2019 was a busy year for the Notion Platform, with a big emphasis on content creation in the form of podcasts, reports (for example ‘The Unicorn Trajectory’ and ‘Game Changers’) blogs and of course events. We focused on the main challenges faced by our founders in the start up, grow up, scale up phases. With almost 40 events throughout the year, there was something for everyone, with events on a range of topics from leadership to sales, marketing and customer success to product, US expansion and building high performing teams. Each event took a different form, there were dinners, workshops and webinars. And of course there was the Notion Retreat, which brings together all the topics we look at throughout the year, providing our founders with the opportunity to learn, network and also relax (you can read more about the Notion Retreat here).
Whilst most of the events we’ve run in 2019 have proved to be a success, it’s good to look back and reflect, so that we can build up our schedule for 2020 and provide our founders, portfolio and network with an ever better experience.
We kicked off the year by co-hosting a dinner with Cisco Ventures, closely followed by two sessions with the fantastic Gibson Biddle, who has hosted a few sessions for us over the last 18 months or so. Gib, former VP Product at Netflix, ran a product strategy session, as well as a leadership session. These two sessions attracted a wide range of guests from across the portfolio and secured Gib’s place as a popular host and speaker.
On Valentine’s day in 2019 we were thrilled to welcome Jacco van derKooij, Founder and CEO of Winning by Design, for a session with the Notion portfolio. The session (themed with Valentine’s refreshments of course) attracted around 40 guests – with an additional 10 or so joining remotely. Jacco’s deep insight into SaaS sales, coupled with his infectious energy, made for an unforgettable ‘Valentine’s day experience’.
March was a busy month, with the ever popular ‘Building High Performing Teams’ workshop taking place with The Table Group’s Alan Millard. Alan is a Principal Consultant at the Table Group, as well as Chair at DueDil, and he’s run a series of workshops for the Notion Portfolio and usually joins the Notion retreat. We also had the pleasure of SVPG’s Lea Hickman hosting a dinner for product leaders from across the portfolio. Lea talked through her unique perspective on product, having had experience with a wide range of global organisations. The month wrapped up with one particularly busy day, with two back to back sessions – an Account Based Marketing session with Idio’s Andrew Davies and an Enterprise Sales session with Notion XiR Melissa Di Donato. Both sessions were very well received and, given that they attracted a fairly similar audience, meant a dash across town for some guests!
The sales leaders and network from across the portfolio were brought together in April, with a dinner hosted by Rinus Strydom, CCO of Tradeshift and once again Jacco vanderKooij, founder of Winning by Design. Rinus discussed how Tradeshift unlocked 200% plus growth at scale, by working with Winning By Design to increase pipeline, conversion and AOV. Also in April, Andy Raskin – the go-to guru in Silicon Valley and beyond for aligning CEOs and their leadership teams around a strategic story – hosted a webinar on structuring a strategic narrative, which was one of the most watched Notion webinars of 2019.
One key topic for many of our founders is expansion to the USA. For this, we have a great expert in our network, WSGR’s Dan Glazer. Dan is an American technology lawyer, strategic business advisor, and the founding partner of Wilson Sonsini’s London office. Dan has advised many Notion companies on their move across the pond and hosted a US expansion in May last year, to answer any questions that founders looking to make the move my have. During the dinner, Dan discussed best practices for navigating the logistical aspects of launching and operating a European business in the States, and setting and meeting expectations for US later-stage funding. Dan will be hosting a similar dinner for the portfolio in March 2020 and we are already very much looking forward to it.
We said “Bonjour” to Paris in June, when members of the Notion team headed to SaaStr Europa. SaaStr Europa was a great way for us to connect with the wider European ecosystem and our own pan-European portfolio. Several members of the Notion portfolio were also in attendance, with some of our founders, such as Futrli’s Hannah Dawson and Tradeshift’s Christian Lanng, having speaking slots. We also hosted a dinner at The Hoxton in Paris, for portfolio guests in town and our network, where Jos White led a discussion on ‘releasing Europe’s ambition’. Also in June, we had another informative workshop by the Winning by Design team (this time focusing on ABM), a SaaS Metrics AMA with Dale Chang of Scale Venture Partners and an AMA with AWS.
On one of the hottest days of the year (approx 37 degrees!) Paddle Co-Founder, Harrison Rose, ran a session and dinner on building an intent and demand machine. Paddle have been using data science throughout their entire customer journey, using data science to fill their top-of-funnel, predict buying intent, determine ABM strategy and even auto-segment their customer base. Harrison ran through the journey they’d been on to reach this point and looked at the ways in which attendees could apply their learnings to their current go-to-market.
September played host to a webinar with Gainsight, a customer success company that offers businesses everything they need to retain customers and drive company growth, as well as a HR benefits masterclass with Notion portfolio company yulife.
The biggest event of the year is the aforementioned Notion Retreat, bringing all the themes from throughout the year together for a couple of days, with sessions led by world class experts in their field. But it didn’t just stop there in October, as the Notion team headed to SaaStock in Dublin. Notion’s Maddy Cross presented her report ‘The Unicorn Trajectory’ which drew a big crowd, followed by a panel discussion featuring Glofox’s Conor O’Loughlin. Jos White also gave a talk on the art vs science of being an investor. It was a great opportunity to spend time and learn from our portfolio and European network. Also in October, we hosted an Asian expansion webinar with Accelerasia and Tradeshift’s Mikkel Hippe Brun, as well as a session on ‘Scaling culture across global offices’ with the People Collective.
To wrap up the year, Sales Impact Academy ran a sales and marketing alignment session, Melissa Di Donato hosted a SaaS sales webinar and we were thrilled to sponsor Daphni’s VC Bridge event in Paris. The VC Bridge event was an opportunity for the European VC community to come together and also gave two of our portfolio companies, Scortex and Kisanhub, the opportunity to present on stage in front of this community.
It’s never lost on me how lucky we are to have such an amazing range of speakers, experts and companies in our network. With the breadth and diversity of skills in this network, we endeavour to continue to deliver ever better events, quality and content.
Looking ahead to 2020 and a new decade
Whilst 2019 was a great year for portfolio and network activity, we’ve learned a lot and still have much to improve on. As a European wide fund, a key focus for us is ensuring that the experience of Notion reaches the best B2B SaaS founders across Europe, and not just those in London. To extend our reach, we’ll be offering more of our sessions remotely, for example with our Game Changers webinar series, as well as co-hosting various events with some of our portfolio companies across the continent. The first taking place with Mews in Prague in the spring… more on this shortly! As in 2019, we’re also very excited to be sponsoring two great events this year, SaaStock in Dublin and SaaStr in Europe, and look forward to connecting with the wider European ecosystem there.
And there’s already lots of other activity in the pipeline for 2020 that we’re excited about. A highlight of 2020 will be taking place as early as this January, with a pricing bootcamp with Profitwell, the SaaS pricing experts, hosted by Patrick Campbell and Peter Zotto. The session will have around 100 guests attending from across the network. We’ll also be bringing our CFO network together in early Feb for the first in a series of ‘financial foundations’ workshops, which will look at a variety of topics such as forecasting and cap table software. The sessions will be hosted by Notion’s financial controller, Will Southgate. As the year continues, we’ll be hosting a US expansion dinner, Category Design bootcamp, the Notion Retreat 2020 and a range of other sessions, workshops, webinars etc, tailored around all the challenges faced by our portfolio founders, scaling their businesses.