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Unpacking SaaS in 2023

10 months ago 4 mins read
Adam Schoenfeld
Adam Schoenfeld


🆕 Keyplay Categories have landed.

You can create a category-based account list in 90 seconds.

Throw away your medieval market map – this is ABM for the 21st century.

🗺 🎯



We’ve now mapped ~35K SaaS companies.

That number blows my mind.

Not just the number, but how fast this market has proliferated.

The chart below shows the cumulative number of US-based SaaS startups founded from 2000 to 2020.

You can see the big acceleration around 2010:

That’s quite a curve!

Many of these startups have scaled – 5,300 of the SaaS companies founded in that period have 100+ employees today.

In total, this cohort of companies employs a whooping 2.5M people.

With all the gloom we see in the tech news, it’s easy to get wrapped into a negative narrative.

But many of the fundamental assumptions that led to this unprecedented proliferation still exist.

The next chart shows the count of US SaaS startups founded after 2020 by category that we've discovered so far.

Some of these were born at the peak of the unicorn frenzy (i.e.

before the correction).

All of them are growing up in the new normal of 2023.

Not surprisingly, the AI category tops this chart.

As my friend Samuel says “IT’S ABOUT AI, AI, AI!” But it's not just AI.

The next generation is coming in every category.

Even for companies that we wouldn't classify in the AI category, we expect AI to be a big ingredient for any rising SaaS startup.

We think of this as AI Integrated vs AI Native.

Let’s also look at 2023 funding events.

In total, ~12% of SaaS companies closed a round in the first 6 months of 2023, but there are clear differences by category:

For the purposes of this chart, I broke out Generative AI from the broader AI category because it's such a clear leader on this metric.

No surprise that anything with AI or LLM in bold type on the pitch deck is more likely to get a VC check.

But the rest of SaaS is by no means dead.

The difference between the top and the middle of the pack wasn't as wide as I had expected.

I think this can be attributed to less eye-popping monster rounds, but continued interest in earlier stage SaaS companies across just about every category.

The unicorn factory might be slower for awhile, but we can interesting things in every segment.

Here’s my goal with all this data: Find & study the next generation.

* We’ve talked about finding the next generation of Mar-Tech (and building one with Keyplay).

* We’ve profiled the PLG Rising 40 with OpenView.

* We’re tracking how AI infiltrates SaaS.

Now that we have access to Keyplay's complete SaaS market map, we’re going to dig deeper into each category and find the rising stars, trends, and GTM innovators.

I'm excited to keep digging together.

*Which SaaS startups do you see thriving in the new normal?*

We’d love to study your favorites.


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