Right Leaders at Right Time: 6 roles you need in chronological order for your AWS SaaS startup


As an AWS SaaS firm scaling up your business, you know that having the right team in place is crucial for success. Earlier, we talked about leveraging 4 AWS Partner Programs aimed at startups to help you scale your AWS Operations. In this blog, we look to explore another key aspect you should focus on as the founder.

After your CEO role is filled, setting up your founding team is critical to the future of your company. Common knowledge will definitely agree on the 6 roles you will need but we at VeUP want to ensure you are hiring the leaders when the time is right.

2 reasons why timing of the leadership hire matters:

  • VeUP, as a reseller and consulting firm, have worked with many AWS ISVs and observed that successful firms always had the right number of leaders working on the scale up. One key qualitative information we heard from one partner is that “too many cooks spoil the broth”, i.e. too many leaders before achieving the right scale leads to less outcomes per power center and increase in squabbles.
  • VC firms, including VeUP, do value the timing very highly as leadership roles tend to be expensive on the bottomline and having the right leaders at the right time means talent costs will be optimized during your growth phase. Cash burn rate is a key metric any VC firm will ask, and an unoptimized talent hiring will seriously impact the metric and in turn VCs’ perception of your firm.

Shopify is a great example of a SaaS startup that hired leaders at the right time during its growth journey. In 2010, they hired a CTO to handle their technical operations and this happened around the time they held their Series A funding raise. In the next stage, around the time they did the Series B fund raise, they brought in a CMO to focus on their marketing efforts & CPO to lead the development of new products and features. These hires allowed Shopify to scale effectively and improve their product offerings. By 2014, Shopify had grown substantially and went public with a successful IPO.

Here are the essential roles to consider for your startup, and the chronological order by when you should bring them on board.

When looking for Product-Market Fit for SaaS startup

Let’s look at the roles, you must have when you are either bootstrapping or just testing your MVP or selling early versions of your SaaS solutions.

  • 1. Technology leader, like CTO
    Having a CTO who is aligned with your tech stack and infrastructure is crucial for any SaaS firm. Most common VC firms will concur on this given fact. These leaders, even if they aren’t founders, will be responsible for setting the technical vision and strategy, ensuring that the product is meeting customer needs, and managing the development team.
  • 2. Product leader, like CPO or Senior Product Manager
    Your product is the heart of your business, and having a Chief Product Officer or Senior Product Manager is essential for driving the product roadmap and customer obsession. This person will be responsible for ensuring that your product is meeting customer needs, identifying opportunities for new features and functionality, and managing the product development team. A major mistake founders make here is getting a CMO. At the early stage your growth leader is the general commercial leader role that can lay groundwork and business processes around sales & marketing. You don’t need specialized marketing leadership at this stage when you are still trying to figure out the product-market fit.
  • 3. Growth Leader, like VP of Growth or CRO
    At an early stage, having a Growth Leader is critical for driving customer acquisition and retention. This person will be responsible for laying the groundwork and business processes around sales and marketing, and working closely with the product team to ensure that the product is meeting customer needs. While having a tech-aligned CEO and CTO is a given, it’s equally important to have a Chief Product Officer or Senior Product Manager to drive the product roadmap and customer obsession. However, one of the most common mistakes that startups make is not having a Growth Leader to drive customer acquisition and retention

When it comes to scaling up your startup, your founding team can make or break your growth story. By having these three essential roles in place, you can build a strong foundation for your business and set yourself up for success.

After you see traction for your SaaS startup

Now as the CEO or founder, after you got traction in market, keep an eye on these 2 milestones:

  • Crossing $1 Million in revenue
  • Received seed funding that put cash in hand of atleast $500K

On completing any of these milestones, you should look to add these roles:

  • 4. Sales Leader, like Sales Head or VP of Sales
    As you begin to scale up your business and generate revenue, it’s important to have a Sales Head or VP of Sales who understands sales in your vertical and knows your tech stack and infrastructure. This person will be responsible for driving sales and revenue growth, building relationships with customers and partners, and managing the sales team.
  • 5. Customer Success Leader, like CSM
    A Customer Success Manager is critical for engaging with buyers and users, collecting feedback, and driving cross-sell and upsell revenue. This person will be responsible for ensuring that your customers are successful with your product, identifying opportunities for expansion, and driving revenue growth.
  • 6. Marketing Leader, like CMO or Marketing Head
    Once you’ve achieved some traction in the market and are approaching your first milestone of $1 million in revenue, it’s time to add a marketing leader to the team. This person will be responsible for scaling up your PR and thought leadership, as well as managing standard marketing campaigns.

By assembling a strong team with complementary skills and expertise, and leveraging the power of AWS, you can increase the chances of achieving your goals and growing your SaaS business. It’s important to note that the specific titles and responsibilities of these roles may vary depending on the size and stage of your company, as well as the industry and market you operate in. However, by carefully considering the roles you need to fill and bringing in the right people at the right time, you can build a strong team and set your business up for success.

In conclusion, having a strong founding leadership team is crucial for the success of any startup, and having the right roles in place can make all the difference. By having a tech-aligned CEO and CTO, a Chief Product Officer or Senior Product Manager, and a Growth Leader, you can build a solid foundation for your business and ensure that you are focused on driving customer acquisition and retention from the outset. As your startup grows and scales, adding a Sales Head/VP of Sales, a Customer Success Manager, and a CMO/Marketing Head becomes important to help you take things to the next level. By having these roles in place and setting up the right business processes, you can position yourself for success and be ready for Series A.

Vincen is a Senior Consultant at VeUP where he works closely with AWS partners, driving strategic growth and process optimization within their business functions, from Product to Go-to-Market. He worked on many consulting projects in Sydney, Mumbai, Melbourne and London, providing solutions to executives and directors at technology and digital businesses. Using structured problem-solving and data-driven analytical skills to identify business drivers is what he does best.

Vincen Arivannoor

At VeUP we have worked closely with many startup founders to scale up their growth & AWS operations by leveraging our expertise in saas firms. Our services include working with these leaders to define and implement their AWS partnership strategy, keeping their long term growth story in mind.

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