This morning, we announced that Gainsight acquired Northpass in the most exciting moment in my 20 years of company building and the most defining moment in the history of Digital Customer Education. I want to share how this acquisition came together and what it means for our customers and industry.
But first, I want to thank the incredible Northpass team for building a leading company in a rapidly-emerging category over the past decade. Our team’s vision, focus, talents, and hard work were central to achieving this milestone. I’m so proud of and grateful for the Northpassians who came together to innovate and build our remarkable company.
And it shouldn’t be understated that we’ve had a blast building together!
In 2010, seeds were planted for what would become Northpass. At that time, I was running a SaaS company. I began observing how our customer training programs were lackluster for customers and expensive to run - i.e., they were administered manually and required scheduling at physical locations.
Meanwhile, new consumer learning platforms like Coursera and Udemy were launching and revolutionizing how people accessed high-quality education. These new platforms provided superior learning experiences digitally and on-demand, which was the experience I sought for my customers.
The problem? No platform existed for B2B companies looking to make educational content available to customers. The options were HR-focused LMSs or expensive DIY development projects. Neither were viable solutions for us.
A few years later, in 2012, my company was acquired by SPS Commerce (NASDAQ SPSC), and as part of that acquisition, I joined their leadership team. Within several months, I noticed they had the same problem I had in my startup but at a significantly greater scale and cost. That was when I became passionate about solving the B2B customer education problem.
Northpass was born in November 2013, just eight weeks after my wife and I welcomed our first child. That winter, I got to work building a startup company and a startup family. Our friends and family told us we were insane, but we were having a blast and wouldn’t do it any different!
The First 10 Years
Today, Northpass serves over five million learners and nearly 400 companies worldwide, including Walmart, SPS Commerce, Freshworks, Glassdoor, and Pipedrive. Over the past five years, we’ve achieved a revenue growth rate between 35-50% per year with a modest outside investment.
SIIA recently recognized Northpass as the best Customer Education Platform for 2023 and ranks as a leader in G2’s grid.
We have two offices in New Jersey (USA) and Wroclaw (Poland), which serve as gathering places for our 55 amazing teammates. We’ve built a fantastic culture on our core values, won NJ’s Best Place to Work four years running, and became a sought-out destination for aspiring software engineers in Poland.
The past decade of growth has been a wild and rewarding journey.
Staging Our Next Act
Though our growth was solid and steady, and by all operational and financial metrics, we were making significant progress, my leadership team knew we could accelerate. So around this time last year, we revisited and sharpened our vision.
"Our vision is to elevate customer education into a mission-critical function at every company and build the #1 platform in the category."
We also narrowed our go-to-market focus to the customer segment generating our highest growth rates and best net revenue retention.
Within months of optimizing our positioning and messaging, we saw an immediate increase in demand for our platform from ideal customers: Customer success leaders at mid-sized and enterprise tech companies.
We gained instant recognition from customer education luminaries who appreciated our refreshing and differentiated narrative in the market.
Northpass Customer Education Leaders Stadium Tour, Oracle Park 2023
But most notably, we received inquiries from leading CRM and Customer Success platforms looking to integrate learning functionality into their products to enable their customers to drive greater efficiencies and superior customer experiences through digital customer education.
These partnership opportunities were exciting because we knew that leveraging relationships with leading CRM and customer success companies would enable us to build competitive advantages through differentiated product integrations and gain preferred access to large bases of ideal customers.
But there was one prospective partnership that stood head-and-shoulders above all the rest. Gainsight.
Gainsight CEO, Nick Mehta, and his team have done a remarkable job building Gainsight into the undisputed category leader. Equally impressive is how they built the customer success category from nothing into what is now a de facto team at nearly every recurring revenue business.
I knew forging a partnership with Gainsight would significantly accelerate Northpass’ vision. Fortunately, one of my board members knew Nick and introduced us.
And after meeting Gainsight’s leadership team, it was clear that our companies shared many of the same values. We embrace a human-first management system, commit to learning and growing, obsess over stakeholder success, and make work fun.
"It was clear that we shared the view that the next evolution of customer success was digital, and customer education would be a central tenant in this next phase."
Northpass built an integration into Gainsight, ran a few co-marketing programs, and acquired numerous shared customers. In short order, we saw that our shared vision could become a reality quickly.
I received a call from Gainsight’s head of corporate development asking me if I would be interested in Gainsight acquiring Northpass.
"That call changed the trajectory of Northpass and will change the course of the entire customer education industry."
Northpass Team at Gainsight Pulse 2023
As a founder, there are a few crossroads you reach in your entrepreneurial journey that determine your company's destiny. The decision to join forces with Gainsight or continue building as an independent company was one of those moments for me.
After we completed the acquisition, I showed Nick Northpass’ 2019 Series A investor deck listing Gainsight as a top strategic exit possibility. And in our announcement video, he and I joked that this acquisition happened over a casual two-minute Zoom chat. Despite seeming predestined and the fun we’re having now, I had many points to evaluate in making this decision.
After significant consideration, all signs pointed to joining forces with Gainsight.
Team: Northpassians are wonderful humans and talented professionals, and I wanted to make the best decision for them. As I mentioned earlier, Northpass and Gainsight share many common values. Seeing how my teammates would continue to grow in their careers at Gainsight was easy.
Customers: Our customers are ambitious professionals, always looking to take their programs to the next level. Often that means integrating training into their customer data platforms, customer communities, and proprietary products. Gainsight has a full suite of these solutions.
"Integrating Northpass into Gainsight’s product suite will enable our customers to elevate their programs to heights unattainable by any standalone learning platform provider."
Product: The Northpass platform is intuitive, powerful, and unmatched in extensibility and integration capabilities. But it can be so much more. Gainsight has 500 R&D personnel and a proven track record of delivering cutting-edge innovation at scale. Joining forces with Gainsight will accelerate our roadmap and enable us to innovate all-new ways for technology to improve the administration and delivery of customer education.
Investors: As CEO, I’m responsible for creating solid returns for Northpass’ investors. The opportunity to join forces with Gainsight would achieve that outcome.
Northpass is now part of Gainsight, and the future is exceptionally bright for our customers, team, and the entire customer education industry.
"This acquisition unlocks the full potential of digital customer education by making it a core strategy in the chief customer officer’s playbook and seamlessly integrating it with the whole customer success tech stack, including community, in-app product engagement, customer success data, workflows, and so much more."
I’ll be joining Gainsight and am as motivated as ever to continue executing Northpass’ vision of elevating customer education into a mission-critical function and building Gainsight into the #1 platform in this category.
Reflecting on what we achieved is incredibly rewarding, and knowing where we’re heading with Gainsight is incredibly exciting.
I’m grateful for every employee - past and present - who worked hard to get us to where we are today, every customer who believed in our products and team, every partner who built alongside us, and each investor who saw our vision and entrusted our team to execute and achieve this incredible outcome.
Thank you to every person who played a role in shaping the Northpass story!