Why leading Austin entrepreneurs opened their wallets to invest in this new startup

by Kelly O'Halloran
May 26, 2017

meta-saas-team-photo.jpg

Brett Hurt. Scott Francis. Steve Schaffer. Josh Baer.

It’s the who’s who of Austin tech, and they (plus celebrity investor Mark Cuban of Shark Tank fame) just invested in local serial entrepreneur Arlo Gilbert’s new startup, Meta SaaS.

What did Gilbert and co. design to attract such a seasoned crew of investors? A platform that addresses a problem experienced by nearly all companies: unused software licenses. 

“We believe this was a problem four years ago,” said Gilbert. “We built it a year ago, and four to five months ago, analyst firms like Gartner also started recognizing this problem, publishing that companies are wasting 30 percent of their SaaS licenses.”

Meta SaaS notifies companies when to cut a license from an employee who exited, identifies approaching renewals to spur contract or subscription renegotiations and flags when a license has gone underutilized. By analyzing data like vendor usage, employee activity and contract timelines from over 200 major SaaS providers, the platform reports how much money can be saved — and by what date.  

Managing vendor subscriptions is a problem Gilbert personally experienced at his previous company, iCall, which he founded in 2006. In preparation for selling the company to a private equity firm in 2012, Gilbert started the process of cutting ties with various software vendors.  

“One of the things I discovered was that I had 40 Salesforce licenses,” said Gilbert. “That’s not that big of a deal — it’s about $4,000 a month — but I never had more than 20 employees. How did this happen? Well, every time my VP of sales would fire and hire someone, he’d bring on a new license for the new employee rather than reusing an existing license. I thought surely there has got to be a better way.”

His line of thinking was shared by many — including Brett Hurt.

“Brett’s a brilliant guy,” said Gilbert. “He actually had some of the ideas we were pursuing a couple of years ago but the timing was wrong for him. When I pitched him, he was like ‘Arlo, I have this idea written down on a napkin somewhere.’”

The result? A small investment from the data.world founder, and ongoing guidance.

"I talk to him every week… I feel like I should be paying him,” said Gilbert.

And Hurt isn’t alone in his support. Gilbert said he also checks in with Cuban weekly, who offers suggestions on sales strategies, hiring and firing and even the colors of buttons on the Meta SaaS website. 

Gilbert said he cold pitched Cuban via e-mail over Columbus Day weekend.

“I was at the Central Market near 38th Street in the dairy aisle when he replied back,” said Gilbert. “Within an hour we had a deal.”

From there, the doors opened, and soon Josh Baer's Capital Factory was on board with an investment, while Baer facilitated intros between Gilbert and early customers and investors of Meta SaaS.

The private beta saw participation from some of Austin’s leading tech companies, including RetailMeNot, Spredfast, Indeed, Civitas Learning and BenefitMall.

While Gilbert wouldn’t release specifics regarding Meta SaaS’s pipeline, it certainly sounds like the startup is bound for success.

“It’s gigantic for the size of the company we are,” said Gilbert. “We have Fortune 10 and Fortune 100 companies already inbound contacting us.”

The funding will be used to increase sales and marketing operations as the team continues to add software vendors for integrations at a rate of about 20 per week. Collectively, there are about 6,200 SaaS providers in the world, and Gilbert said they plan to integrate with 90 percent of them by the end of 2018.

 

Image provided by company website.


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