Raleigh software firm Pendo, one of the most valuable and promising startups in North Carolina, beat its own expectations during a pandemic-stricken year. But 2021 will prove to be critical for the company’s future trajectory.

“It’s a pivotal year for us,” Todd Olson, Pendo’s CEO and co-founder, told The News & Observer. “We are trying to press the gas, and we think that 2020 showed us there is a huge opportunity for what we are doing and to accelerate that.”

The company said in its annual report that it plans to hire 400 more employees this year to fuel that growth, as it invests heavily in its presence overseas and looks to nab more large customers to its platform.

At least half, and perhaps even more, of those hires will be in Raleigh, Olson said. The company is hiring across all positions, from sales and marketing to engineering and human resources.

In its report, Pendo said it grew faster than expected thanks to more companies and their customers interacting digitally because of the pandemic.

Pendo’s software helps companies collect data on how customers use their products and websites. Companies use the data to learn how to improve their digital products so that their customers actually use them.

The pandemic, Olson said, highlighted the importance of understanding those interactions.

“Being digital was no longer an option. It is a requirement,” Olson said. “And it’s not just a customer-facing issue. It is an employee-facing one, too.”

Just like companies couldn’t interact with customers in person, they also had to do all of their on-boarding and training remotely. Companies could use Pendo’s products to see what part of those remote interactions were resonating with employees and guide them through training.

Pendo itself had to onboard 168 new employees last year during the pandemic, and it is still adding to that number, including key executives to new offices in Japan and Australia. Olson said the company expects to hire its 500th employee next week.

The company has said previously that it plans to employ nearly 600 people in Raleigh by 2023, after it landed jobs incentives from the state in 2018.

So far, it has remained on pace to meet those goals, adding employees at a faster clip every year.

“And we expect to grow faster this year than we did last year,” Olson said.

Rapid growth

Since it was founded in 2013, Pendo has grown aggressively, going from a five-person team at the Raleigh Founded co-working hub to hiring hundreds.

In 2020, the startup jumped from No. 73 to No. 26 on the annual Inc. 5,000 list of fastest-growing, privately-held companies.

The company doesn’t disclose its actual revenue numbers, but Olson said it could cross an important milestone of $100 million in annual recurring revenue at some point this year. In 2018, Pendo told Inc. Magazine its had sales of $20.9 million.

The software firm has around 2,000 customers now, with many of its latest clients being larger, household names, Olson said. Some of Pendo’s customers include Red Hat, Cisco, Citrix and Labcorp.

Landing those large customers is really starting to accelerate growth, Olson said.

Olson added that he doesn’t expect interest in Pendo’s products to disappear once the economy begins to reopen after COVID-19 vaccines are distributed widely.

“Even with a return to normalcy,” Olson said, “we think those trends will remain permanent.”

The company might get to test what a return to normalcy could look like in its foreign markets soon.

Pendo has offices in Israel and the United Kingdom, two countries which are leading the world in vaccine distribution. Olson said most of its employees in Israel already have been vaccinated.

“We may have the opportunity to learn from those offices,” he said.

This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to bit.ly/newsinnovate

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Zachery Eanes is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He covers technology, startups and main street businesses, biotechnology, and education issues related to those areas.


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