B2B Big Data Challenges

Considering Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta once aspired to be a garbage man, it’s no surprise that he identifies “garbage in, garbage out” - the concept that the quality of output is determined by the quality of the input - as one of the biggest challenges in applying Big Data to B2B problems.

In December, we were fortunate to welcome Mehta at FirstMark’s Data Driven NYC, the largest monthly Big Data event in the world. Mehta drew on his experience at Gainsight, which aims to help businesses better understand and take action on customer data, to illuminate the challenges B2B companies face in getting the most out of Big Data (video above).

But, we also had a chance to visit with Mehta about his journey as a tech entrepreneur and software executive, including an early interest in hauling garbage for a living.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
The two things I remember saying were garbage man and lawyer. As a hardened business guy, my dad was like ‘Those are basically the same thing.’

My dad was the CEO of a couple small software companies, so I was always around that. I love technology and have always geeked out about it since I was a little kid. I joke that I had more computers than friends, so I guess going into tech was preordained.

Where do you find inspiration?
There are four places where I spend time finding inspiration:
1. I’m big on Twitter as a way to find ideas and share my own. It’s a great place for thinkers.
2. I love meeting people in the tech world. I get to meet 10-20 CEOs a week and it’s great to hear and share advice with others.
3. Conferences allow you to sit back and think. Your brain goes into this mode where you may hear something from a totally different company than your own and start thinking about how you can apply their ideas.
4. I geek out on science stuff. I go to bed at night reading about astrophysics. I’m so enmeshed in the tech world, so doing something totally different scratches an itch for me.

What is one thing you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself?
Other than cold email Larry Page in 1999, I would say figure out what you’re great at. Don’t worry about what you’re not great at. Once you’re competent at a number of things, it’s more important to be great at one thing than slightly better at several things.

Focus on turning an A into an A+.

What's something you had to learn the hard way?
My last company didn’t raise a lot of money and it really forced me to learn some fundamentals. There’s an element of getting close to the cash flow that’s really important. I really respect the bootstrapped entrepreneurs because they live that.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
The captain can’t have a bad day. The unintended consequences of your emotions are profound. If you look sad, everybody will think the company is in despair. The great CEOs and coaches have emotional composure.

Answers above have been edited for length and clarity. You can find more from Mehta on startups, culture and customer success on his blog MehtaPhysical.