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Cognism at SaaS Growth 2019

July 5, 2019

The time? 5:50pm on Wednesday 3rd July. 

The place? Here East, in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - the home of the London 2012 Olympics.

James Ski, the founder of Sales Confidence and the host of SaaS Growth 2019, takes to the stage. He’s about to announce the Top 10 SaaS Companies to Work For in the UK. Last year, Cognism made it to number 5. Where will it be this year? We’re about to find out…

James reads out the list of winners. One by one, they come up to receive their award. Refract, Highspot, Ometria, Akkroo...we get to number 5 and no mention of Cognism...3, 2...surely it can’t be? 

James waits for silence and an expectant hush descends upon the room. This is a big moment! It’s time to reveal who is the Top SaaS Company to Work For in the UK…

It’s official - Cognism wins SaaS Growth’s Top SaaS Company to Work For in the UK! 

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Team Cognism accepts the award!

The Cognism team, led by founder and CEO James Isilay and CRO Nazma Qurban, soar onto the stage to collect the award.

For all of us who work at Cognism, it’s a proud moment. It’s recognition for the incredible success we’ve achieved together as a company - from $0 to $4 million ARR in under 2 years - and the warm, inclusive workplace culture we’ve built.

But that was at the end of the day. What about the rest of SaasGrowth 2019? Let’s hit rewind…

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Cognism - a SaasGrowth platinum sponsor.


On arrival at Here East, the first thing to note was that the Cognism brand was everywhere! From our booth to the event agenda leaflet and even coffee cups - there was no doubt in anyone’s minds that Cognism was a key sponsor for this important event.

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Following a little breakfast and networking session, it was time for SaaS Growth 2019 to begin in earnest. James Ski promised us a day of innovative insights, practical advice and authenticity - and that was precisely what we got! With a full agenda of nearly 40 speakers sharing their knowledge and experience throughout the day, it’s no surprise that SaaS Growth has become London’s number 1 sales leadership conference.

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James Ski introduces SaaS Growth 2019.

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James Isilay, live on stage!

This year, there were 2 overarching themes to consider:

  • Hypergrowth - how to build a sales machine that scales quickly
  • Leadership - how to become a better leader

For a full round-up of the day’s talks, be sure to check out our live blog! For today, we’ve picked our 2 favourites speeches and our 2 favourite panels. It’s just a taste of the valuable content you can expect to see at SaasGrowth.

9:50am - Panel discussion: “Do VCs care about sales leaders?”

This panel discussion brought together 5 VCs. They were:

  • Flavia Richardson, VP at Silicon Valley Bank
  • Eva Tarasova, VC Investor at Wharton Asset Management
  • Thomas Eskebaek, Investment Manager at Oxx
  • Itxaso del Palacio, Investment Director at Notion
  • Martin Afshari-Mehr, VC Investor at Salesforce Ventures

This was a very interesting talk, as it showed the differences in opinion that VCs have when it comes to looking for a company to invest in. Some look for revenue, others look for an innovative product, others look for the team that a company assembles. 

All agreed, however, that effective sales leadership is about more than just generating revenue. It’s about building a good company culture - and maintaining it as the business scales.

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The VCs panel.

12:15pm - Nazma Qurban: “Inspiring young professionals as a competitive advantage”

A major theme throughout SaaS Growth 2019 was the changing nature of the workplace.

Millennials have joined the world of work in their droves and are sparking a revolution in how businesses conduct themselves. They want to work in environments which allow them to express themselves as individuals, progress and learn new skills, and feel like they’re part of a community.

As the CRO of a company with a workforce made up of 95% millennials and Generation Z, Nazma Qurban was well-placed to elaborate on this topic. She identified 3 areas for business leaders to focus on:

  • Create a collaborative, inclusive workplace culture that millennials can thrive in
  • Put in place clear progression plans for each of your employees, aligning your business goals with their personal goals
  • Give your staff the freedom to be creative - ring-fence 20% of their time to give them the space to innovate

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Nazma Qurban speaks about motivating millennials.

2:20pm - Panel discussion: “Neuro-diversity: hiring out of the box thinkers to drive growth”

This panel showed the breadth of experience that SaaS Growth can attract. Chaired by Lauren Cartigny, COO of Sales Confidence, the panellists were:

  • Dr. Helen Taylor, a researcher at the University of Cambridge
  • Sophie Rason, Director at Ingenio
  • Chris Tottman, General Partner at Notion
  • Peter Crosby, CRO at Ometria

This was a deep dive into Dr. Taylor’s theory of human evolution and how it can be applied to business. The theory is that humans evolved to work in teams, with each team member having a specialised skill.

How does this idea work in a business context? To guarantee success, business leaders should assemble a diverse team of different personality types. Too many companies hire the same sort of people, which can only lead to stagnation. Businesses should be ready to embrace diversity - especially hypergrowth ones, who often have to adapt to rapid change.

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The neuro-diversity panel.

5:05pm - Renn Vara: “How to think like a founder”

The final speech of the day, and one of the most inspiring, came from Renn Vara, the co-founder of SNP Communications. 

Renn shared his top tips on how to think like a founder. They were:

  • Create: always be ready to improvise, think on your feet and adapt. A founder must also be a learner
  • Break things: to build a hypergrowth business, a founder must be open to challenging the rules, bypassing bureaucracy and going against the status quo
  • Build trust: a founder must have empathy for their team, they must be authentic in the way they communicate and every decision they make must be backed by logic
  • Pay the price: forming a new company is hard work. A founder must be ready to sacrifice a lot of time to make it happen. But never, ever give up! 
  • Share the win: recognise your achievements. Reward them! Always support your team and they will achieve great things 

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Renn Vara.

The after party

Once all the speeches were concluded and the awards were handed out, it was time for the after party!

Sponsored by Cognism and held in the Four Quarters bar next to Here East, it was a great location for our team and our friends from other SaaS companies to celebrate their success. The sun was shining, free food and drink were provided, and there were even Cognism branded runners on the bar!

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Bar Cognism!

The end - until next year…

So SaaS Growth is over for another year. We are sure to be back - but will we still be number 1 in 2020? As ever, watch this space! 

If you’re interested in Cognism, our technology and great company culture, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. We also have a blog where we share knowledge and insights about our industry.

Tagged: B2B Sales, SaaS, Events