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Podcast calendar    Aug 09, 2023

Electrifying Growth Episode 14: The Family Business was Just the Start with Steve Cornwell

Steve Cornwell, visionary founder and CEO of Northpass, shares the highs, lows, and challenges faced while building his company with Managing Partner and Host Chris Sugden in Episode 14 of Electrifying Growth.


In the world of startups and entrepreneurship, success stories are often portrayed as a smooth and flawless journey. But the truth is, the path to success is rarely perfect. In our latest episode of Electrifying Growth, Founder & CEO of Northpass (now Gainsight) Steve Cornwell candidly shares the highs, lows, and challenges faced while building his company.

Raising Capital and Finding a Partner

One pivotal decision made by Northpass was taking outside capital. While initially self-funded and cash flow positive, Founder and CEO Steve Cornwell saw the potential for growth in the market and decided to raise capital to accelerate the company's expansion. This decision also opened doors to exciting partnerships and collaborations. The episode highlights the importance of finding the right partner and how it can contribute to the overall success of a business.

The Shift and the Power of Focusing

As Northpass gained momentum, the leadership team made a crucial strategic shift, focusing on a specific market segment with high growth potential. This deliberate focus resonated with industry analysts and influencers, attracting the attention of large CRM and customer success platforms. Notably, the episode reveals the most impactful partnership opportunity that came from Gainsight, which eventually led to an acquisition offer.

The Birth of Northpass

To truly understand the journey of Northpass, we must reflect on its origins. Steve Cornwell recounts a problem he observed in a different business where customer training became expensive and provided a subpar experience. Recognizing the lack of viable solutions, Steve saw an opportunity to revolutionize customer education, and Northpass was born. It is the classic entrepreneurial story of identifying a problem, seizing an opportunity, and taking action.

Venture Capital, Growth, and Culture

The decision to take venture capital was not an easy one, but Steve recognized the potential it offered in an ever-changing market. He credits the partnership with the venture capital firm for playing a substantial role in Northpass' growth. Despite the challenges of recruiting talent and acquiring customers, the episode emphasizes the vital importance of building a positive company culture, a value Steve deeply believes in. This inclusive culture has been instrumental in creating a desirable work environment, even in Northpass' office in Poland.

The Road Less Traveled

Steve Cornwell's journey as a first-time founder wasn't without its difficulties. From balancing the demands of building a business while also becoming a parent to facing the challenges of finding product-market fit and go-to-market fit, Steve speaks openly about the hurdles he encountered. However, he expresses immense gratitude for the support received along the way and affirms that he would embark on this exhilarating path again.

Acknowledging Roots and Appreciation

Steve pays tribute to his father's successful business ventures and the valuable lessons learned from working in their family businesses. He also highlights the importance of transparency and candidness in team-building as Northpass strives to foster a positive culture.

Wrapping Up with Excitement and Gratitude

The episode concludes with Steve expressing joy over Northpass winning an award for the fourth consecutive year. As a native of New Jersey, he takes pride in innovatively growing his home state. The discussion also touches on the evolving perception of celebrities in the private equity and venture capital industry, placing significance on the real contributors like Steve and his team.

Steve Cornwell's journey with Northpass is one of determination, resilience, and growth. From identifying a problem to seizing opportunities, the electrifying growth of Northpass showcases the power of embracing challenges and building solid partnerships. It serves as an inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs who are eager to make a mark in their respective industries.

Chris is Managing Partner and Chairman of the firm's investment committee. He has been on both sides of the table as a successful entrepreneur. His experience includes leading sales, product, finance, business strategy and capital formation.