News and events

Southern SaaS 2020

Inspire. Connect. Upskill.

This article was published on 7 December 2020

Southern SaaS 2020 was an interactive event exclusively for SaaS business founders, leaders and executive teams.

Southern SaaS filming

What is Southern SaaS?

Callaghan Innovation’s annual event created to connect, inspire, and upskill the leaders of New Zealand’s vibrant and growing SaaS (“software-as-a-service”) community.

Now in its third year running, Southern SaaS brings together an incredible mix of international and local speakers, invaluable workshops with industry leaders, as well as the opportunity to connect with the wider SaaS community both in Aotearoa and overseas.

Our next Southern SaaS will take place in 2021.

Visit or follow Callaghan Innovation on Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up to date on upcoming Kiwi SaaS events.


Highlights from Southern SaaS 2020

A massive thanks to all those who took part in this year’s Southern SaaS from November 10 to 27 2020. It was an honour to host all of you and we hope you left with new insights, knowledge, and inspiration for your journey towards SaaS success.

Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, Southern SaaS 2020 was conducted online. While we missed out on some face-to-face networking opportunities, it was fantastic to see SaaS professionals joining us by Zoom from all over the country. Thanks for tuning in!

This year’s line-up of local and international speakers at Southern SaaS included:

  • Marvin Liao – investor, advisor, executive coach and former partner at venture capital fund 500 Startups, where he ran the fund’s San Francisco-based accelerator programme.
  • Sandi Lin – CEO and co-founder of Skilljar, a leading customer education platform used by enterprises to accelerate product adoption and deepen customer engagement.
  • J. Ryan Williams – an experienced builder of sales teams in Silicon Valley who has worked with a range of interesting companies in the SaaS, advertising, mobile, design and healthcare space.
  • Dr Alyona Medelyan – CEO and co-founder of Thematic, an AI-driven customer insights solution helping businesses improve customer and product experience through insights from customer feedback. Thematic’s customers include LinkedIn, DoorDash, ManpowerGroup, Jetstar and Vodafone.
  • Dr Paul Wood – an expert in the psychology of individual differences, high performance and emotional intelligence. Paul is a bestselling author whose passion for assisting others to realise their potential and flourish through adversity comes from his own experience of transformational change: from delinquent to doctor.

Keynote spotlight: Marvin Liao

Marvin Liao interview

Marvin Liao and John Campbell on TVNZ Breakfast discussing SaaS opportunities in the Covid era.

We were honoured to kick off our Southern SaaS 2020 conference with a keynote presentation from Marvin Liao, a veteran investor, executive coach, and start-up expert with over 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley. Mr Liao offered an insightful perspective into how COVID-19 has changed organisations and forced many to digitise quickly to adjust to our new reality.

“COVID-19 has made companies rethink how they do business,” Mr Liao told a virtual audience of 300 people across the country this morning. “Start-ups did a better job of bandaging their position because bigger companies are handling legacies, complexities, and more people. The industrial, offline industries like commercial real estate and travel are flattening out, but SaaS products such as cybersecurity and communications tools are skyrocketing in value.”

Marvin is optimistic about the SaaS ecosystem despite saying that “2020 has sucked”. He has seen many opportunities arise out of COVID-19 and likens this decade to the Roaring Twenties, where after a global pandemic there were huge leaps in culture, literature, technology, and the economy.

“There’s been a reorientation towards Zoom which has effectively ‘flattened’ the world,” he says. “This is a great opportunity for international companies – they’re much more open to pitches from overseas because there’s no difference between talking to someone nearby or from, say, New Zealand.”


Check out some highlights from #SouthernSaaS20: