First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Todd Olson : We’re physically healthy, but I’d be lying if I said the pandemic hasn’t had an impact on life at home. On top of all the challenges of running a company remotely during a global pandemic, I have a couple of teenagers at home that can’t wait to see their friends and return to some sort of normalcy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Pendo
Todd Olson : I’ve been building software since I was 14 years old–probably because my mother oversold my capabilities to a neighbour. A lot has changed since then, but companies today still waste billions of dollars developing software features that are never used by customers. So after a long career focusing on delivering software on time and under budget, I took on a new challenge in product management, trying to figure out what the right thing was to build in the first place.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how hard that was. Product managers lacked data to understand how people used the software their teams built. So, nearly seven years ago, I co-founded Pendo with Eric Boduch, Rahul Jain, and Erik Troan to create a product to help companies overcome this challenge.
How does Pendo innovate?
Todd Olson : A lot of software designers reference Henry Ford’s infamous quote as a way to keep their customers at arm’s length: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” It’s still up for debate whether or not Ford actually said that, but it’s not up for debate how modern product design has changed—even in the last few years. Instinct and expertise were once all that product teams had to go off of, but in today’s modern world, it’s easier than ever to understand the customer’s needs, desires and behaviors.
Pendo’s software helps teams understand how users behave inside their software products, along with what they want and how they feel, so companies can build better digital experiences. We take a similar approach as a company, using these data-informed insights to help us decide where to invest and where to innovate. There’s still an element of instinct as there was years ago, but we’re using data to make sure our investments are aligned with customers’ needs.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Todd Olson : We’re fortunate to be in a healthy financial position which lets us continue to invest in our product, and in other priorities for our company. That’s not to say this hasn’t been challenging. We have a number of customers and prospects whose businesses have been directly affected by Covid. We’d had to make accommodations to help our customers weather this storm. The uncertainty in the global economy has forced us (like many companies) to adjust our plans for the year too. But as I said, we are fortunate to be well-capitalized. The challenge is to ensure that we have plenty of capital to invest in the business once the economy recovers.
We’re also still learning to balance our family responsibilities, our health and our work. I’ve been pretty impressed to see how our teams have shifted to remote work, but we’re unapologetic about our office-based culture, so we’re looking forward to the time we’ll be able to get back together in bigger numbers.
From a product standpoint, it’s been interesting to see usage of our platform increase during this time as many customers use Pendo as an in-app communication tool to share Covid-related information, and others in industries like healthcare, education and banking use it to deliver essential new products and services. For a lot of companies, it’s never been more important to invest in their digital product experience. A platform like Pendo helps them understand where to invest.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Todd Olson : It didn’t take long for us to realize our marketing, product roadmap and hiring plans had to change. Perhaps most difficult was how quickly we had to adapt—we had just set plans for the year at our company kickoff in early February. We also had to make decisions with limited information. In many ways, you have to assume the worst case scenarios, which is uncomfortable for entrepreneurs who are typically optimistic by nature. Yet, we had to make some tough choices and adjust our plans to ensure we set ourselves up to accelerate as the economy returns to normal.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Pendo in the future?
Todd Olson : I don’t get stressed very often. But one daily practice had been walking to work each day. It helps me get my mind straight before I start the day. Since I’ve been working from home, I’ve been riding my Peloton instead. I will say that the Black Lives Matter movement has really impacted me personally these last few weeks. I’m spending a lot of time understanding the challenges of our Black community and working with our leadership team and diversity council to address them inside Pendo and around our broader communities. I’m hopeful that we will see lasting change in coming months and years.
As for the company’s outlook, I’m as excited as I’ve ever been for the future of Pendo. We’re seeing demand for our platform from some of the largest companies in the world, and I’m encouraged by the stories we’re hearing from customers using Pendo to drive digital transformation and growth at their companies.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Todd Olson : Pendo is unique because we offer both product analytics and in-app guidance capabilities together in one tool. There isn’t another solution that offers both. That said, we do compete with product analytics tools on some deals, or guidance solutions on others. And believe it or not, a lot of companies aren’t using a tool like Pendo at all. They may be using Google Analytics to attempt to understand user behavior or have a homegrown solution.
We stay in the game by consistently engaging with customers and focusing on addressing their pain.