#251 - Christian Owens, CEO of Paddle - on building a unicorn SaaS business

A story about creating a SaaS growth machine based on two core principles

This podcast interview focuses on product innovation that’s build to offload operational complexities of a SaaS business, so they can focus on growth. My guest is Christian Owens, Founder and CEO of Paddle.

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christian owens

Christian Owens is a tech entrepreneur on a mission. He learned to build websites when he was 12 years old. He dropped out of school when I was 16 and started his first software company. That grew to be a £3-4m business in 18 months. It was through running that business that I encountered the problem that we try and solve at Paddle.

In 2012, Christian founded Paddle with his co-founder Harrison. Its mission: To help SaaS companies navigate the revenue journey at every stage. 

Paddle offers SaaS companies a completely different approach to their payment infrastructure. Instead of assembling and maintaining a complex stack of payments-related apps and services, Paddle acts as a merchant of record for its customers, taking away 100% of the pain of payment fragmentation. It’s faster, safer, simpler, and above all, way better. This is the short story of a company that grew its valuation to $1.4B in just ten years.

And this inspired me, and hence I invited Christian to my podcast. We explore the journey Christian went through to claim Unicorn status. Christian elaborates on the holistic mission principles that underpin his business and how that has helped to build defensible differentiation and the foundation to scale from the start. Lastly, he talks about what it takes to get customers happily pay a premium for products that are not exactly sexy.

Here’s one of his quotes:

If the whole crux of like why your product is valuable, or your business is valuable, is dependent on a single feature, that’s really dangerous. However, if it’s dependent on a fundamentally different way of thinking about doing your thing. That’s great. That gives you a clear, strong differentiation between those folks to be able to go and compete. But there is a difference between competing on that feature function kind of “oh, we have the magic bullet”, which is a complete myth and never exists. Versus we’re trying to take the same problem and almost just flip it on its head and think about it from a different direction.

During this interview, you will learn four things:

  1. How to avoid your Marketing team writing checks that the product can’t cash 
  2. Why you should avoid making the unsexy sexy if your product is not the coolest thing in the world
  3. Why you should not focus on trying to create the one magic bullet of a feature – and what to do instead
  4. How guarantees, where you promise to pay for damage, creates a mindset internally that can become your competitive advantage

For more information about the guest from this week:

Leave a comment or a question for Christian or Ton


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About the author

Sales Pitch

Ton Dobbe is a former B2B software product marketer who's on a mission to save mission-driven SaaS CEOs from the stress of 'not enough' traction. He's the author of The Remarkable Effect, the host of the Tech-Entrepreneur on a Mission podcast, and writes a daily newsletter on the secrets to mastering predictable traction.