As the trend towards digitalization continues and society progresses into an ever-more Star Trek-like future, a plethora of new products and services are becoming available to consumers and businesses alike, all fueled by innovations in technology.
Applying software tools to improve the processes, function, or workflows of any industry is powerful.
Solutions in every niche are popping up their usage is becoming far more commonplace. We can all think of tools we're using regularly today that we didn't know about just a few years ago.
What is SaaS?
Software as a Service, more commonly known by the acronym SaaS, is a popular delivery model for software programs. The software is licensed to customers, allowing them access based on a subscription service pricing strategy.
SaaS: the next step in the convenience economy?
SaaS ‘products’ are commonly productivity improvement applications sold on the B2B market, however, the industry also covers a wide range of applications for the B2C and B2G markets. The SaaS model has applications in messaging, computer-aided design, virtualization, customer relationship management, human resource management, enterprise resource planning, and geographic information systems, to name but a few.
The large variety of applications for SaaS are making it increasingly commonplace at work and at home, so much so that it is predicted to dominate the global B2B market in the near future.
The SaaS revolution
SaaS is becoming an increasingly attractive delivery model for both the service provider and the customer. This is perhaps best exemplified by one of the most well-known SaaS applications: Photoshop.
Photoshop, as part of Abode’s Creative Cloud, is a SaaS product used by pretty much anyone within the field of design. In 2012, Abode altered its licensing and pricing strategy drastically. For those who don’t remember a time prior to 2012, customers would make a one-time purchase of a particular version of the application (Photoshop 5, for example), and hold a license for that version in perpetuity.
As stated, in 2012 Adobe switched to a SaaS delivery model, allowing customers to pay a monthly subscription fee for access to Photoshop. Customers are sent updates to the latest version of the application in real-time, and as such have access to the complementary support services associated with the latest version.
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Facilitated by advancements in internet bandwidth, the SaaS delivery model has been viewed as preferable by customers for its ease of use and the reduction in overall cost, and as such an increasing number of companies are making the switch.
Best SaaS startups in Europe
Startups presented in alphabetical order, by country.
Adverity helps marketing agencies, brands, and e-commerce retailers to maximize conversions through the use of data in order to make smarter marketing decisions. They also facilitate communication between companies and their customers, allowing them a better understanding of each other.
Recommerce acts as a platform for e-commerce retailers, helping businesses create their online stores. The platform integrates with social media and includes a secure, built-in payment system, essentially simplifying the digitalization process for those looking to sell online.
Proceedix provides a platform to manage workflows, making instruction and documentation both paperless and mobile friendly. Their platform allows it's clients to improve communication within their organization when working remotely, increasing overall productivity.
Enhancv offers job seekers a program to create attractive and outstanding CVs with minimal effort. With a broad spectrum of resume templates to choose from, the program includes an easy-to-use resume builder providing personal, yet professional features that simplify the process for its users.
TalentLyft is a candidate sourcing system for recruiters. They help recruiters find 'passive candidates' quickly and effectively by using an automated tool to search for candidates with specific profiles across a range of online platforms.
Messbusters specialise in developing software solutions. They produce SaaS products, web platforms, and mobile apps with a tailored user-experience in mind for clients who lack the technical expertise to produce such complex products themselves.
Brno, Czech Republic
Smartlook provides a plug-in that allows users to better understand their customer's behaviour. Video recordings of website-users interaction with a page can be accessed, and this data is aggregated in order to produce analytic data in a simple, digestible form.
Templafy is an enterprise-wide SaaS platform that allows organizations to seamlessly share business templates department-wide. It works across all devices and 'integrates across all IT infrastructure'.
Dashbird makes software and app development cheaper, easier and faster by offering actionable insights and debugging features. They also help clients optimize their apps by the processing of analytic data.
MeetingPackage provides cloud-based venue management software. The software acts as a platform for venues to their event spaces, and customers to book from anywhere in the world seamlessly.
Welcome to the Jungle facilitates the recruitment process for hiring companies with a unique tracking system for applicants. They also create visual and written content for companies to highlight corporate culture and increase employer brand awareness.
