We think that we collectively as a human race have an innate penchant for finding what our life’s purpose is. Some people spend decades dabbling with existential crisis while others are born to serve a singular purpose in life and honestly, we envy that. We don’t know when Todd Olson figured out what he wanted from life but the moment he did, he didn’t look back. Became a programmer at the age of 14 and started his career early on by working at the local MBNA Bank in Delaware. He was designing sophisticated software and handling databases at an age when most of us only care about celebrity gossip, parties, or whatever it is that teenagers do. By the time he graduated college, he had invented a data integration product, founded his first company - Cerebellum, and raised seed capital for it.
Cerebellum went on to raise $17 million with a working strength of 65 people but later dried out due to insufficient funding. Todd went on to become the VP of Product at TogetherSoft where he dove into another startup and called it 6th Sense Software which he later sold to Rally Software. The idea for his third startup came when he was leading Product development at Rally. Following into a knack for building startups with theatrical names, naturally, the third one would be of even more ‘value’ - which is exactly what the word ‘Pendo’ means in Latin. With some help from some of his peers, Pendo was launched in October 2013.
Todd explains that the concept of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle is understanding the fundamentals of an organization, discovering the reason behind ‘why’ you’re doing ‘what’ you’re doing, and then getting into the ‘how’ of it. And to truly offer something that has any value, the argument put forth is an approach to build an organization inside-out. Why does my organization exist in the first place?
Working with products, Todd realized that the world has enough products but there’s not enough concrete information on how those products are being used. Are all end users satisfied? Are important features even serving the purpose for which they were built? Every person has their own preferences - you might like the button to be a certain color or indentation which is probably not how someone else prefers it. It can get frustrating to not have things a certain way, especially in this day and age when convenience is a priority.
But to improve the human experience, you need to know what that experience is. You need to know how people are using your product, what features do they need, what is the pattern of their usage. That answers the why of it.
What is it? Pendo is a software platform that gives product-led organizations the right tools to analyze how their customers are using their product, how do they feel about the product in general, and what are the things the product is being used for. It also gives you a roadmap to improve the product and succeed with it and get continuous feedback from customers to improve the efficiency at which the product is improved.
Powerful insights - Pendo gives information about how the features are being used and how the customers navigate the product. You can draw conclusions from and segment information based on user profile, sentiment, role, and more.
Take action - Yeah insights are good but what’s even better is a product telling you what to do to improve and incorporate those insights. Convert insights to action with Pendo.
Managing customer feedback - Making sense of customer feedback can be overwhelming. Pendo helps prioritize feedback and customer feature requests so that the customer always remains at the center of the product improvement process.
Pendo had a bumpy start in terms of investments. The initial cloud around Pendo’s product roadmap was that investors didn’t think people would be willing to spend money on a product that tells them how well their product is working. Off to a rocky start but Todd didn’t give up. In November of 2014, Todd and the team managed to pool in $1 million in seed funding from investors which was aimed to be used for improving sales and marketing.
In October 2015, Pendo announced their Series A funding of $11 million from Battery Ventures joined by their earlier investors and Salesforce Ventures.
When chatting about financing events I typically get asked, “How did you do it?” Truthfully, this is likely due to where we’re headquartered. Unlike the Bay Area (or other major tech centers), medium to large seed and Series A rounds are not typical in Raleigh-Durham, NC. - Todd Olson (source)
Todd acknowledges that the key milestone for getting to Series A is product-market fit. It sounds pretty obvious for people who aren’t directly involved but along with being overused, the phrase is equally used inappropriately by most startups these days. You can have an illusion of product-market fit and the worst part is that you may never know if you’re hitting the right spot. After closing their first paying customer even Todd and the team wrestled with the idea of product-market fit. But after discussions with VCs and directors, the team decided that to build better traction, the company needs a financial pillar. Over the course of the next few months, Pendo went on to grow their customer base one by one. There was no stopping them now.
By September 2018, Pendo had raised a total of $106 million in funding alone. A remarkable feat to achieve, this is the most venture capital raised by any software company in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region in nearly two decades.
