Anyone who knows me is painfully aware that I’m a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL football) fan. I’m “that guy” with the Steelers jerseys, t-shirts, socks, paintings, helmets, bumper stickers, fight songs…even a Steelers wallet. As a child, I dreamed of oneday quarterbacking my team to the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately, due to a tragic lack of any physical coordination whatsoever, I soon recognized my need for a backup plan. And though I never made it to the Steelers, I’ve been fortunate to work with and coach a number of great teams over the years. Every time I join a new team, I get to start out as a rookie all over again – and that’s amazing. With that in mind, I’m thrilled to join the team at Gainsight (formerly JBara Software) as CEO.
I come to Gainsight from my role as an Executive-in-Residence at venture firm Accel Partners and before that from leading SaaS email archiving provider LiveOffice (which we sold to Symantec in 2012). A bit more about me is here and here.
At LiveOffice, we went through the evolution every recurring revenue company goes through. In the early days, it was all about new customers. As we grew, our existing customers became a bigger and bigger part of our revenue. We could make a lot of money just by offering our existing customers more services – and we had a lot to lose if they left us. Over the subsequent years, we spent more and more time trying to understand our customers and predict their health.
We organized a weekly meeting to review our customers on a “red-yellow-green” dashboard and every few weeks added a new set of data to review – from customer survey responses to help desk tickets to contract information to product usage statistics to billing data to open feature requests. Our meeting grew from me, our VP of Client Services and our Account Managers to include Product Management, Sales, Finance and Marketing. Some weeks, 25% of the company was in this weekly meeting. And we’d stare at a myriad of manual reports and try to make sense of it all.
Fast forward to last December. I was looking at a number of CEO roles when the team at Battery Ventures introduced me to Jim Eberlin, founder of what was then called JBara Software (now Gainsight). Batttery was closing the round of financing and thought Jim and I would enjoy meeting each other. We spent a bunch of time together and I completely fell in love with the company’s vision. In particular, I was excited about three things:
- The Opportunity: Every business is switching to a model (SaaS, cloud, pay-for-performance) where vendor success depends on customer success. So this problem is only going to get bigger over time. And I had viscerally felt the pain at LiveOffice.
- The Customers: Jim and the team had built an amazing product with no venture funding and attracted market leaders like Marketo, Eloqua, Informatica, Jive Software, Xactly, DocuSign and others to use the solution.
- Our Values: Although we had different words for them, Jim and I felt the same way about what we wanted in our company. So our eventual shared values of Golden Rule, Success for All and Child-like Joy came together easily.
So the decision to join Jim and the Gainsight team wasn’t a decision at all – it was a no-brainer. Only Mike Tomlin (coach of the Steelers) could have kept me from this job. Mike – if you’re reading this, I’m actually still available. Email me.
In all seriousness, this massive shift toward the Customer-Driven Enterprise is a movement that will require people, process and technology. We look forward to partnering with our customers on the journey. And as a rookie coach, I look forward to learning from all of you.
Here’s to a winning season.