FinCompare offers small- and medium-sized companies the ability to compare corporate finance options. It is an independently-owned aggregator of financing options helping SME's find the best options for their individual business models.
SyncBnB makes the BnB property listing process easier by offering a calendar synchronization tool that works across more than 200 booking channel. The software guarantees 100% success in preventing double booking across channels, maximizing profit and reducing customer complaints.
Talentuno provides an end-to-end solution for the recruitment industry. With an integrated, cloud-based software system, they help to pre-select candidates more effectively whilst at the same time reducing cost.
50Skills is an all-in-one recruiting platform that including in-platform messaging, job boards, and job sharing via social media. It makes the creation of job listings simple, allowing the employers brand to appear more attractive to potential prospects.
This company's software uses artificial intelligence to mine data from across the internet in order to generate highly qualified sales leads, tailored to the specifics of the business. SalesOptimize allows its clients to skip the prospecting step and focus on generating sales.
Else Corp manages an innovative cloud-based platform for retailers, manufacturers, brands, and independent designers in the fashion industry. They provide the back-end support processes for front-end functions such as product personalization and virtual.
Nordigen uses data analytics to help banks verify the credit ratings of potential customers using a variety of financial and behavioural parameters to expedite the process. The service helps both banks and their customers by simplifying the process of validating creditworthiness.
UniQue Software aims to pioneer innovation within the telecom industry by operating its virtual phone system. The company focuses on optimizing the user-interface to provide premium quality telecom services.
Embed Social helps to build better relationships between marketers and their potential customers by syncing their social media activity with their web presence, simply, automatically, and in real-time.
A subscription-based service offering project management tools to creative types (graphic designers, marketing agencies, etc). Beewits facilitates the creative process by helping with the administrative tasks designers often struggle with or find uninspiring.
Codingo provides startups all over the world with web applications, mobile apps, and comprehensive SaaS solutions. They continue to offer support functions to their customers, allowing them to scale more efficiently.
Naarden, the Netherlands
AirBeamTV provides software that enables screen mirroring for iOS and MacOS systems without the need for expensive hardware such as an Apple TV. This saves its customers money whilst allowing them to seamlessly screen mirror from their iPhone to a Smart TV.
Sanity has developed content management system construction kit that helps other developers to create datacentric, personalized applications. This allows its users to choose a content infrastructure that provides immediate value, changing as the clients business needs evolve.
CallPage uses a SaaS solution to increase sales leads for its clients by analyzing the behaviour of potential customers who visited their website. This enables clients to move their customers through the sales funnel quicker and ultimately creates more conversions.
Valispace operates a smart collaboration platform for engineers, allowing engineers to develop complex hardware through data-driven collaboration via browser-based software.
Omniconvert has developed a software platform that allows users to run experiments, distribute surveys and personalize mobile and desktop websites by generating insights from Google Analytics.
Tickets Cloud connects events organizers with their target audience through an aggregated network of sellers. The company also provides analytic data such as information about tickets sold with the goal of boosting sales.
This startup provides project management software for companies within the creative field. They operate a platform that allows management to organize and plan projects, ensuring that all team members are aware of their individual responsibilities and deadlines are met. The platform also allows workers to communicate directly, facilitating collaboration, as well as invoicing for freelancers involved in projects.
Datamolino automates the book-keeping process in real-time. By providing an application to convert customers' invoices into electronic files that can be imported into an accounting system, the manual data entry step can be skipped, significantly increasing efficiency.
EazyPlan improves business efficiency for event planners by automating planning and communication functions for weddings, social and corporate events by providing customer relationship management software and project management tools.
TravelPerk simplifies the process of booking business trips by way of an all-in-one platform for booking, managing, and reporting details using the world's largest inventory and disruptive technology.
Funnel facilitates a marketers understanding of their customers by bringing together all data from their social and advertising platforms automatically. This data is then visualized simply for better analysis.
DeepCode helps software developers to be more efficient using Ai code review suggestions learned from BigCode. This allows users to write better code by highlighting flaws in a users code before security bugs go into production.
Segmentify is an e-commerce personalization platform for companies that aim to optimize their conversion rates by analyzing data on customers individual interests to create a unique shopping experience.
