On June 7, 2017 I stepped down as CEO to hand the reigns over to Jason Zintak and stepped into a new role with 6sense as we take this company into the next stage of its growth (I am here to stay!). My 4 years building and growing the top performing predictive marketing company in the space have been nothing short of amazing. There are a remarkable number of parallels to both the book ‘The Hard thing about Hard Things’ by Ben Horowitz and the show Silicon Valley. I could not be happier to share it’s time for me to do what I do best…speak, write, evangelize, dive deep into product, focus on strategy and spend quality time with customers and prospects. Incidentally, that’s 6 things…
Why and how I decided to step down? The Story.
One of the biggest failures of tech CEO’s is not having the self-awareness to know when to step down. I never wanted to be that leader. Self-awareness and reflection are qualities I try hard to embody.
The decision to find someone to take over as CEO was simple. We’ve been fortunate to have found our product market fit, and believe we have the best product, vision and strategy in the space (as validated by Forrester in a recent WAVE report). As the market moves our way and we continue to scale, I knew that at some point, it would be time for me to let go and bring in a CEO with operational GTM experience and excellence – someone who had seen this movie before. It became apparent about 6 months ago that is was time, and what was best for both Amanda and 6sense was to not let my ego get in the way of allowing 6sense to reach its fullest potential.
After 4 months of searching, I stepped out of a board meeting on Wednesday March 15th at 11:58am and wrote a text to close one personal chapter in my life. At 12:02 I rode the elevator down from my VC’s office (where the board meeting was held). I felt this unbelievable release, a clearing, a letting go. When the elevator reached the first floor, sitting in the lobby randomly was Jason Zintak. I had met Jason many months earlier. I just knew he was the perfect fit for 6sense. He had everything we were looking for. But my board members who had worked with him in his previous company told me I would have less than 1% chance of getting him. He was sitting on incredible offers from numerous large, well-established tech companies, $s to launch his own startup and so much more. But in that moment, the universe was telling me so loud and clear ‘when one door closes, another one opens‘. Literally the elevator door opened to Jason. I just knew that somehow, someway he would join. I texted him a few minutes later inviting him to our office which was just a block away. He came up, we chatted casually and then he came back the next day to meet with Christine Heckart and I for a few hours on the big picture vision of 6sense; the full funnel ‘Intelligent Marketing Cloud’. A vision that builds on our big data and predictive roots as simply the brains powering a full end to end B2B marketing execution and measurement platform. 3 months later, after crazy amounts of due-diligence, Jason accepted.
My only hesitation.
I know with all my being that my purpose in life is to inspire women and girls. One of the most beautifully rewarding parts of the last 4 years is the overwhelming sense of connection I have made with women looking for more in their lives and specifically those looking for a female mentor in tech. Less than 1% of Enterprise SaaS Founder CEO’s who raised a Series B or above are women. That’s not 20% or 40% but 1%. We are non-existent. In the animal kingdom we would be marked as not an endangered species but extinct. My only single point of hesitation in this chapter was to keep going to inspire women and girls. What signal would it send them? However, when reflecting hard on what makes a leader inspirational, it’s not how long they stay on or how far they go. But their ability to be self-aware and do what is absolutely best for the company and for themselves. A great leader is looking out, not down; looking out for the future of the company. 6sense is my legacy. No one can take that away from me. And now I can spend more time on my mission to inspire women and continue to share openly and freely from the heart. With Jason onboard, 6sense will provide an even bigger platform for me to keep lifting women up.
First let me say for better or worse, we would not settle for anything less than a perfect fit. We came close on a few other folks but there was just something missing. Many times, nothing I could put my finger on tangibly. They had everything on paper and will likely make great CEOs somewhere else, but they weren’t “IT” for us. Jason lingered in the back of my mind every-time I’d spend time with these others. Jason was our guy!
I was looking for the following:
- Qualified (of course). Someone who had incredibly strong GTM experience in the Enterprise SaaS space. Experience growing and scaling companies.
- Cultural fit. We pride ourselves as having an incredible culture. We are a “Passionate Positive F.A.M.I.L.Y (Fun, Accountability, Mindfulness, Integrity, Love, And YES). One where your ego gets checked at the door and we can have open conversations without anyone taking things personally. It’s just not that way with Viral (my CTO co-founder), other execs and me. We have healthy debates but never walk out of any meeting with any ounce of love lost. It sounds easy to find but, in this role, I have seen so many big egos come through the door. So many good stories there. One that literally spent the entire hour interview, without my asking, telling me how great he was.
- Done it before but still hungry. Ready to put 110% into 6sense to take it to its fullest potential. One lesson learned was there were a ton of CEO’s I interviewed that had incredible $B+ exits BUT that doesn’t mean they have the fire in their belly to win again.
- Marketing Tech domain experience. This was a “nice to have”. Jason has it in spades. Icing on the cake.
What’s next for me:
6sense! I’m not going anywhere. I am even more dedicated to 6sense than ever before. I will stay on as Executive Chairman, and Chief Strategy Officer. Jason will run the GTM and operations. To give you an idea of my day-to-day: I had 36 speaking engagements last year. Aiming for ~60 this year. (I may add a 7th competency – being a DJ.)
For more on how Jason and I will be working together on 6sense’s next-generation marketing platform, check out our recent interview in Forbes.
June 7, 2017: The day Jason accepted
A picture speaks a 1,000 words. I was in Austin, TX visiting one of our biggest customers. The series of pictures below show Viral, my CTO & co-founder, with me calling my co-founders, senior leadership team, family and friends to share our incredible news.
Marketing tech companies we are coming for you!
P.S. My co-founder and CTO Viral Bajaria won’t be playing the game of “counting ‘we’s” anymore. Every time Jason would come to see us he understandably held his cards close to his chest. We weren’t sure how far he was leaning in or out. So we started to count how many times he would say “we” vs. “you guys”. In the first month we heard ‘you guys’ 100% of the time. Then, one day, in a meeting he said “we,” “if we did xyz”… we saw the light, it was our hope. The next time he said ‘we’ 3 times and ‘you guys’ about 10 times. On our last calls with him it was all “we” all the time!
Now the next chapter begins…