I was at SaaStr last week in San Francisco. I was impressed with the quality but also the scale of the event.
When I co-founded MessageLabs in 2000 the term SaaS didn't even exist. We just thought it was a better way to solve the growing virus problem. Once viruses worked out how to 'piggyback' on email the whole scale of the problem changed. By building an anti-virus system in the 'cloud' we could scan email before it reached individual users and also use a more data driven approach to predictively identify new threats.
It wasn't until around 2002 that the term SaaS started to emerge. At that point we realized we were building one of the world's first SaaS companies. We had also invented the term ARR (annualized recurring revenue) as the best forward indicator of the health of a SaaS company.
We built MessageLabs into one of the largest of the first generation SaaS companies. By 2008 we had $150m in ARR and were acquired for $700m by Symantec. Even after an exit of this size it still felt SaaS was a relatively small but emerging sector.
It struck me at Saastr last week that SaaS has really come of age and that the torch has been handed over. The world of enterprise software IS now the world of SaaS. It still might be a smaller market overall but the whole software industry is gravitating in this direction. If you're not already in it you want to be. If you are starting a new enterprise software company today it is almost inconceivable that it wouldn't be SaaS.
Old enterprise software companies are hanging on by their fingertips. Only their size and scale together with the legacy investments and long buying cycles of the enterprise are stopping it happening even faster.
SaaS is no longer the underdog. It is no longer a David and Goliath story.
Today SaaS is software. And software is SaaS. We take it for granted that almost all software is being built in the cloud. Perhaps we will even start to use the word software again?