Many successful ventures have had their roots in Raleigh and at HQ. One that we are always quick to mention and celebrate though is Pendo. This fast-growing tech company was recently named the “Software Company of the Year” at the 2018 NC Tech Awards and is now a name known around the world.
The idea for Pendo came in the fall of 2013 when Todd Olson, who led the product team at Rally Software, saw an unfilled need for a platform that improves the user experience across software programs. Many companies were having to create their own answer to this problem from scratch.
“I experienced the pain first-hand,” Olson said. “And I started speaking with people with similar backgrounds, and they would say, ‘Yeah, that would be really useful.’ So, I knew I had something.”
By the end of the year, he had convinced three others to join him as co-founders, and by New Year’s Day of 2014, they launched Pendo out of HQ Raleigh’s original location.
“It’s really about making sure people use software products well,” said Olson about the purpose of Pendo’s product. “Imagine you go to use something and you get confused; you can’t figure it out. There’s a higher likelihood that you’re going to leave and find another piece of software that’s easier to use. So, we help improve the experience of software applications.”
Coding from day one
Like most new companies, Pendo had basic business needs starting out. But Todd and team didn’t want things like real estate, business filings or internet plans to distract from the important software development work required to launch a new product.
“The last company that I started, I had to get office space, sign a long term lease, get furniture, coffee, internet, you name it,” Olson said. “I lost a couple months just doing stupid things that had nothing to do with the business.”
By setting up shop in HQ, this process was much smoother this time. “We signed that HQ lease and started coding day one,” he said. “There was no delay. As an entrepreneur, it was game-changing. We could jump right in and start solving real problems.”
Another benefit of signing with HQ is Pendo had the opportunity to scale operations seamlessly as they grew. After nearly a year in a one-person suite, the company moved to a five-person suite. When they needed more space and other resources, HQ had options available.
Olson remembers those early days at HQ Raleigh when he was wearing multiple hats. “I was the only salesperson at first. I spent so much time in a little phone booth at HQ.”
But by rubbing shoulders with talented HQ members every day, many important connections were made. “As we’ve grown, we’ve taken advantage of being part of the community,” he said. “We’ve recruited a lot of great people from HQ. Our real estate person, for example, Matthew Cooke, he was HQ’s real estate person.”
Growing in Raleigh
Building a product from nothing is always a challenge, and it took around 10 months to build this product and get companies to begin adopting it into their software. By late 2015 though, Pendo had raised Series A funding and was ready to make a bigger splash.
When asked if he was surprised at how quickly the company has grown since then, Olson said, “If you asked me whether I thought we’d have a 250-person company in two years, I would have been crazy to say yes. Having said that, each year, we set goals and we’ve hit them. So we start the year saying, ‘We’re going to do this,’ and we’ve been the kind of company that does it year in and year out. But it’s always cool when things work out the way you hope they will.”
At first, investors and clients would raise eyebrows at the mention of Pendo’s Raleigh homebase. It was a bit of a risk initially not to be located in Silicon Valley, but now their success and reputation overshadows any doubt about location.
“I still hear from at least somebody every day that says, ‘Raleigh? Really?’ but the reality is, at this point, it doesn’t matter anymore. At our scale and our size, it doesn’t matter where you’re located. We’ve built a great company here; we love the area. We’ve committed to it, as we’ve recently announced, and we’re happy to be here.”
Still setting big goals
Major companies around the world are using Pendo, as are companies with a local presence, like Citrix and Dude Solutions. In terms of big plans for the new year? Nothing big. They simply plan to spend 2019 doubling the size of their business, opening a new office in Europe and launching a new product.
These plans might sound a bit ambitious until you learn that Pendo more than doubled revenue over the last year and the office in Europe will actually be their fifth — besides Raleigh, the company has offices in San Francisco, New York and Israel.
The HQ community and all of Raleigh will be proudly watching as Pendo likely, once again, meets and exceeds their goals.