When Averages No Longer Matter | Mohit Daswani, CFO, ThoughtSpot

When Mohit Daswani stepped into the CFO office of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based ThoughtSpot this past January, he ascended to something more than just another finance leadership position inside a SaaS start-up. Daswani, who was previously the head of finance and strategy at payments company Square, Inc., was joining a special class of CFOs distinguished by their ability to communicate a vision that connects not just with investors, but also with other CFOs. Such is the realm of business Intelligence, or BI, where finance leaders frequently shop for new technologies and tools to analyze their business data while surveilling the messaging of BI’s latest class of CFO thought leaders.

We recently asked Daswani to share some thoughts on ThoughtSpot’s response to COVID-19 and the liklihood of an economic recovery before 2021.

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CFOTL: What has the response to COVID-19 been at ThoughtSpot, and do you expect a recovery in 2020?

CFO Mohit Daswani

Daswani: In the first couple of weeks, everybody just kind of absorbed this new reality. The focus was on making sure that people were taken care of—adjusting to work from home and everything else—and really just absorbing that. Like us, I’m sure that the rest of corporate America is replanning and looking at what this means for the rest of the year. Everyone’s running their scenarios. As earnings come in and people see their performance, that’s when we say, “Okay, how much is demand softening from a new customer perspective?” We obviously expect IT budgets to be tighter, and I don’t know what the recovery will be on IT spend, to be candid. I will say that one of the certain rules and lessons that I’ve looked at in a time like this is that you can’t just take the averages. We can’t take the averages in our own company when we’re looking at where to save versus where to invest.

You can look at past cycles and ask, “How long did software and IT spend take to recover?” We actually looked at some past cycles. You look at the companies that were public at the time or growing at around the time of the last downturn in ’08, ’09, and had growth that held up. You think about a Tableau, you think about others that were in their high growth phase at that period.

To think back to your original question, it’s hard to say when things will recover. We look at it from the bottom up. How are our discussions going with our existing customers? Where are they finding value in our product? Are they expanding and taking on more offerings?

With new customers, I expect that these conversations will just take a lot longer in this environment. The answer to your question is “We’ll see it when we see it,” which is when those conversations that we’re having start to translate back and people are able to say, “All right, I’m ready to move. Let’s do this.” We’re still in the front end of the brunt of the economic impact from this, so we’re going to see a lot more of this here in the second half of the year in terms of just how bad the economy is impacted or how quickly it recovers. But there’s no crystal ball.

“At a time like this, you can’t just take the averages.”