In an attempt to help make products more linearly aligned with the growing needs of users, what accounted for Pendo’s remarkable growth in subscriptions was a paradigm shift led by digital transformation initiatives that are reshaping the world of technology. Power is slowly stripping away from those who provide services to the ones who’re using it. It’s the users who have the upper hand when it comes to deciding the fate of a product. Part of the reason is market competition. No one will hesitate for a second to shift to another service provider if you offer an empty product with close to no value. Pendo was on the other side of the rainbow, not only by helping their customers but by helping their customers help their customers. It’s like they doubled their possibility (or call it probability) of success with this one revolutionary product.
July 2021, Pendo raises its most recent funding of $150 million which brought the valuation to $2.6 billion. With this Pendo also crossed another milestone of achieving $100 million ARR. This aggressive funding will focus on further global expansion, acquisitions, and a continued and consistent focus on improving the product.
Pendo puts the ‘product’ in product-led growth. In fact, Pendo is the epitome of product-led growth because the people here improved the product by helping other companies improve theirs. That’s more than something to be proud of.
But where does community fit into all of this? Pendo, apparently, had more than a few tricks up their sleeve and what they did on a community level is a lot bolder than it is strategic. Let’s take a look.
Pendo’s growth curve is evidence that their evolution is fueled by strategy and the willingness to adapt to change. They realized that although it’s necessary to offer the right tools to build better products, it’s also equally important to give the right education, knowledge, and resources to breathe life into the product-building process. They found community to be the answer to this.
They started attending (and even sponsoring) product boot camps, events, gatherings, literally whatever had anything to do with product. In an epiphany of sorts, they realized the power of community. The essence of making a better product lies also in learning from one another, getting educated, sharing knowledge, and exchanging ideas.
I’m really proud of the work we’ve done to support the product management community, but ultimately, we’re software builders, not community builders. To take community to the next level, we needed to bring in the experts. - Todd
In light of this, as a step to further their community growth curve, Pendo announced that they have acquired Mind the Product, which is the world’s largest community of product managers.
Mind the Product has been an active community of product advocates, developers, and designers who have built this platform by surrounding the art of product development with community events, resources, and education. They have a global footprint with product managers from across 200 cities and have a subscription base of more than 3,000 members.
Their free Slack group has 55,000 members from around the world who talk about anything product-related. Be it feedback on features, the launch of a new product, or discussions in general - this is a go-to place for anyone who’s looking for a community of product enthusiasts.
Will Barrit, a Community Manager at Mind the Product also announced the merger with Pendo as a visionary step on a mission to make the product more successful.
Todd also said in his announcement that despite this acquisition, Mind the Product will remain as it was. Events will go on as they were, and people will work like they used to. Pendo will be but a helping hand to help execute their vision of making product management easier. James - Mayes, the Co-founder of Mind the Product, has now joined Team Pendo as an Evangelist.
See, the biggest takeaway from this isn’t the acquisition itself, but it’s what this event represents, especially on a community level. It’s not uncommon to hear of SaaS companies acquiring other SaaS platforms, in fact, Pendo has done it too, twice before. The people at Pendo didn’t just realize the importance of community but acted on it, and that’s not something you see very often. With one hand on product and another on community, Pendo is dominating impact.
There’s more to Pendo’s community than just acquisitions. Here are a few things they do to nurture a community for the people in product.
The first-ever glimpse of community at Pendo started with Pendomonium which is an annual event that happens at Pendo since 2017. The event was intended to be the foundation for establishing a community, and a place for networking inspired by industry leaders sharing enlightening conversations from their invaluable experiences in product.
One of the reasons we decided to host this conference was to lay the groundwork for a community of like-minded, product-focused individuals. We’re looking forward to having individuals from all backgrounds and roles who fiercely advocate for a better product experience. - source
The event showcased speakers from various companies like Salesforce, AOL, Gainsight, amongst many decorated organizations. Here’s a glimpse of the most recent Pendomonium in 2021👇
ProductCraft was launched keeping only one thing in mind - dedicating a place specifically for content curated by seasoned professionals in product management. You can find articles from product managers around the globe sharing their experiences, expertise, and stories.
You can filter based on categories, perspectives, profiles, podcasts, jobs, tools, and even become a part of their community by contributing your ideas through write-ups. What Pendo does is:
Here’s a recent article that was trending on the website 👇
You can also become a part of ProductCraft’s Slack community and take part in discussions and conversations with product managers or products enthusiasts in general. The community has close to 1000 members.
