Late last year, just a few days removed from the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, we shared some exciting news with our community. Gainsight had just secured a new investment from Vista Equity Partners(Vista), widely recognized as the leading investment firm in enterprise software, data, and technology. To say the least, we were thrilled to partner with them.
The early reception we heard from our clients, teammates, and friends only reinforced that we made the right decision as we subsequently closed the partnership on December 29, 2020. Now, two months in with Vista, I thought I’d share my story in six observations. I hope to shed some light for the many executives and entrepreneurs who are curious or have sent me personal notes about partnering with Vista. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. I Thought We Were Passionate About Growth…Until I Met Vista
It’s true. Many investment firms focus first and foremost on cutting costs and optimizing EBITDA. But I knew from many friends that Vista’s process-driven orientation was optimized to help companies accelerate growth. To little surprise, that has absolutely been the case so far—and then some! Vista’s “go-to-market” team (Vista Consulting Group) has been phenomenal and feels like an extended part of our company, bringing rigor and passion for growth that I’ve rarely seen before. Internally, we’ve been re-energized and re-focused on the core foundations for driving not just change, but exponential growth. And the proof was apparent as we finalized our first budget together, quickly agreeing with our new Board Members to accelerate hiring more than we ever have, with increased investments in R&D, Sales and Marketing, Customer Success, and Teammate Success.
2. Our New Partners Have Been Incredibly Open-Minded
One of our company values here at Gainsight is Shoshin, a concept in Zen Buddhism that is commonly translated as “beginner’s mind.” We always try to approach new situations with an openness to new ideas. In this vein, we’ve been excited to learn from the incredible experience Vista has across its historical portfolio of hundreds of software companies. In parallel, we’ve been pleased to witness how open-minded Vista has been. While they have several “best practices” in their portfolio, their years of experience across a diverse portfolio have helped them learn and understand that each company’s growth path is nuanced. Yet, they’ve been careful to stay “maniacally focused” and help ensure we don’t spread ourselves too thin by implementing changes that won’t have much of an effect. Overall, it feels like we’re learning from each other every week and are having fun doing it.
3. The Vista “Family” of Portfolio Companies Is Powerful
Vista does a fantastic job of connecting companies and encouraging candid sharing, which you can even see on the Vista YouTube Channel. In my first week post-deal, I reached out to every Vista CEO to set up a 1-1 call, and every single CEO responded with an openness to help. After dozens of conversations, every leader I had spoken with had offered me their cell phone numbers so that I could reach out with questions at any time. They openly discussed their learnings over the years – good and sometimes bad. One CEO said it well: “As powerful as Vista itself is the Vista network.” And I’ve been so pleased to hear that this hasn’t just applied to me. All of our executives have had similar interactions with their peers at other Vista partner companies.
4. Vista Is Just as Passionate About Career Growth for Teammates
Vista’s inspirational founder, Robert F. Smith, has long talked about his vision for “liberating the human spirit,” a passion of his that you can learn more about in this short video interview. I’ve already seen this firsthand in Vista’s commitment to our own employees’ growth, including their ongoing series of “Summits” for functional experts from within their portfolio to learn from and network with their peers. Vista not only encourages companies to build programs to grow and promote from within. They help them learn and understand exactly how to do it and create programs to develop talented individual contributors and leaders from within portfolio companies. Just as incredible, I’ve even seen many portfolio CEOs advocate for their employees to apply for attractive roles in other portfolio companies. It’s truly unique and genuinely human-first.
5. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Is Close to the Heart of Vista
DEI is an essential part of our Purpose and Values at Gainsight. And while we’ve made good progress in some areas, we know we have a long way to go. Last year, we set out to help diversify the tech community by bringing underrepresented individuals into customer success jobs through a program called CSYou, which we launched in partnership with EdTech leader SVAcademy and several of our clients. As such, we were eager to learn how Vista thinks about DEI. We expected they would be passionate about it, given the incredible philanthropy work Robert F. Smith has done to drive for equity. And we were pleased to learn about Vista’s commitment toward ESG and programs and best practices to drive DEI within portfolio companies. In fact, they recognize companies that make the most progress on DEI each year, and we are eager to do our part!
6. Vista Values Values
At Gainsight, our company Purpose is “to be living proof you can win in business while being human-first.” Anyone who knows me knows that THIS is why I do what I do. And day-to-day, this human-first concept drives most of our teammates at Gainsight to continuously strive to do better. Underneath human-first is our set of Values: the Golden Rule, Success for All, Child-like Joy, Shoshin, and Stay Thirsty, My Friends. When we contemplated working with Vista, we told them that our Purpose and Values are essential to our core values. Post-deal, we’ve been blown away by how much they’ve taken our culture into account. Not only has Vista incorporated our culture messaging into their talk track, but they’ve also asked us to provide input for events and portfolio best practices. And they have generally respected that we, like other companies, are a little bit different. It’s a welcome sign that Vista is not only passionate about helping us accelerate but in helping us do so while not breaking what got us here.