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Scaling a SaaS Company in a Competitive Space: Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta (Part 7)

Posted on Tuesday, Dec 24th 2013

Sramana: There are larger companies such as Oracle who have internal projects to address the same market you are going after. Of course they have a lot more market reach than a startup. How do you position Gainsight knowing you have those types of companies getting involved?

Nick Mehta: We have to focus on our strengths. There are some upsides to being in a startup. We have to leverage our ability to be nimble and innovative. We are also more likely to have customers who are not in the sweet spot of an Oracle or an SAP. I also believe SaaS is changing the dynamic of what used to happen in software, specifically around consolidation. SaaS has made it very easy for business units to buy software themselves. They can do integration in the cloud. SaaS can support a much more diverse set of vendors.

Sramana: How long is your sales cycle.

Nick Mehta: Our inside sales deals typically take 6 weeks. Our outside sales take around 3 months. The bigger the deal size the longer it is going to take. Sales cycles are shortening in general because vendors like us let people take software and try it out. Deployment is very easy as well.

Sramana: What metrics do you try to get prospective clients to zero in on during their trial period?

Nick Mehta: We have several phases of evaluations. A lot of our customers just buy after a demo. Others do a customized demo where we load their datasets into our product to give their demo a real operational feel. When they are doing a trial they are evaluating the technical functionality and determine if it fits into their workflow. We have a predictive analytics model that tries to predict at-risk customers. We can provide that to prospective clients as well.

Sramana: It would seem that you do need a level of integration. For example, you would probably want to integrate with the email marketing system and website logs. What are your capabilities there and how does that factor into the sales process?

Nick Mehta: Most of our customers start with what is in their CRM system, such as SalesForce, and we do those integrations easily. The next step is usually integrating with their online product database. They will then add in other integration points down the road.

Sramana: You have come in as an outside CEO and replaced a founder on multiple occasions. What have you learned in that process?

Nick Mehta: I have been on both sides of that coin. When you come into a company you have to get lucky to get welcoming founders. I have been very fortunate there. You need to have a lot of respect for what the founders have already done, and they have to respect that there is a lot of work required to get to the next level.

One thing that I feel is very important is accountability. Often times you will see new leaders come in and blame problems on the prior leadership. I have always taken the view that the leadership before me created the opportunity that I am sitting in. It is hard to get something from zero to something. I personally enjoy growing companies. I have tremendous respect for people who take a company from zero to something small. I also think the market respects companies that still have a founder on the team.

Sramana: I think the industry has reconciled itself and does value first time CEOs and founders. They bring a lot of passion to the company and its sad if a company can’t harness that power.

Nick Mehta: There are also a lot of resources for first time founders now. In the late 1990s everything was a black art. It was hard to get that knowledge. Now there are a lot of resources out there.

Sramana: Nick, thanks for taking the time to talk. I look forward to following your continued success.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Scaling a SaaS Company in a Competitive Space: Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta
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