Raleigh, North Carolina
A slender young man dressed in khakis, button down shirt, and a Duke vest sat across from an older, seasoned gentleman who wore plain jeans and a tucked in Duke polo that perfectly announced his spherical belly. The young man sipped his craft cocktail and leaped into an energetic pitch."The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of any isolated system always increases, so with that knowledge we have created a system that harness [insert more science terms and Eureka moments]. We already have a large pharmaceutical soft circled to invest. We can get you in at a discount!" Surprise, this conversation was not overheard in a cafe in San Francisco but rather a basement cocktail bar in downtown Raleigh.
Raleigh, North Carolina. One of the three cities that make up the research triangle park. A geographic area within N.C. that encompasses over 200 companies and over 50,000 people specializing in biotech, telecommunications, and variety of other sciences. Raleigh has become home to some of the leading technologies companies such as Red Hat, IBM, and SAS, to name a few. The access to technology and talent has also welcomed a batch of new technology upstarts. All this movement has spurred an exciting food and drinking culture.
So business has brought you to Raleigh. First things first, if you need caffeine, a place to work, and a mean breakfast sandwich, head to Jubala Coffee underneath the Aloft Hotel. The space offers excellent natural light, wifi, outlets and an outdoor patio. We ordered a light roast pour over and a sweet buttermilk biscuit bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Jubala serves up Counter Culture beans in customized Notneutral stemware.
Once the sun sets, head down to Fayetteville St in the downtown area to a venue called the Foundation Cocktail Bar. Because this is North Carolina and the cocktail bar does not have a food program you have to sign up and pay $1 to enter (it's a pain in the ass). Take a seat at the wooden bar and let the knowledgeable guys behind the bar take care of you. They have a great selection of whiskeys and bourbons. We thoroughly enjoyed their old fashion, but their featured cocktail “The Lincolns Kick” containing Virgin Bourbon, Jack Daniel's, pecan orgeat, lemon, and a charred marshmallow was a special treat.
After partaking in a healthy number of the Foundation’s cocktails, head over to Bida Manda for dinner. Owners Vasana Nolintha and Vanvisa Nolintha started this restaurant in 2010 to serve Laotion inspired cuisine with a modern twist. The space is designed by the amazing In Situ Studio (same designers as Jubala) with trinkets from Laos, with wood accents originated from the NC mountains. Vasana just opened Brewery Bhavana, a concept which combines a flower shop, brewery, and restaurant. We recommend making reservations if traveling with more than two colleagues, as the bar is first come first serve. We had the spiced sausage, coconut sea bass and larb. To wash down the spice, we ordered a cold brew old fashion.
Also recommended by locals:
Our readers urged us to go check out the James B. Hunt Library on NC State's campus. We met two of our clients at the library to catch up as we toured the property. Masterfully designed both inside and out, the library’s modern structure and intermingled technology wired throughout gave it the atmosphere of a Google campus. Our team noticed that there were a peculiar number of chair designs and it turns out that there are over 75 different variations...students need diversity!
We booked on short notice and opted for Airbnb, a better option for price and flexibility. When we book for business trips, we try to only book with super hosts to ensure quality. Our property was amazing for the price ($80!) and had quaint little touches such as WSJ on check-in and both Amazon Fire stick + Google Chromecast.
As for hotels, Raleigh is in line to get a great variety of hotel options in the downtown area. However, at the moment there are not many unique options. If you are traveling between the triangle there is The Umstead which we highly recommend as a B&P hotel.It has a full spa (steam rooms!) and is ranked as a top hotel in the nation. If you are in downtown then go with The Aloft Hotel. It has modern rooms, a gym, and more importantly Jubala is located on the bottom of the building.
Cover Photo: visitRaleigh Drone Bida Manda: Atlantic Archives / Richard Leo Johnson Peter Taylor Photography Foundation Cocktail Bar: Luke Rayson Photography The Umstead: The Umstead Hotel
About Todd Olson
Todd Olson, Founder and CEO of Pendo. Pendo compiles and analyzes data that product managers need to make the right decisions about the development of software. It helps those product managers make sure customers actually use the features developers spend the time to create. Todd has raised over $11 million to help his customers create more engaging products. Todd recently served as Vice President of Products at Rally Software Development Corp. Mr. Olson led the evolution of Rally’s proven Agile ALM platform for enabling software and product-driven enterprises through its public offering. He co-founded 6th Sense Analytics, Inc., served as its President and Chief Technology Officer and led the fundraising of $7 million in seed capital. Mr. Olson was Chief Scientist of the Together business unit of Borland Software that he joined as a result of the successful acquisition of TogetherSoft. Mr. Olson co-founded Cerebellum Software Inc. and served as its Chief Technology Officer. He frequently speaks at leading industry events on the topics of Agile software development, Product Management, and entrepreneurship. He has a Bachelor of Science degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Electrical and Computer Engineering and is a graduate of its Entrepreneurial Management program.
