UNW – Founders’ Stories: Receptive to change
We recently caught up with Dan Dukeson, Co-Founder of Receptive Software. Together with Hannah Chaplin, they sold their business in 2019 to global firm Pendo, a SaaS company that helps companies accelerate software adoption. The acquisition of their company is the latest step in a remarkable rise for Dan and Hannah.
Here Dan shares his journey from start up to sale of Receptive Software in just four years and the challenge of transitioning from founder to being part of a multinational organisation.
Dan Dukeson and Hannah Chaplin founded Receptive Software, a Sheffield-based SaaS company in 2015 fulfilling their ambition to start their own business. In just four short years, it became a market-leading product demand intelligence platform. Its focus to help B2B product managers and customer teams capture, prioritise, and report on client feedback and feature requests.
In 2019, it was acquired by Pendo, a product analytics and in-app messaging platform company, with a view to turn the Receptive Sheffield office into its European development centre.
The deal was the best of both worlds for Dan and Hannah. Dan said: “We had previously talked about working in partnership with Pendo and so it seemed like a natural step to take when discussions of acquiring us started. What’s great is that we remain the same team, but as very much part of the Pendo business.”
Based in North Carolina, but with sites across the world, Pendo offers its customers products that help them to understand their own customer behaviour and engagement levels.
From Fortune 500 enterprises, B2B tech startups, to educational institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations the client list is varied. And it’s those companies across the globe that are using Pendo to achieve one common goal—to build digital experiences that users love.
Reflecting on the deal, Dan says: “What we were really attracted to was Pendo’s mission of improving the world’s experience with software. Whilst we didn’t have this written down, it was exactly what we were trying to do, albeit on a smaller scale, when we founded Receptive Software.”
Culture and fit
Culture and fit were key drivers to the sale. Dan says: “Pendo and Receptive have a rare and powerful match of vision where qualitative feedback meets quantitative analytics for unprecedented insight into product impact and customer success. We were excited about the opportunity to help bring to life such a big, bold vision for product-led organisations.”
Following the sale of the business, both Dan and Hannah opted to remain with the company and when speaking about the transition from business founder to employee of a multinational brand, Dan admits that this at times presented challenges.
“Inevitably there are layers that exist within the management of a larger company which means it can sometimes take longer for a decision to be made. However, I was given the specific remit by the owners of Pendo to keep my entrepreneurial spirit flowing and this gave me even more incentive to stay within the business.”
“What’s great about the culture at Pendo is that it combines the thrill of a startup with the reassurance of grownup responsibility. And two years on from the deal I still wake up with the same drive to innovate and make a difference.”
Importance of integration
Dan speaks positively of the transition and says it was reasonably straightforward to integrate their existing software into the Pendo suite of products. He remarked that “There is a great team in the UK and a great team in the US so overall it worked really well”.
Dan spends a lot of his time collaborating with other parts of Pendo alongside running all product development and engineering requirements for the Sheffield site. He said: “The tech never stops updating and we need to stay afresh of industry developments. Pendo has invested heavily in our product which means that we have even more to offer our customer base which has grown since the acquisition.”
The Northern tech scene
Based in Sheffield, Dan is a proud champion of the North and the tech expertise it has to offer. Dan explains: “We’ve recruited talent from London who were looking to relocate back to the North; attracted by its affordability, expertise and lifestyle. We offer great benefits and competitive salaries, and we pride ourselves on this approach.”
A trusted advisor
UNW, led by Corporate Finance Partner John Healey, advised Dan and Hannah on the sale to Pendo. Dan’s advice to fellow founders and entrepreneurs is to ‘get the experts in as soon as you can.’
Dan explains: “Selling a business can be a lonely experience and stressful at times. It’s really helpful to have professionals you can trust and business friends to help and support throughout the process.”
Dan describes John Healey as “a good sounding board who had a calming influence when things got stressful. John became a natural extension to the team here in Sheffield, I could phone him night and day.”
On reflecting on their business journey, Dan added: “Some days I have to pinch myself that the company Hannah and I founded is now part of a global firm, ranked by Forbes as one of the top cloud companies in the world. It’s incredible really and I’m optimistic that the small Sheffield tech company we started has a bright future ahead.”
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