Scott Holden, CMO of ThoughtSpot, on Cultivating a Growth Mindset
As a high school student, Scott Holden made the front page news after fessing up to accidentally hitting an opponent’s ball during the golf state championship. His two-stroke penalty cost his team the win. The local newspaper headline read Holden Attests to Mishap with Honesty. “It was disappointing but my coach was proud of me, and the lesson I learned was far more valuable than the trophy would have been,” he recalls.
That Scott chose the high road comes as no surprise considering he grew up discussing fairness and morality. His father was a small-town lawyer, one grandfather was the Chief Justice of the Vermont State Supreme Court, and another was a minister.
Inspired by his upbringing, Scott chose to study philosophy at Colgate University. “I wanted to study what makes people do good or bad things.” He complemented this with a major in economics. “I was good at math and wanted to figure out how big business worked.”
I took on the CMO job to create a world-class operations back end to go with our great storytelling. So far, everything is playing out as I hoped it would.
Scott went into investment banking upon graduation, which unexpectedly prepared him for a career in marketing. An avid painter during his youth, Scott found the perfect home for his unique left brain/right brain talents in the marketing profession. “I enjoy using my creativity to come up with cool stories and content and my analytical mind to understand how they’re performing.”
His MBA internship at Google led Scott to Salesforce when it was 1,500 employees. During his seven-and-a-half years there, he led a number of marketing teams and learned the art of storytelling, PR, and events from Marc Benioff. “I got a world-class education at Salesforce.”
When Scott departed to assume the VP of Marketing position at ThoughtSpot, Salesforce had nearly 20,000 employees. ThoughtSpot had just completed its series B funding round and had little revenue. But Scott saw a tremendous opportunity in the company’s team, product, and culture.
“It seems crazy to leave such a big, successful company like Salesforce but I was passionate about the company’s mission and it was a bet I wanted to make.”
In 2019, ThoughtSpot achieved a $100 million run rate, paving the way for a $248 million Series E round at a $1.95 billion valuation. Now as CMO, Scott is focused on driving the success of a new SaaS platform for search and AI-driven analytics.
“I took on the CMO job to create a world-class operations back end to go with our great storytelling. So far, everything is playing out as I hoped it would.”
Some of Scott’s other keys to success:
- Balancing being creative and data driven. While encouraging creativity, Scott also is a stickler for data-driven operations.
- Understanding the value of storytelling. Scott gets his teams aligned around story and differentiation.
- The potential of an annual event. His firsthand experience with Dreamforce gave Scott an appreciation for the coalescing power of a company’s user conference and led to him launching ThoughtSpot’s Beyond conference early in the company’s history.