Thursday, 30 March 2023
by Earn Media
Alvaro Morales and Kshitij Grover were working together as engineering leaders at Asana for five years, during a time when the company underwent major changes to pricing and packaging. The initiatives were painful for both the engineering and finance departments, they say — which is when the pair realized that they wanted more flexibility over how software-as-a-service (SaaS) products were billed and monetized.
“We found it counterintuitive that billing tools often constrain and dictate what teams can try out,” Morales told TechCrunch in an email interview. “They should, instead, enable the flexibility to meet customers where they are.”
To achieve this flexibility (or at least try), Morales and Grover co-founded Orb, a pricing platform that helps companies automate a range of different billing types — usage-based, subscriptions or a mix of both. Orb today revealed that it’s raised $19.1 million across Series A ($14 million led by Menlo) and seed ($5.1 million led by Greylock) rounds to date, which Morales says is being put toward customer acquisition, go-to-market and R&D efforts.
“The trend towards usage-based pricing has accelerated in recent years, and so has the hype around it. [But] there’s no one-size-fits all approach to pricing,” Morales, who serves as CEO, said. “We like to think of Orb as marrying an analytics product and a billing product to create a new approach that provides flexibility and enables experimentation. Orb gives companies a single source of truth that can connect every unit of product usage to revenue.”
To Morales’ earlier point, it’s true, certainly, that more SaaS companies are shifting to usage-based pricing. In a 2021 survey from OpenView, 45% of SaaS companies said that they’re using usage-based pricing, up from 34% in 2020. Twilio, Strip and Plaid are among big middleware companies charging by usage, while Shopify, Slack and HubSpot are among the major application companies that have opted for the model.
Orb handles a range of billing tasks, including collecting and metering product usage data, invoicing customers and generating revenue reports. Within the platform, users can model out alternative pricing plans and orchestrate changes in real time, drawing on product usage insights to find revenue opportunities.
Orb can be used to schedule future price changes for customer cohorts or contract renewals. Meanwhile, on the invoicing side, it lets companies directly embed draft invoices into product billing portals — surfacing past-due invoices and attempting to recover failed payments automatically.
“Orb gives companies the control and flexibility to monetize with any pricing model, without the cost of building it in-house,” Morales said. “We aim to have pricing move at the pace of product innovation.”
Orb competes with several other players in the SaaS billing automation space, like Zenskar, which offers a platform for companies to generate bills for a variety of different pricing plans. There’s also Metronome, a startup developing billing and data infrastructure to process data at scale, and m3ter, which focuses on usage-based customer scenarios.
For its part, Orb, which publicly launched today, claims to have high-profile customers, including Airbyte, Dune and Materialize. Morales wouldn’t reveal the size of Orb’s customer base or any revenue figures, but — evidently anticipating growth — he said that Orb plans to double its 14-person workforce by the end of the year.
“There are players who have emerged as point solutions that specialize in usage-based metering, but point solutions present an operational challenge because revenue data gets fragmented across multiple systems,” Morales continued. “The end users include the multiple stakeholders at each company who touch pricing and billing, with engineers, product managers, revops, and finance controllers using Orb actively to drive business decisions.”
Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock who led Orb’s seed round, had this to add via email: “SaaS companies must drive sustainable and profitable growth and need solutions that deliver value without requiring additional seats or active usage. When combined with the AI- and machine learning-driven automation revolution, cloud economics are in a state of rapid flux. The speed with which software businesses can evolve monetization will differentiate the winners. We see Orb as a key to unlocking the value for the next major wave in software.”
San Francisco–based Orb’s other investors include base case capital, Scribble Ventures, South Park Commons, FOG Ventures, Essence VC, Data Community Fund, the Cannon Project and SV Angel, as well as individual angel backers.
Orb, which helps B2B companies price their products, raises $19.1M by Kyle Wiggers originally published on TechCrunch