One word stuck out during my conversation yesterday with Spark Capital’s Megan Quinn, one of Silicon Valley’s rising stars in venture capital and Raleigh startup Pendo’s newest board member.
As we chatted about her firm’s investment in the fast-growing software startup, which announced a $20 million Series B round yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice her use of the word “Delightful.”
It’s how she explains the platform Pendo has built to help product managers vet and improve the features and functions of their software. It’s how she describes the user experience people are beginning to expect from the tools they use at work.
It’s also how she portrayed the team at Pendo, which prominently displays the tagline “Made with love in North Carolina” on the website it uses to interface with potential customers.
Quinn admits she could be projecting due to her own notions about the South. But the humility and authenticity of the Pendo team, the product, sales process and customer support are part of what sold her Silicon Valley firm on an investment, its first ever in the Southeast.
“There is a certain way that Todd, the management team and company carries themselves and it manifests in how they build and market to the customers,” Quinn says.
Spark Capital led the round, joined by all of Pendo’s existing investors.
Quinn first learned of Pendo from Battery Ventures, which led Pendo’s Series A round in October 2015. But she also heard about the Pendo software from companies in the Spark Capital portfolio who used it. As a former product manager at Google and Square, she knew the various analytics, funnel optimization and customer happiness measurement tools typically used by product and software teams to measure use of their products and make decisions about improvements.
But a deeper dive revealed how few tools had been built for builders of enterprise products. Most of the existing software platforms were built for consumer-facing companies.
Pendo’s mission to improve enterprise software for end users fit perfectly with the companies in Spark Capital’s portfolio who are “reimagining the tools we use at work,” Quinn says. There’s Trello for managing projects, Slack for team communication and Mark43, which is laser focused on software for public safety organizations.
Pendo offered a whole suite of tools for developers, rather than just focused on one aspect of product management.
“My favorite thing about Pendo is it is product people building for other product people,” Quinn says. “Todd understands his customer because he was his customer. That is an extremely powerful thing.”
Pendo’s location in Raleigh was not a deterrent. Spark Capital has portfolio companies all over the world and its partners are used to hopping on planes for board meetings or to vet new companies. And in fact, Quinn sees location as an advantage for Pendo due to its proximity to so many universities and the talent graduating each year from those schools.
“In Silicon Valley, talent is relatively scarce, frankly, and it’s competitive and expensive,” she says. “It’s a competitive advantage to be here.”
As a board member, Quinn will spend time connecting the Pendo team with other key talent interested in relocating to the region. She’s also making introductions to potential new Pendo customers. Eventually, she’ll help network Olson with other investors too. She says she’ll do whatever the company needs to help it grow.
And while most of Quinn’s Raleigh visits will be consumed with Pendo work, she expects to begin to explore more of the startup community and meet with other entrepreneurs.
And with that, perhaps Spark’s second Southeast investment will come from this region too.