Operator Spotlight: Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta.  

You’ve been in the tech and enterprise software space for 20+ years. How has the customer success function evolved in that time? 

NICK: We’ve gone through several evolutions over time:

  • Phase 0 – Reactive: Nearly every company started with the old model, where clients were stuck and where the “post-sales” job was about being reactive to customers’ “support” needs.
  • Phase 1 – Proactive: Most companies realized this model doesn’t work in the cloud, where customers hold the power. They established Customer Success Management teams to proactively manage the customer journey via a lifecycle of onboarding, health checks, Quarterly Business Reviews, and the like.
  • Phase 2 – Outcomes: Businesses learned that clients don’t buy software products to just deploy and use them; they buy to obtain business outcomes and value. In this phase, companies redesigned their lifecycles to go from the outcomes promised in the sales cycle to those delivered post-sale.
  • Phase 3 – Transformation: Over time, companies figured out that Customer Success is a gold mine of data about clients. They used this information to rethink their entire company, from product strategy to go-to-market to finance.

What about just over the past year – How has the pandemic changed customer expectations and the overall customer experience? 

NICK: We’ve seen three fundamental changes. First, Customer Success is must-have because clients are much more sensitive about what is actually mission critical, and vendors must work much harder to stay “above the line” in terms of what software is kept. Second, Digital Customer Success went mainstream, since companies no longer had the ability to meet customers face-to-face. And third, the move to virtual allowed vendors to dramatically increase their engagement with clients, since they no longer had to deal with the logistics and time of business travel.

What will change for CS leaders post-COVID, and what’s here to stay?

NICK: I think we’ll see several changes. We’ll absolutely go back to seeing big clients face-to-face on an as-needed basis. We’ve also learned that we need to find a more sustainable work-life balance for our teams. That acknowledgement is a big shift from before and a welcome change. 

As for things that are here to stay, I see a few. Digital-first engagement models, of course. Also Customer Success as a must for vendors, and Customer Success as a growth driver (not just a defensive mechanism).

What are some key customer metrics organizations should be tracking right now?

NICK: Generally, companies should think of 3 tiers of metrics: Lagging indicators (or your final goals), leading indicators (or metrics to track toward the lagging targets), and activity indicators (the behaviors that drive leading indicators).

The typical lagging indicators for SaaS businesses are:

  • Retention – Gross Retention Rate
  • Expansion – Net Retention Rate
  • Advocacy – Net Promoter Score

Companies increasingly aggregate leading indicators into “health scores.” For example, companies may create “Retention Health Scores” or “Expansion Health Scores.” These are often composites of underlying indicators like:

  • Support activity
  • Product usage/adoption
  • Stakeholder alignment/turnover
  • Customer payment information

Businesses then track activities to drive toward leading indicators – like:

  • Number of clients with Quarterly Business Reviews held
  • Number of clients where we conducted a health check
  • Number of clients where we built a value map

If you could give one piece of advice to Founders/CEOs of early-stage tech companies, what would it be?

NICK: My best advice is to identify your personal why and be transparent about it. Do you want to make money? Are you just in it for the win? Do you want to build something that creates value? Don’t adopt somebody else’s why just because it seems fashionable. Authenticity is everything.

What’s one thing senior leaders can do to foster teamwork and a sense of belonging right now? 

NICK: Put your entire team through a personality test like Enneagram RHETI to help you learn about each others’ motivations. This was both eye-opening and tremendously helpful for us at Gainsight. 

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

NICK: I need a cool backstory like AOC! I had a paper route as a young boy, though I don’t know how many papers I actually delivered. I was nerdily programming for a local hospital in high school, but that won’t play well for a political career.

What’s your secret super power?  

NICK: Rewriting pop and rap songs to be about SaaS — like this one, this one, and this one.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

BLCK VC Launches Educational Initiative to Bring More Blacks Into Investing Ecosystem (October 2020)

BLCK Feature Image Conference Room

This article by Ron Miller was originally published on techcrunch.com

It is no secret that Black founders face an uphill battle in Silicon Valley with just a sliver of the investment pie being devoted to people of color. BLCK VC along with partners Operator Collective, Salesforce Ventures and Berkeley Haas School of Business are hoping to change that, and today the group announced the Black Venture Institute, an educational initiative dedicated to helping Black operators become angel investors.

Continue reading here.

Operator Collective is a diverse group of leaders working together to redistribute access to wealth, help more founders succeed, and disrupt the venture capital ecosystem. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Rise Up: A new generation of investors seeks to address inequity (May 2020)

Leyla Seka - Rise Up

By Simon Campbell – Staff Reporter, San Francisco Business Times

During her 12-year executive career at Salesforce, Leyla Seka had grown used to seeing male colleagues jump ship to the world of venture capital. But when these newly minted VCs returned to their former colleagues scouting for limited partner investors, they didn’t ask everyone. “They were only calling the men,” Seka says.

So when the next colleague was preparing his venture departure Seka told him to remember her when he was making his investment calls.

Since then, Seka’s investment has done “very, very well” and she wants other women to experience those returns.

Continue reading at the San Francisco Business Times…

Operator Collective is a diverse group of leaders working together to redistribute access to wealth, help more founders succeed, and disrupt the venture capital ecosystem. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Operator Collective Brings Diversity and Inclusion to Enterprise Investing (July 2020)

Mallun Yen (left) and Leyla Seka (right)

This article by Ron Miller was originally published on Techcrunch

When Mallun Yen started Operator Collective last year, she wanted to build an investment firm for people who didn’t have a voice in Silicon Valley. That meant connecting women and people of color with operators who have been intimately involved in building companies from the ground up, then providing early-stage investment.

She then brought in Leyla Seka as a partner. Seka helped build the AppExchange at Salesforce into a powerful marketplace for companies built on top of the Salesforce platform, or that plugged into the platform in some meaningful way to sell their offerings directly to Salesforce customers.

Continue reading at Techcrunch…

Operator Collective is a diverse group of leaders working together to redistribute access to wealth, help more founders succeed, and disrupt the venture capital ecosystem. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Amid a diversity gap in the VC world, Operator Collective creates a new model (April 2020)

Mallun Yen

This article by Teryn O’Brien was originally published on siliconangle.com.

Diversity in the workplace provides benefits that aren’t usually seen in a group of like-minded people, including increased innovation and creativity, higher employee engagement and lower turnover. Unfortunately, diversity in gender, race, age and other demographics still isn’t a feature of today’s venture capital world.

Continue reading here.

Operator Collective is a diverse group of leaders working together to redistribute access to wealth, help more founders succeed, and disrupt the venture capital ecosystem. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The Next Decade Will Bring More Venture Capital To Female Founders (April 2020)

Emily Weiss - Founder, Glossier

This article by Geri Stengel was originally published on forbes.com

The 2010s were a decade of slow progress in funding for female founders. However, the 2020s will see accelerated progress as investors see even more proof that investing in women brings stellar returns.

Continue reading here.

Operator Collective is a diverse group of leaders working together to redistribute access to wealth, help more founders succeed, and disrupt the venture capital ecosystem. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

VC firm draws $45 million fund mostly from women investors (April 2020)

The Fund Group Photo

This article by Anne Stych was originally published on bizjournals.com

A Silicon Valley venture capital fund that has more than 90 percent women among its more than 100 limited partners has raised committed capital of more than $45 million.

Continue reading here.

Operator Collective is a diverse group of leaders working together to redistribute access to wealth, help more founders succeed, and disrupt the venture capital ecosystem. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.