Q. Tell me about Pendo?
Pendo extends your product to capture all user behavior, gather feedback, and provide contextual help. There are a lot of products in the market that help collect feedback such as Uservoice which is another Raleigh/SF based company. There are a host of solutions that focus on collating, collecting and synthesizing feedback directly from end customers, salespeople and all sorts of stakeholders. At Pendo, our vision is to help answer the question “what do people want in their product,” and to ultimately help filter the noise bias vs actual behavioral engagement. I was head of product of a publicly traded SaaS biz, and would hear all sorts of anecdotal feedback (both positive and negative) on a product. However, when we actually saw the data the results were quite the opposite. At Pendo we focus on using quantitative information by collecting very rich analytics on what people are doing and what they aren’t doing. If the first problem is understanding, the second is how do you drive engagement and encourage behavior? We create features that are specific to certain sets of users to contextualize their experience based on role and persona. A new user who is an admin will have a different on-boarding experience than a customer returning the the system after 3 months.
Q. Is Data always right?
I like the quote said by the founder of Netscape, Jim Barksdale “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” That pretty much sums up my views around data. Data is just one piece of the pie when making a decision. It would be irresponsible to solely rely on quantitative data to make any decision.
Q. What do you think about Intercom?
Intercom is fantastic. They are aiming at being the enterprise communication platform of the future. We often get compared to them as we both do in-app messaging, however the use cases are different. Pendo is focused on automated campaigns. While Intercom is focused on direct communication to teams. I see Intercom competing more and more with the likes of with Desk and Zendesk.
Q. How does Pendo increase its hooks within organizations?
We do not gate users. By observing user behavior we quickly saw that although we were selling directly to Product Management departments an another natural customer persona is the Customer Success department. They can see which customer uses what feature, which is invaluable to CS teams. Not introducing barriers to our product early gave the option to invite CS teams to use the product. About 1/3 of the audience of Pendominum, our annual product conference, was CS teams and last month. More CS [teams] signed up than product teams! You can't anticipate what is going to happen when until you put it in someone's hand.
Q. How do you view consumerization of the enterprise?
For the first time in a long time we are seeing more intuitive interfaces being applied to legacy enterprise functions. This adoption has really helped Pendo enter the market (this is outlined in our Series B funding deck). In my opinion, I see the future of the enterprise as a world where people are consuming platforms and not single applications. When you segment every function of your enterprise to different SaaS companies what happens when things go down? Do you really want to get 25 emails from all your different vendors? I think a few players will win in the consumerization of the enterprise, specifically the firms that have the highest compliance and security built to scale.
Q. How do you build a great company in Raleigh (non major market city)?
The first core principle to build a good company anywhere is to first find product market fit. I learned from Brad Feld, a famous institutional investor in Silicon Valley and a friend, to never overlook product market fit. After you have found PM fit, have a religious dedication to maintain it. Always be listening to your customers and delivering them value. Beyond that, hire great people. We are intense, focused, and very choosy. We go outside the area to recruit if need be, I actually hire recruiters outside the area to avoid any bias. Additionally, we are fortunate in Raleigh to have three exceptional universities that help keep a steady pipeline of top tier talent.
Q. Your a PM focused CEO, when do you hire a someone with a complimentary skill to you?
You can't offload management. We don't have an HR function, I invited a Chief People Officer from the bay area and she confirmed we do not need an HR function We use PEO (professional employer organization) to do on boarding benefits etc. The "soft stuff" is important information that employees should be able to discuss with their direct report, I see HR as an excuse as an area for people to bitch about things. If people can't go speak with their managers about something at our size, thats a problem. We need to have dialogue. I do a 90 day 1:1 with everyone in the company. I did 3 this week alone. Some last 10 mins and some are 45 mins. My version of checking in and chance for people to discuss the latest.
Q. How do you balance a growth and your personal life in a startup?
You have to be intentional. Having dinner with my family is important to me, so I I leave at 5:30 or 6. I have dinner with my family and plug back in when kids go to bed. Family is a priority so I make time for it. I try to travel only twice a month.
Q. Do you recommend a sabbatical for entrepreneurs after they exit?
Ohh yes. Take a break! I took the summer off to travel, consult and taste a different culture. I got to plug myself into communities that helped change my perspective.
Q. How do you travel for B&P?
Hotel Tonight is my app. In San Francisco I get an Airbnb if I'm staying more than two nights, if less I'll do hotels. I like to get groceries and make it feel like home, routine is important to me when traveling. I'm an evangelist of public transit and try to use it in every city I go to. I enjoyed my time in Tokyo but love to always return to SF. The access to nature and incredible food is hard to beat.
Todd's Raleigh Recommendations
Coffee: Morning Exchange, Jubala, Videri ( for their mocha!)
Restaurants: Poole's Diner, Crawford & Son's, Bida Manda
Cocktails: Foundation Bar, Fox's Liqour Bar