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InSided joins the Gainsight team – CEO, Robin van Lieshout, shares how it all came together

Robin van Lieshout • January 10, 2022

We’ve just announced that Customer Success software giant Gainsight has acquired 100% of the shares of inSided, a truly proud moment for me and the team. In this blog post, I’ll give some honest and open perspectives on how this all came together.

How it started

When I broke my knee in the year 2000 I had to stay at home for a few weeks, which you can imagine gets quite boring—fast. I joined some online groups and started chatting with other people there, and I immediately felt a sense of belonging and got less bored. I got energized by the conversations. I was realizing the power of community. Next, with some basic programming skills, I started to build my own online forums discussing my passion in those days; consumer electronics.

After doing that for a few years, I realized that bigger brands were also looking for technology and advice on how to build their own online community. Those were the early days where companies actually started with providing better and faster care through social channels and open platforms. Together with my co-founder Wouter Neyndorff, we started inSided in late 2010.

Our mission was to power communities for the largest brands out there, and create that same sense of belonging I felt back in the day, but this time, among their customers. For some brands that worked, and for others, it was more difficult. “Selling to the right customers” — one of the early laws in Customer Success, was learned the hard way.

Over the last few years, we’ve built an amazing company with around 100 people spread across Europe and the US, a few hundred amazing customers, an awesome brand, and an even bigger international company culture. I’m proud that the #1 reason why people join inSided is the company culture. We invested in culture early, I think the best way of showing that was making a “Vibe Manager” one of the earliest hires. If people would move on, the number #1 thing they mentioned they would miss, is the company culture. Not only did we create impactful communities for our customers, but we ourselves also built out a strong internal community.

Fast forward growth

Although we have been around for some time, the last two years we really accelerated our growth. In fact, we’ve tripled our customer base and more than doubled our revenue. Together with our Series A investors HenQ, Fortino and Ventech, we agreed a few months ago to start preparing for our Series B round, with a target to close before the end of this year. I started speaking with relevant venture capital firms, and even before we officially started our process we received multiple terms sheets.

At the same time, my long-time buddy Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight reached out to discuss what in the end led to this acquisition being announced today. Gainsight received a strategic investment from Vista Equity Partners a year ago, and Loran Gutt was commissioned to see how they could accelerate non-organic growth. I have known the Gainsight team for quite a while, they have been a customer since 2019, and in full transparency - they even made a small attempt at acquiring us quite some time ago (shoutout to Allison!).

By early November we had to make the decision. Are we going to continue the Series B investment path, or are we going to pursue a future being part of Gainsight? The funny thing is that in almost every initial introductory meeting I had with investors in Q3, they would ask me things like: “Does Gainsight have these product capabilities as well?”, “Doesn’t it make sense for Gainsight to do this?”, “Have you ever thought about selling to Gainsight?” — you get the idea. The market clearly already thought there was a fit. However, some external folks also indicated that what we are building could be the next generation of Gainsight, and that of course always made me smile.

Weighing all our options

We started thinking about how an acquisition would affect all different stakeholders at inSided;

  • Employees; everybody could stay, more investments would be made to grow our team, everyone would get more career opportunities, acceleration of our US presence, and better benefits for everyone.
  • Customers; a financially stable company, acceleration of our own Customer Success efforts (yes, due to resource constraints we were struggling here), a broader integrated product suite to solve customer challenges, acceleration of R&D efforts, and the current inSided team would just continue to support our customers.
  • Our product; our BHAG was always to get our product in the hands of at least 1000 companies. This would massively accelerate through this merger. The existing 1000+ Gainsight customers can benefit from our product and the smart integrations between our products planned on the roadmap. All of the features our amazing product and engineering teams have built will be used by far more companies.
  • Our investors; VCs, advisors, and (former) employees who invested in the company -- and frankly, who also gave me a lot of trust wiring their money to us, could make a great financial return as part of this transaction.

But apart from all that, one of the most important factors is that Gainsight has built a massive community themselves. They’ve played a big role in making the Customer Success industry what it is today, including building and catering to the Customer Success community through events like Pulse, local events, and sharing a lot of their knowledge and thinking early on.

That attitude also shows through a strong set of company values that very closely resemble our own at inSided. E.g. values like spreading “childlike joy”, I can closely relate to — I even just dressed up as “Sinterklaas” and read poems about all employees at our last all-hands. These also run through their executive team, which have been awesome and fun to work with — making me experience that sense of belonging once more. Gainsight takes people and culture very seriously, which gives me extra confidence that for everyone at inSided this will be a great exciting opportunity that will very much resemble what we have built up ourselves.

So, did I not have any concerns? Of course, I did. It’s a way bigger company, so would we be able to thrive as part of a bigger brand? One of the main things on my mind was also that some parts of the Customer Success Market consider Gainsight as oriented to Enterprise only, with an extensive (and therefore sometimes perceived as complex) product created for that segment. A company that had a strong start creating the category, and is now also experiencing more lightweight competitors entering the market. 

But, doing my own due diligence under the hood taught me that a lot of it is just perception. Gainsight is growing and innovating fast. They hired over 250 people in the last year -- significantly increasing the gap with their competitors. They listened to their customers and the market and have been improving on most of what are now common misconceptions about the brand and their products. They invested in a much simpler to use product and UX. They are growing their customer base like never before, including a lot of million-dollar deals. Apart from that, they are retaining customers at a rate that exceeds industry benchmarks. In fact - their core NPS scores are super high! So, they must be doing something right.

Taking all this into account, the board could not come to a different conclusion other than becoming a part of the Gainsight brand.

Next steps

InSided is now part of Gainsight, it’s the start of a new chapter and we’re all excited about what’s to come. Personally, I will continue my journey and for the first time ever report to a boss. Lucky for me, that’s Nick Mehta, the current Gainsight CEO. I’m thrilled to now be part of their executive team. The inSided leadership team is still there and all our employees are now part of the broader Gainsight family. Our ambition to make community an essential part of everyone’s tech stack and become the default player in our space remains the same.

Looking at all that combined growth, I also realized Customer Success is still in its early days. We’re moving to the next steps of the category, where we’ll see the unfolding of broader technology suites that focus on Net Revenue Retention as a business outcome. The core and initial Gainsight CS product is just the beginning. Combining that with their first acquisition of Gainsight PX (hey Mickey!) and the inSided product, it will be such a powerful combination. We will accelerate investments in our product as planned, and inSided will be the third product in the overall suite. We will bring the “Customer” into “Customer Success” and integrate community and digital-led capabilities into a powerhouse that drives NRR.

Gainsight was an early mover. They defined the category and are full speed ahead of defining it again. A unicorn today, and who knows, maybe the first publicly traded Customer Success company tomorrow. The future will tell and I’m sure more exciting things will follow. My top strength according to the Gallup StrengthsFinder test is competition. I want to win and will do everything to make that happen. I am happy to be part of this new exciting journey and now win together.

Together_FullColorRobin van Lieshout
CEO, inSided

Picture of Robin van Lieshout

By Robin van Lieshout

CEO & Co-Founder at inSided, with over 15 years of community experience. Robin is responsible for overall strategy, company culture and finance. Connect on Linkedin

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