Become a part of Pendo’s thriving community by taking part in activities around product building and learning how Pendo works.
Get courses to start learning Pendo and how it works. Learn everything from getting started with Pendo and certifications, to Pendo for web apps or even mobile apps.
Virtual events hosted that discuss everything around Pendo and the art of building amazing products.
Take part in discussions within the community - ask questions, give insights, network with people and share what you know.
Find anything from product guides to technical resources and APIs. Knowledge base covers the A to Z of working with Pendo with the things that can be done or improved all curated in one space. You can even get guidance from your other users, get feedback on your work, and check out Pendo best practices for better workability.
With this community initiative, Pendo goes above and beyond to further encourage engagement.
Pendo allows people to be a part of its product development roadmap. Yes, you can have direct say in introducing new features and shaping the future of Pendo. And the best part is that you don't need to be a customer or a user to become an advisor. Advisors get a chance to become a part of research studies, engage and interact directly with the Pendo team, and gain early access to new features and updates.
There’s also a blog dedicated to anything related to the Pendo Community. It doesn’t take much to throw light on small things that are often looked over. There are not many organizations doing it, but Pendo isn’t ‘many organizations’. It realizes that a community thrives on empathy and to nurture it means to acknowledge and appreciate certain aspects of humanity that differentiate yet bind us as one.
It’s the little things like honoring black history month to pay homage and respect to those African forefathers who dedicated and sacrificed so much for a culture that’s as rich as it is influential.
As a part of Black History Month, Pendo will change our logo from February 1st to February 7th to incorporate the Pan-African colors of black, red, green, and yellow, which symbolize history, prosperity, growth, and shared identity. - Source
Like celebrating pride month to continue work on marking the importance of equality regardless of who you are. At Pendo, people use the acronym GSRM which stands for Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities which is a simpler synonym for LGBTQ+. Needless to say, Pendo promotes a safe, inclusive, and appreciative workspace for the community.
It’s things like these that can go a long way in building strong bridges between people and products.
Pendo community on its own is an independent representation of how SaaS companies should be reacting to the change from product-led to community-led. Although product is, and always will be, the center of Pendo’s pendulum, their venture into community has left no stones unturned. Joining hands with the largest product community in the world has definitely put Pendo on the community map. They’ve exemplified growth for SaaS organizations and the only downside we can see is that Pendo has set the bar too high already, even for themselves. But one thing’s for sure, anything else they do will be worth looking out for.
Destined for greatness
The Why, the How, and the What
A series of fortunate events
Taking community to the next level
A call for community
It’s the little things that matter
2 is better than 1
Threado is the command centre for your online community. Signup for the waitlist and check out our cool drops - Community OS, which ended up being the #1 Product of the Day on Product Hunt, SamosaBot, which is a fun way of showing gratitude in your slack community, and Serendipity Bot, which connects you to new people in the community based on your interests!
We’ve 3500+ subscribers! Folks from Canva, Webflow, OnDeck, Pitch, Grammarly, Y Combinator, Freshworks, AWS, and more read our newsletters and community-led stories! Don’t forget to subscribe now and join the bandwagon! 🙂
2022 comes with more community events than ever. Presenting Threado Community Hour - an hour-long panel discussion with some of the most successful SaaS community builders and networking sessions to help you learn the best engagement tactics, grow your network, and get answers to the questions that matter to you.
And we’ve got more drops brewing for you - stay tuned!
If you are a community-led organization and would like us to share your story with our subscribers, just holler! 🙂
There are no mistakes, just happy accidents - an unexpected turn of events put a full stop to their initial plan. One of the alpha users shared Supabase’s website on Hacker News and this post ended up going viral.
Their philosophy is that when you try to slow down to incorporate quality concerns, you end up making bulk releases which in turn hampers the quality of code that’s put out.
Great success comes with great failures. Abhishek and Arpit Mohan realised very early in their journey, that they were meant to be entrepreneurs. Appsmith happened after multiple hands-on experiences of co-founding startups, learning from their failures for about 10 years and bouncing back stronger at it!