By Mina Mutafchieva and Nils Howland
Our remarkable portfolio company LeanIX, the market-leading platform for planning and managing enterprise tech stack transition, just completed a landmark exit to SAP. The deal marks the first major European B2B venture-backed tech exit over the past year and is a huge testament to the company’s founder, André Christ, his executional drive and outstanding team.
We invested in LeanIX in 2021 after connecting with the company through its acquisition of our portfolio company, SaaS management startup Cleanshelf. It has been a real privilege to work with LeanIX ever since, and to learn from André and the team as they reached milestones along their journey. Here we’re sharing a few of our key learnings, and we hope that they offer helpful insights for operators looking to succeed in this space today.
1. Product is king
Product is always the number one factor, and LeanIX got their approach right. André and the team have created a best-in-class product that stands out in a crowded market. Their platform is straightforward and easy to use, it addresses a clear pain-point across defined use-cases, and has a clear buyer within each customer organisation. These attributes may sound simple, but they are often missing in SaaS offerings. The LeanIX approach provides a useful model for how to identify pain points, pitch solutions, and deliver value for enterprise customers worldwide.
2. Exceptional discipline and efficient growth
The exceptional discipline LeanIX has shown in strategy and execution has been key to LeanIX’s success. The company has consistently balanced growth with efficiency, and ensured that the ROI on every dollar invested was tracked, allowing the team to identify and eliminate any “bad bets” early. As a result, LeanIX remained highly efficient even as the company grew at a rapid pace and faced a challenging market environment.
3. Expanding the right way
LeanIX expanded efficiently and rapidly in the US and across APAC and Latin America. This is no mean feat, and we saw certain strategies really pay off. These included:
André spending a significant amount of time in the US visiting customers in person: As the company looked to crack the US market, the Germany-based founder made multiple trips stateside every year, spending weeks attending conferences and working directly with client teams to help ensure that LeanIX got close to the new market.
Relocating key employees: Several core team members relocated to the US to help ensure expansion efforts were successful. First, LeanIX’s co-founder Jörg Beyer moved to Boston to launch the company’s office in the city, followed later by André Burchart, the company’s VP of Operations, and Christian Richter, its Chief Customer Officer.
Hiring a strong leader in each region: this helped provide autonomy of management of new operations, to cement on-the ground knowledge and creating an independent setup in each region: LeanIX did what many startups forget to do – they got close to customers.
Working closely with research providers: LeanIX worked hard to get on Gartner’s radar early and be recognised as a Leader in the Enterprise Architecture category, building brand recognition globally.
4. Excelling in forming lasting partnerships
LeanIX collaborated with Signavio, later a part of SAP, right from the start. They carefully nurtured the relationship over a decade, evolving a focused partnership and a joint product proposition. This approach was crucial to LeanIX’s successful exit, as it allowed SAP to see the strategic value in rolling the LeanIX platform into its product.
We have been struck by the power of LeanIX staying focused on SAP as a core partner, and of allocating a dedicated team to work on the partnership. These decisions allowed the company to become an integral part of SAP operations and plans.
SAP has explained that LeanIX and SAP Signavio eventually developed “a common mindset and goal” that allowed SAP “to serve our customers better, together”. This is a real achievement for a B2B SaaS startup, and LeanIX’s approach to partnership forms a helpful template for other teams operating in the sector.
We would like to congratulate André and his entire team again on their success. We’re always looking to hear from founders building in this space, and can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.