Nick Mehta, CSW (Colored Sock Wearer) and CEO of Gainsight, is a ball of energy and sharp as nails. He’s one of those guys that already knows the answer to a question before you’ve even begun processing what you need to do to try and answer it. So, if you ever get a chance to have coffee with Nick, don’t miss out – you’ll learn more in that hour than you will all week. A bonafide serial entrepreneur, Nick joined Gainsight to help solve a tremendously important business problem – How do businesses reduce churn and keep the good customers longer?
So what’s in a day for a CEO?
Mostly send emails. And attend meetings. And send emails about meetings. And schedule meetings about emails. Basically, any kid of a CEO who is at “bring your kid to work day” needs to bring an iPad.
What do you love most about your job?
Definitely not the emails. Honestly, I’m blessed to get to do what I love which is to help in a small way for our teammates at the company to achieve their goals and dreams.
It is so satisfying to create a company that can create joy and opportunity for the people around you. Similarly, it’s exhilarating to try to deliver value for all of the stakeholders in your organization – teammates, their families, investors, partners, clients, the community – this is what we call as one of our values, “Success for All.”
Did you know you were going to be an entrepreneur when you were growing up?
I think when I was a kid, the quote from my parents was I wanted to be a “lawyer or garbage man,” which my dad said was “the same thing.” But growing up, I saw what my dad did (as a CEO) and knew I wanted to do the same. I had a brief period when I pretended I would live up to my mom’s desires for me to become a doctor, so I majored in biochem in college, but that quickly subsided. I now have no idea what the difference between RNA and DNA is.
Was there a unique event, or series of events, which heavily influenced your career choices?
A few come to mind:
- I was a co-founder of a company in college that ended up becoming a dotcom posterchild. Since my first job was working for – nobody – I was kind of broken forever;
- I ran a division at Symantec and had a blast but realized that no matter what I did, it’s still not my own company and I needed to get back to that.
How did Gainsight come to life?
I didn’t found Gainsight but Gainsight definitely found me. Our founder, Jim Eberlin, started another SaaS company called Host Analytics and saw there were so many challenges in understanding customers – which were happy, which were about to leave, which were ready to buy more. He was frustrated because he knew his company had tons of data about its customers but they could never assimilate it together to drive action. So he founded Gainsight and bootstrapped the early product development. Battery Ventures had seen the need for Customer Success Management in its portfolio of SaaS companies and had seen Gainsight in use, so they decided to invest. Battery introduced me to Jim and we really hit it off. The rest is history – in the making 🙂
Would you consider customer success management a new industry?
Yes and no. It’s not new to need to focus on your customers’ success. Theoretically that should have always been the case. But now companies have an economic incentive.
Customers have more choice and are less wedded to their vendors – heck, they’re not even dating them! So vendors have to re-earn business at every renewal. Therefore, vendors need to switch from a sales model to a success model.
What’s been the most challenging thing about running a startup?
Singing. We do music videos for the company and I’m unfortunately, for the audience, a REALLY bad singer. But they did put me in guyliner for the shoot.
In seriousness, it’s definitely staying level emotionally. A typical day will involve great things (customer wins, happy employees, satisfied clients) and crappy things (pissed off… everyone!) Keep your cool. Or at least fake it. With meds if you have to.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering joining an early stage startup?
Join for the right reasons. I wrote a post on this. Don’t join for money, fame or because it’s cool. Join a startup because you want the connection and shared sense of purpose that’s often only found there. That is priceless.
How do you balance career and family?
I have a controversial point of view on this. I think this is the wrong model. I hope the world moves to a model where people’s careers are activities they love. At Gainsight we have a value called “Child-like Joy” because we want work to be as fun and free as kids on a playground. There is no reason work has to be the thing you “balance.” I also believe that people who look at hours on each side look at it wrong. Do everything you do (work, friends, family) with complete, unmitigated passion and abandon.
But this is easy to say for me because I love what I do. Not everyone is that lucky and we need to fix that.
As you look at young talent competing in the hiring pool today, are you seeing something unique about these candidates?
I think the millennial / gen Y stuff is overblown. New employees are always different but I think the key thing is that as a leader, you should take advantage of and foster the energy and potential of every age group in your company.
What’s your favorite interview question to ask?
What’s your favorite interview question to ask? Seriously – that’s a good one to ask.
If you were talking to a younger you, what’s the one piece of advice you would give?
- It only gets better.
- Put all of your money in Bitcoin at $1.
- Get in shape. It’s harder to lose the pounds later.