blocks of the next generation of web-based software.

I wrote a piece about this recently: The Rise of the API-based SaaS

Platform-agnostic SaaS

Platform agnostic opportunities

And no — this is does not mean “mobile first”. This means SaaS products which abstract away from the notion of “platform” and “device”, instead offering a consistent experience wherever the user needs to interact with them.

See my recent writing about this here: Why Desktop is still king for B2B SaaS

This answer was originally published on Quora. Read the thread in full here: What are the biggest opportunity areas for SaaS startups over the next 2-3 years?

Ed Shelley

Former Director of Content


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