Five9 Analyst Summit 2023

by Dave Michels

I attended the Five9 Analyst Summit in Porto, Portugal. A very effective event.

By effective I mean that it covered a lot of ground. Post-pandemic analyst events are shorter, but with good planning and content they can still be effective. Five9 needed an analyst event. The analyst event planned in 2020 was canceled days before its scheduled start due to some new thing called COVID. They also canceled the 2022 event due to a sudden change in leadership.

The two event snapshots (2019 and 2023) tell a story of transformation. A company, its technologies, and its customers are all changing. CCaaS is changing, but Five9 is changing faster. For example, the 2019 event was exclusive. It took place in a high-end resort in Napa, California. As I recall there were about 15 in attendance with about a third from Five9.

Porto, Portugal may seem exotic because it’s so far from silicon valley, but wine is about the only thing it has in common with Napa. It’s a working city, not a resort. Five9 selected Porto in part because of its international focus. Porto is its major European base. Not many enterprise comms providers opened new, large offices during the pandemic. The Porto office was previously a Talkdesk office (along with some of the staff inside the building). Talkdesk has closed most of its offices.

This analyst event had about 30 people, maybe about 10 of which were Five9 employees. About half of the Five9 speakers were hired after the 2019 event. That includes both CEO Mike Burkland and CMO Genefa Murphy. Over the past few years, Five9 has grown tremendously, both organically and via acquisitions. Its tech stack has transitioned from monolithic to microservices. Its customers have grown too. A shared stat is that 161 of its customers generate over $1M in annual recurring revenue which represents about half of its revenue. This includes some of the largest known CCaaS implementations.

The differences between these events are striking. Five9 transitioned from an exclusive, specialized vendor offering “the cloud” to a general-purpose provider offering joyful customer experiences (more on that below). The topics, the outcomes, the clarity – were all set to “11” this time round.

I consider Five9 a leader in the industry. That’s a loaded term, so let me defend it simply: Five9 is one of the few CCaaS providers that others (customers, analysts, and competitors) look to for direction. More simply, leaders have followers. In addition to international expansion, Five9 has been focused on AI and automation, and that bet is paying off and accelerating.

I do not consider Genesys a leader. Many others do, but they are no longer paving the path to what’s next. Empathy is past, present, and future. Genesys squandered its window for an IPO, has experienced significant turnover – especially in leadership, and made a helluva timing blunder on its portfolio consolidation (actually, it hasn’t consolidated its portfolio but narrowed its R&D to one product). But this post isn’t about Genesys.

Looking forward, it’s become clear generative AI and LLMs are going to disrupt this space. Disruption implies that vendors and channels will look different soon. This is not one of those “a tide that raises all ships” situations. LLMs are game-changing, and the question to ask is if LLMs enhance or replace the major R&D efforts and acquisitions. For example, can LLMs plug into something like a low code/no code studio that integrates with channels and systems, or does LLM replace services such as a cloud-based live chat platform?

My takeaway from Porto is that Five9 has a strong hand. The company has a clear set of priorities and a clear set of actions to deliver them. This includes automation (CX and EX), analytics, integrations, LLMS and generative AI, and global expansion. CCaaS is radically changing, and Five9 is driving – not reacting – to change.

A final point here is about CEO Mike Burkland. This was the first time I met him. There’s a bit of a fairy tale narrative here about second chances. Not many of us get a second chance. What I find interesting is that he chose to use his second chance to finish what he started — I like that.

Mike seems to appreciate that the industry is changing, so prioritized revising the company’s mission and vision statements. Spoiler alert: they don’t contain the words cloud, legacy, omnichannel, or premises-based.

I will let him explain Five9’s vision and mission in this video. We filmed this outside the closing dinner of the analyst summit (#CXNationSummit) and the kickoff dinner of the customer/partner event (#CXSummitEMEA).

Vision: Bringing joy to customer experience

Mission: Enabling enterprises to re-imagine their customer experience by providing our intelligent CX platform combined with passionate experts to deliver joyful customer experiences and better business outcomes.