London, United Kingdom
Drover is a mobility-as-a-service and all-in car subscription service platform, simplifying the process of getting a car by providing everything a customer needs whilst billing them in one transparent monthly payment.
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The dominance of US firms
On a global scale, the SaaS market is unevenly distributed towards the US. Of startups operating with a SaaS business model, 63% were headquartered in North America. By contrast, Europe hosts 22% of startups within this field. This stark contrast is further highlighted by the fact that the Silicon Valley area accounts for 16.14% of SaaS startups globally, a volume approximately three-quarters the volume of the whole of the European continent.
This is largely due to the funding opportunities available in the respective regions. When considering proximity to venture capitalists and angel investor networks, the global distribution of SaaS startups approximately aligns. Whilst Noth America is home to an impressive 63% of SaaS startups globally, 89% of all funding opportunities are also in North America.
Similarly, European startups contribute to 22% of the global market, with 5% of funding opportunities being present in the region. SaaS hubs in Europe are present in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Berlin.
The significant difference between market volume and funding imply that there is substantial interest in SaaS products in Europe, however, conservative investment practices inhibit market growth somewhat.
The European SaaS market
SaaS is growing in market share within the software industry year on year, in part due to the changing digital landscape. In Western Europe, the SaaS market has more than doubled by volume within five years, whilst the market volume of non-SaaS software has decreased.
The SaaS market in Europe is extremely robust, and growing fast. The pan-Europe CAGR, is 25% over the period 2018-2023. A high CAGR is indicative of rapid expansion, and the increasing popularity of SaaS follows the trend towards automation within business. Digitalization of greater numbers of business functions is being enabled year on year, facilitated by advances in technology.
As such, the applications available for SaaS increase accordingly, but the simple ability to use a SaaS delivery model is not solely responsible for this trend. Ultimately, this trend is driven by customer preferences. Customers understand the benefits of a monthly subscription fee over a one-time payment and the inevitability of technological obsolescence, an understanding that is now making traditional delivery methods seem antiquated.
This rapid expansion implies that the market is yet to mature, and as an immature market, revenues and profits are expected to increase for the industry collectively. The aforementioned automation trend means the market is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future. As the market continues to develop, this also indicates that it has not yet reached saturation.
The high CAGR connotes that the market is in the growth phase, and this is hugely positive for aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to break into the SaaS market. For startups, an immature market presents an opportunity to capture greater market share, something which would potentially be much more difficult in a mature, established market.
European use of SaaS products
Perhaps in line with the market volume in Europe, the use of SaaS products has yet to mature in Europe. The EU average for adoption of cloud computing services across all enterprises in 2018 is stalled at 26% (though this number is significantly higher among Northern and Western European countries).
Use of cloud services is most prevalent in the Nordic countries, with all posting figures above 50% usage by enterprises, and Finland is the country in which these services are most widely used (by 65% of enterprises). This is offset however by rates below 20% within many countries in Eastern Europe.
Along with the rapid growth of the SaaS market, its adoption by enterprise has similarly increased over the same period, and in some countries, usage doubled between 2014 and 2018 (Cyprus for example).
It should be noted however that whilst increase in adoption is be slower in some markets, the adoption rate has ultimately increased in every market within the EU. No countries posted a zero percent increase in the adoption of SaaS in business terms. It is in this sense that the future for SaaS in Europe looks bright.
The SaaS delivery model looks set to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Riding on the wave of disruptive business models facilitated by advancements in technology, SaaS appears to be another extension of the convenience economy.
What consumers recognized in the advent of revolutionary technologies such as Spotify and Uber was just the beginning of a greater societal shift towards being able to have what you want, when you want. The SaaS model builds on this trend by providing users with the ability to access the most up-to-date technology when and for as long as it is needed, and then simply deactivate their subscription when it is not.
As digitalization and the Internet of Things trend picks up speed, the use cases for SaaS will continue to increase, making a SaaS startup seem more and more attractive with the passing of time. With the European SaaS market in its relative infancy, and technology ready to disrupt a greater number of industries, there is no better time to enter into the SaaS market.