“One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.” - Georgia O’Keeffe
As a child growing up in Los Angeles, I’ll admit that I may have developed a bit of a superiority complex about California—even having convinced myself that LA was the greatest city in the world. I mean, can you blame me? The entertainment industry in Hollywood, the beaches of Malibu, even the weather helped me solidify my case that there’s nowhere in the world quite like Southern California. For the record, I’m also the guy who teared up watching La La Land.
However I’ve always had a genuine curiosity, or even romanticism, for that other city on the other coast. It would sneak up on me when watching an episode of ‘Friends’ or ‘Saturday Night Live,’ or listening to the latest Jay-Z album. Those in the know would rave about New York City as being the true center of the world—and after a few weekend visits and work trips in my twenties, I finally appreciated what others had observed all along.
But visiting New York and actually living in New York are two completely different experiences.
You can imagine my reaction when my wife Brittany landed a fashion internship in Manhattan for the summer which presented us with an opportunity to experience New York City as locals, if only for a summer. Beyond fulfilling my own childhood ambition of understanding what it felt like to be a New Yorker, I also viewed this as an opportunity to engage with the local Customer Success community living and working here in the five boroughs.
I realized quickly in my first few days in Manhattan that the same bias I had developed as a child in Los Angeles is what many of us today in Silicon Valley, including me, express to the rest of the world. I experienced it as a first-time remote employee, feeling the pressure of working EST hours yet being present for PST hour meetings. I experienced it trying to book a meeting during “Summer Fridays,” a concept that means nothing to us on the West Coast. Most of all, I experienced it in reflection, that although one of our missions at Gainsight is to connect the global Customer Success community, opportunities and challenges in our profession are localized. Our ability to impact the development and distribution of industry best practices will be far less effective from our Silicon Valley soapbox than from Customer Success leaders in local markets.
So, I dedicated my summer to learning from the experts in New York City.
I met with local customers and prospects, filmed our live virtual webinar PulseCheck with Dan Steinman and several local leaders, worked to reinstate our PulseLocal NYC chapter, and even hosted a community event in partnership with the team at Work-bench and Insight Venture Partners for ~200 Customer Success executives and practitioners.
Through these programs and several others, I must have engaged with over 500 members of the NYC Customer Success community in some manner during the course of the summer. Here are a few of my observations as a guest in their community.
The East Coast Capital of the Industry
There is no question that New York City is the center of gravity on the east coast for the Customer Success industry. In fact, the Greater New York City Area is second only to the Bay Area for career opportunity in the profession. This should not come as much of a surprise as New York is home to 52 of Fortune 500 HQs and diverse and blossoming vertical industries in financial services, media, advertising, healthcare, manufacturing, and of course, high tech.
Globally, Customer Success has become a company imperative as the SaaS, or recurring revenue, business model grew in popularity. As such, it’s no surprise that NYC as the heart of enterprise SaaS on the east coast has contributed to the popularity of the profession. Work-bench, an enterprise technology VC fund based in the Flatiron District of Manhattan keeps an impressive inventory on the number of enterprise technology companies headquartered in NYC across various vertical focuses including IT Infrastructure, Mobile, HR & Learning, and Data & Analytics. Many companies headquartered in Silicon Valley also choose to locate their east coast offices in New York to take advantage of the proximity to customers and the maturity of the talent pool.
A Hunger for Community
We spend a lot of time in Gainsight Marketing designing programs to bring the global Customer Success community together—conferences, executive retreats, dinners, and meetups. I wanted to gauge during each coffee or lunch meeting whether or not there was an appetite to have Gainsight facilitate some of these programs in New York City through our Pulse initiatives. I’ll be honest, however—I expected a bit of push back.
As it turns out, there’s a passion and hunger in New York City for connection with others in the community unlike I’ve seen anywhere else. Perhaps this observation is magnified by the inclusive culture and stirring ambition that binds New Yorkers from all walks of life together. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
If you’re interested in getting plugged in, the team behind the Customer Success - New York City meetup group hosts a quarterly event in various offices around the city. Also, be sure to subscribe to newsletters from FirstMark Capital, Insight Venture Partners and Work-bench, all of which produce a regular cadence of events focused on Customer Success. These communities and organizations make up the nucleus of the Customer Success ecosystem here in New York, and I’m thrilled that they’ve welcomed Gainsight to partner with each of them on new community initiatives in 2018. I also want to be a resource for you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll personally get you plugged into the community.
New York Fashion Week marks the end of my wife’s summer internship, and thus, the end of our window of time as New Yorkers. As we make our way back out west, and yellow cabs are replaced by what I can only assume will be semi-autonomous Tesla Model 3s (oh, a few more months?), I’m reminded of a quote by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning: “In New York, they like winners. They don't like second place.”
Watch out, Silicon Valley.