A CEO for the Customer Obsessed

by Dave Michels

Last November, 8×8 named Samuel Wilson, who had been CFO since June 2020, its interim CEO. Then it proceeded to kick-off a search for a real CEO.

CEO searches are complicated.  Sometimes they are done in secret, but nothing says public search more than an “interim CEO.” The search likely included internal and external candidates. The ideal CEO knows his/her way around financial statements, understands customers – domestically and abroad, and has some sales experience. Well, after an exhaustive six-month search, the BoD realized the interim guy had all that, so it stripped “interim” from his title.

“CAMPBELL, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–May 31, 2023– 8×8, Inc. (NASDAQ: EGHT), a leading integrated cloud communications platform provider, today announced the appointment of Samuel Wilson as the company’s Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Company’s Board of Directors, effective May 26, 2023. . . 8×8 will continue to expand its integrated Contact Center and Unified Communications XCaaS platform, invest in building its ecosystem of innovative technology and service partners to expand the portfolio of AI/ML solutions available on the XCaaS platform.”

Congratulations to Sam. I understand the board’s need to do a proper search. I imagine it has been difficult to drive lasting change with the interim title. With just one meeting, my impression of Sam was incomplete, but I did note that he had earned confidence from the 8×8 team.

Vik Verma was the CEO of 8×8 for almost a decade, Dave Sipes for 2 years, and Samuel Wilson since November 2022. I was sorry to see Vik go. He was part of the old guard, and I always thought he was quite reasonable. But reasonable isn’t what BoDs want anymore – they want valuation. They hired Dave Sipes previously from RingCentral. The BoD was determined not to make a long-term mistake, so only gave him two years. Sam (like Captain Hook) has gotta be concerned about that ticking sound.

Sam seemed a bit media-shy back in March, but he’s come a long way. Not only did he agree to do an interview, but to do it live (LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube):

Yes, I know there are rumors of acquisition at 8×8, but I opted not to ask him about that. There’s just not much he can, will, or should say, so why bother?

I met Sam for the first time last March at an 8×8 analyst event at NASDAQ. I might highlight that was 8×8’s first (and only) analyst event. After the briefings, Sam got to ring the closing bell. The bell, of course, has no purpose, nor does NASDAQ have much of a trading floor to hear it. NASDAQ has concocted a theatrical ritual that honors the past and celebrates its member companies. The climax of the ritual is seeing the instant reply on the Times Square NASDAQ sign outside (you might think with all the tech on NASDAQ they could figure out to avoid window-facing the CEO).

It was at this event when Sam and his team announced they would shift CCaaS to the burger and UCaaS to the fries. That’s a big change and one that makes sense to me. Of course, the real power is the combo play, or what 8×8 calls XCaaS. The shift was in GTM and quite literally asking CCaaS customers if they would like a side of UCaaS.

It was also at this event that they announced a new tagline: Communications for the Customer Obsessed. I think it’s quite clever because they might be referring to 8×8’s obsession with its customers and/or it’s about their customer’s obsessions over their customers.

During my conversation with Sam above, he referenced the livestream I did with Bryan Martin after the NASDAQ event. For your convenience, it’s posted here: