October 16, 2018 CEO Champion Spotlight

Spotlight on Athena CEO Champions: Nick Mehta of Gainsight

Interview By The Athena Alliance

Gainsight is a customer success platform helping businesses retain and grow customers. The industry-leading solution provides valuable customer insights and analytics through a centralized view of customer health, builds outcomes-driven customer journeys, and helps prove the impact of customer success organizations in business. Since joining in 2013, Nick led the company through multiple funding rounds, raising a total of $156 million, and grew the company from a handful of employees to more than 500 people working in seven offices around the world. Gainsight partnered with Athena Alliance earlier this year in a customized program, designed to encourage female leadership among his community of customer success professionals.

Previously, Nick was the CEO of LiveOffice, where he led the company’s growth to $25 million in revenue before being acquired by Symantec. He’s held numerous operating roles for various public and private companies, including Veritas, Symantec, and XDegrees. Nick has also been an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Trinity Ventures and Accel Partners.

What prompted you to say “Yes” to Athena?

How I got introduced to Athena Alliance is sort of funny. I was at a conference in Hawaii (seriously, it was a work thing!) and they had this game—basically a human Scrabble on a giant court (you had to be there), and the woman next to me was actually Coco [Brown, Founder & CEO of Athena Alliance]. So from there, I was introduced to the opportunities Athena provides. Gainsight has a large community of executives, and so many are talented women. After I met Coco, I could immediately see how valuable a relationship with Athena Alliance could be. After several discussions with Coco and her team, we decided to work with them on their executive development program. To make that happen, Coco spoke at our Customer Success industry conference, Pulse, where she shared Athena’s mission with thousands of executives in the audience. From there, we sponsored scholarships for five talented female executives in the Customer Success community.

What’s been the response?

The recipients were so thrilled. That’s the best part of this—getting people excited about their potential in their careers.

What specifically about Athena’s program drew you in?

I like Athena because it’s very action-oriented. Athena is all about real impact. There are so many issues that need to be fixed with respect to diversity, and it can be overwhelming for some. But it’s awesome to see something that you can do by getting involved with Athena that can immediately help. Athena makes it tangible in terms of having an impact.

What legacy do you want to leave behind with your involvement in Athena?

I want to do my part in driving change. But we’re not celebrating just yet—there is a lot more that needs to be done to promote and support women in leadership. But if we can use the Customer Success Movement to help more women rise up to the board level, that will make us all very proud.

How has your relationship with Athena impacted Gainsight from a business perspective?

I’m always a little careful about this idea. Working with Athena is good for business, yes, but it’s also just right. It’s the right thing to do. It shouldn’t need any additional justification because of the economics. Even if there were zero business impact, it’s still the right thing to do. That being said, the partnership does have an impact on the business. Gainsight’s community is very diverse and in an industry where you’re serving a large population, having a diverse company and board just makes sense. We all benefit from having broader perspectives and pulling in people from different backgrounds. It drives diversity in both conversation and business approach. Having too many people who are alike means you don’t take the time to pause and evaluate appropriately, and we become blind to risks and opportunities. That’s one of the many reasons why intersectionality is so important.

What’s next?

Customer success is a profession that grew out of functions like customer support and service, and while those roles were always important, it wasn’t always considered strategic. But now that perspective has changed and it’s being seen as critical to business success. What’s exciting about this is you have a profession that naturally has more gender diversity and is proving to be a viable career. The risk in that, from what we’ve seen in the past, is when a profession becomes more important, it gets taken over by men. The all-time example of this is computer science, which had so many women in the ‘40s and ‘50s but obviously has major balance issues now. So we need to be aware of that possibility with the Customer Success profession and ensure we don’t repeat history.