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Building a Unicorn and Establishing the Customer Success Category: Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight (Part 1)

Posted on Thursday, Jul 29th 2021
Profile photo of Nick Mehta

I spoke with Nick back when Gainsight was very young. Much has happened since. This conversation catches us up on the interim years since 2013.

Gainsight recently raised money from Vista Equity at a $1.1 billion valuation.

Sramana Mitra: The last time we spoke, we covered the beginning part of your Gainsight story back in 2013. It was at the end of 2013. Since then, so much has happened in your life. Let’s catch up. Do you remember the new things that were happening after 2013? Can you give us the highlights and help us continue the conversation. 

Nick Mehta: 2013 was when we launched Gainsight. That was almost nine years ago. We had this vision that as companies moved to the cloud and into SaaS business models, they had to focus on their existing customers. They needed to focus on retaining those customers and expanding them and the overall customer lifetime value.

We thought that over time, that would lead to companies saying, “I want to figure out how I can understand customer adoption, attention, onboarding, and not just selling and marketing to the customer.” This is a new concept. The concept of taking care of your customers wasn’t new, but the concept of doing it in this new business model with digital technology was a brand new thing.

Customer success back then was a new concept. People didn’t know what it was. Now, there are 150,000 customer success managers in the world. According to LinkedIn, it’s the sixth fastest-growing job in the world in 2019. Every tech company has a customer success initiative. We run the world’s largest conference on customer success with 20,000 attendees. We wrote three books on customer success and sold over 100,000 copies.

Our business is now composed of 800 people with over $100 million in ARR. It’s amazing to talk about because you saw the beginning. I still think that we are in the beginning because I still think that there is a lot more to go.

Sramana Mitra: Since we are still focused on doing an entrepreneur journey, can you talk about the highlights of the period from 2014 to 2016? As you started finding product-market fit and people starting to wake up to the promise of customer success management, what was that doing to your business? 

Nick Mehta: Early on, we had to focus on creating a category. People didn’t know that they needed this. There are some businesses that create new technology for an existing need. That is different. You are not trying to convince people that they need something; you are trying to convince people that they need your thing. That is very different. Zoom is probably the best example where it wasn’t a new concept.

Most of us have used video conferencing before but most of us didn’t like it. The new tech came out and it’s video conferencing that actually works. That is different. You don’t have to convince people of the need. You need to convince people to buy your technology. For Gainsight, we had to convince people that they needed customer success. This was not just for the technology but the whole concept.

Early on, we spent a lot of time convincing people about that through creating an event, writing books, writing blog posts, and basically evangelizing. It is a different story from a lot of startups because we had to do a lot of that category evangelism early on. It was hard to convince people who didn’t believe in it. Some of them said that it was a waste of time. We tried to convince investors and employees. There was a lot of evangelism that we did which I am happy to give you more details on. 

Sramana Mitra: The advantage of starting a category and establishing value is that you also get to own the category in the beginning. 

Nick Mehta: That is exactly right. 

This segment is part 1 in the series : Building a Unicorn and Establishing the Customer Success Category: Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight
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