As Raleigh tech startup Pendo continues rapid growth, co-founder eyes downtown highrise, possible IPO

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The idea of focusing on the customer is rooted in Todd Olson’s early days as a teenage coder working for a bank. He had an idea to help companies help their customers have a better experience online. After all, it can be frustrating when a bank website or app is difficult to navigate.

“If you think about it, the reason we’ve been growing is, a big part of our lives now, we interact with businesses via digital interfaces. We were talking to a major bank recently, and more people use their mobile app than all of their branches combined,” said Olson, who is the CEO and co-founder of Pendo.

“So, it is the most important interface to their company. We’re running at the grocery store. We’re going around so you get in, you’re looking, ‘where did they move transfers?’ It’s complicated, and Pendo helps reduce that complexity. In an era where everything is going digital, it’s increasingly important.”

The company began with four people trying to figure out how to do that.

“We started shipping software actually in early 2014 and then just gave it away. We just recruited people to try it and give us feedback. And through that iterative process of them using it, telling us what they liked and didn’t like, kind of monitoring their usage, eventually we got to the point that a few companies were clearly using it to run their business,” Olson said. “At that point, I called up a few folks and said, ‘Hey, you’re using this. It’s only fair you start paying for it.’ They agreed, and the rest was history.”

A few years later, Pendo was taking over several floors in downtown Raleigh’s Wells Fargo Building. It transformed the space into a concept reminiscent of Silicon Valley. New investors brought needed capital, and clients like Cisco and Lab Corps bought the product.

That all led to a rarity in North Carolina. In the fall, Pendo garnered what’s known as “unicorn status,” which means the private startup’s valuation reached $1 billion.

“We always thought we’d have the ability to create a more exciting, larger business. You never know how large it can get, but there’s always this idea we’re going to go for it,” Olson said.

Olson added that Pendo has to prepare for the possibility of going public, which he said could be positive for the company.

“We have to look at our efficiency metrics to make sure they’re in line with public companies. We have to work on our predictability. We need to work on our infrastructure and our process and get certain key hires in place,” Olson said.

“So, we’re going to start preparing ourselves for the possibility of going public because it needs to be a possibility. Otherwise, if it’s not a possibility, it puts the company in the position where it has fewer potential outcomes. So, you’ll definitely see us do things that march toward that path. Whether we go or not go, or when we go, that’s a totally different conversation. But we are absolutely in the process of preparing to go.”

From possibility to reality is the construction crane they can watch from the office window. In two years, the highrise will be their new headquarters with the Pendo name looking over the city they call home.

“As I look ahead, Raleigh has amazing talent. Part of the challenge now of scaling from 400 employees to 1,000 employees is just finding amazing people. And with three universities that graduate 40,000 students a year, coupled with a broader ecosystem ranging from ECU in the east to Appalachian State in the west, there’s just an amazing talent pool in this region.

“It’s a great place to live. People want to live here and there’s a lot of growth here. So, for me, it’s an exciting place to grow a company.”

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