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AZ Tech Beat | April 24, 2017

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Customer success and community– Interview with Gainsight’s Anthony Kennada and Mike Manheimer

Customer success and community– Interview with Gainsight’s Anthony Kennada and Mike Manheimer
Tishin Donkersley

After the initial product purchase, that person on the other side of the phone line that manages your account is a member of a growing community whose mission is to maintain a positive and long-term technical and business relationship with customers and increase product adoption to help businesses succeed. These headset heroes are known as Customer Success teams that are evolving, more than ever, inside of technology companies.

Gainsight, known as the lead startup in Customer Success software, recently opened their offices in Phoenix. Anthony Kennada, Vice President of Marketing for Gainsight, said, their two main missions include build software for this market and be an evangelist for the growing customer success community.

“We are heavily investing in this community and have the largest customer success event called Pulse with over 2,000 people in attendance,” Kennada said. Gainsight also has 25 local chapters of customer success leaders, certification platforms, and education to help companies build their strategy. “Our passion is building customer success leaders and creating a network to facilitate the community,” he said.

Gainsight recently raised $50 million led by Insight Venture Partners, bringing their total funding to $104.25 million. With this raise, the company plans to fuel growth and development, scale customer success teams and invest even more in the customer success community through the Pulse brand, Kennada said.

In November, the company announced their expansion to downtown Phoenix and will house in the Monroe Building.

I sat down with Anthony Kennada and Mike Manheimer, Director of Marketing, to chat about why Gainsight chose Phoenix over other cities, challenges within the Phoenix ecosystem and next steps for the company.

Manheimer, an Arizona native, moved over from WebPT to take over the Demand Generation side of Gainsight. He had a deep passion to bring Gainsight to the Valley.

Why expand to Phoenix? 

I insisted on not leaving Phoenix-it was a requirement for me to stay in the Valley- I didn’t want to relocate and Gainsight is open to that,” Manheimer said.

Gainsight has a dispersed workforce with corporate headquarters located in Redwood, CA, and development and field staff spread around the world.

“The company is willing to go to where the best people are and build relationships out there,” Manheimer said.

For Kennada, his connection was more personal. “I got married to a girl born and raised in Phoenix and that started my relationship with the community. The decision was never to look at a spreadsheet and analysis, it wasn’t it at all. I felt drawn to Phoenix because of the community. It’s not an efficient play, we are not looking to establish a call center here, we are looking to build strategic roles because of the talent,” he said.

What else attracted the company to downtown Phoenix?

“There’s actually a lot of talent out here, there is involvement on the civic side, it has great universities and it’s close to the airport. It all started to pile up and [we decided] ‘let’s make it a little bit bigger.’ We see a lot more opportunity,” Kennada said.

“Phoenix has undervalued sales and marketing talent. We also have a super strong history in tech sales with all the hardware and software companies-Avnet, GoDaddy and Intel-that set the stage. When people can really see what is here [they] realize how people here have lived with tech,” Manheimer said.

“[Those tech companies] paved the way for Infusionsoft and WebPT, and they paved the way for us and driving culture; we are benefiting from the computer and talent side,” Kennada said.

What are some of the challenges you’ve found in the ecosystem?

“I think Arizona, or greater Phoenix area, face a challenge of being so dispersed that there are microcommunities, and it’s not dissimilar to the problem we are facing it right now in California. What helped Silicon Valley grow is the ability to connect the microcommuinties. It’s a complicated problem, and civic help is needed, but it’s a good problem. It’s about how you go from good to great,” Kennada said.

“I get super frustrated that people in Phoenix have this false idea that if you want to be associated with something big then you have to leave Arizona, I don’t think this is true. I tell people to stay, there are opportunities, and ‘don’t leave, let’s build something cool here.’ There are opportunities for authorship here,” Manheimer said.

Now that the Gainsight is here, what is next?

“We want to contribute the Phoenix community and be a big leader here,” Kennada said.

“We made the decision to be downtown. We are committed to this community and excited to be [in the building] to the next generation of startups,” Manheimer said.

Read more about companies expanding to Arizona at AZ Tech Beat

Customer Success description has been updated for clarification