The Stack Overflow Podcast

Building a better developer platform

Episode Summary

We chat with Stack Overflow’s CEO about the close of the Prosus acquisition and how the deal helps us empower our global community to develop technology through collective knowledge. We also discuss what our Reach and Relevance business means for you.

Episode Notes

We're officially part of the Prosus family now that the acquisition has closed. It’s a huge milestone and a big deal for our company and community.

Prosus has a global reach and will help us meet the needs of developers and technologists everywhere. 

Have no fear: there will not be a paywall on the community sites. We have separate free and paid products for a reason. 

We combined our Ads and Talent businesses into Reach & Relevance, which gives companies the opportunity to showcase their products and engineering organizations to software engineers around the world. 

Remote work is here to stay, and a lot of knowledge workers are starting to adapt the processes that software engineers have been using for years. 

Our lifeboat shoutout goes to Jordi Castilla for the answer to the question: Convert HH:MM:SS into minutes using JavaScript

Episode Transcription

Prashanth Chandrasekar In contrast to most acquisitions, where, you know, the big parent company, like a strategic company will then integrate, that's the word that's used in an m&a or mergers and acquisition context, integrate the acquired company into their operations into their products and, and really sort of, you know, in many ways, dismantle some pieces where it makes sense for synergies and so on. That doesn't exist yet. Because process is a holding company of various investments and companies that they own, and everybody operates independently. So our team stays in place. The SLT, the leadership team continues to stay in place, our entire organization stays in place, same structure, and we just execute on our plan to make a lot of impact for people around the world.

[intro music]

Ben Popper Big tech has advantages and budget and resources when it comes to building power for infra, right? With CockroachDB, you can now build on top of that. The founders come from Google and basically built open source Spanner, but with a serverless option you can use for free at 

BP Hello, everybody. Welcome to the Stack Overflow Podcast, a place to talk about software and technology. We have a very special episode, today joining us is our CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar and we're going to talk about big news, which is that we have finalized the deal. And StackOverflow has been officially acquired by Prosus, a very large and well respected technology investor based out of Europe. Prashanth, welcome to the show.

PC Thank you, Ben, super excited to be here. You know, obviously, it's a great momentous anchor a big milestone for the company. So really happy to share, you know why we're so excited with the community.

BP Yeah, it's super exciting news. I know, you wrote a blog post about it. But for folks who haven't seen that, I wanted to cover a little bit of it. Tell us a little bit about just at a high level, how this came to be, you know, how we met process and why, you know, they were so interested in Stack Overflow.

PC Yeah, no, happy to. So in general, you know, obviously, Stack has been in the ecosystem for over the past decade. So a lot of people know about us, not only obviously our community, but investors and companies who pay attention to who's making a big impact. And obviously, thanks for our community and the work that we do as a company, we continue to make an increasing impact every year. So Prosus specifically, you know, they have this very specific mission statement, that's all about building leading companies that empower people and enrich communities, right. So they're like, as you said, one of the largest tech investors in the world with investments in Tencent and OilX, the big classifieds company pay you in the FinTech space, a whole range of education, tech companies like BadgeU, and Codecademy and Skill Soft and so on. And so they are very much investors in very large scale, high impact internet companies. And so they have been tracking us in that context, because we're all about the internet, and empowering the internet and empowering communities. So we were on their radar.

BP It made a lot of sense, when I read about it in that context, I think I had mentioned to you, we were already sort of just working casually with Codecademy, before this deal was announced, because they make great tutorials about learning all different kinds of coding languages. And we have a huge platform, you know, just put it in front of the right people. And so we had made that connection. So understanding that they have this big edtech portfolio and kind of this thesis, which I think maybe I'd like to hear your thoughts on, which is that just the the demand for technical education is going to, you know, increase sort of exponentially over the next decade. And so in that sense, you know, Stack Overflow is poised to have a big impact. You mentioned before we got on the call, you know, right to think about it almost in a platform sense. How do you think about it? What do you mean by platform sense?

PC Yeah. So I mean, if you think about Stack Overflow, we are very much, you know, a public platform as well. Now, we, you know, we serve close to 100 million monthly visitors, right. Many of their companies, by the way, serve similar numbers of numbers of people. So they operate a very significant scale. So there's some commonality there. But in the context of our platform, we, we do a lot of things for developers, as developers engage on our platform, they engage privately in their companies through our Stack Overflow for Teams product, they consume products of other big tech providers through our reach and relevance product by getting exposure to those products, in advertising, business, and so on. So the platform is just really sort of getting started in the context of all the things that we can do for our users. So in the context of edtech, very specifically, I think there's a lot for us, when we think about the future of workplace learning and collaboration, today, implicitly our public platform 50 million questions and answers enables everybody to get empowered and learn about every possible technology topic. And they are obviously collaborating with experts around the world on a public platform, but they do the same with Stack Overflow for Teams product internally within organizations. But that implicitly is driving a lot of knowledge sharing and learning across the world. Right? And that is just powerful. And that is mostly like contextually very relevant knowledge that's been presented at the right time when people are having issues. And we're the people of our community, a public platform, get people unstuck when they are stuck on it. Right. And so that's a very specific way of learning. And that complemented with potentially the content and other ways in which we can partner with their other edtech portfolio companies, like the Codecademies of the world, provides an opportunity for us to provide even more value for our users to learn about various technology topics. So that's, you know, one of the fundamental, you know, opportunities, and maybe if I could extend this point, beyond that, you mentioned the word thesis. The other big part here is given that there's such a massive international company, and, you know, they're $180 billion market cap, capitalization company with, you know, 20 billion in cash, they operate at very significant scale globally. And they are excellent at being able to expand companies or enable companies to expand globally. And if you think about our Team's business, we are, you know, all over 85% of our revenues come from the US, right, even though our community is very global. Right, USA, number one, India being number two, the UK and so on. So there's a huge opportunity for us to partner with them to expand very rapidly internationally, as be sort of continued to, you know, build out, execute on a product strategy, both on the public platform side, as well as our paid product side.

BP Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I know, you know, just from looking at the numbers, and even the people who's in the podcast, that it's all over the world. But right having a sales organization that's based in a certain time zone and is you know, mastered one or two languages can be tough even to meet the demand. So it'd be really interesting to see what happens there. Alright, so let's just address the elephant in the room. I know this isn't the case. But you know, the big response online was okay, Stack Overflow has been acquired. Time for us to grab all the data and build a new one, they're going to put up the paywall, it's we're going back to the experts exchange days, just I guess for a second, let's put people's fears to rest. Do we have any plans to change the way Stack Overflow the public platform works or to change anything really about, you know, sort of the mission statement in the goals that we had set out for the 2021?

PC Absolutely not. The reason why we've been successful for the past 12 years is this phenomenal, democratized access to all things technical knowledge on our public platform, we have 50 million questions and answers, there is no intent to put any paywall or anything of that of that manner out there. As a result of this, you know, we have paid products for a reason, right? The public platform is free for a reason. And then we have our paid products for companies to pay us so that they can leverage the same functionality in their private organization, within their organizations for confidential things. So we already have solved that, that issues, you know, that's going to change. And the broader point, I think, Ben, that you're mentioning is important in that, as what's so great about this is that we will continue to operate as 100% independent company. And so in contrast to most acquisitions, where, you know, the big parent company, like a strategic company, will then integrate, that's the word that's used in an m&a or mergers and acquisition context, integrate the acquired company into their operations, into their products and, and really sort of, you know, in many ways, dismantled some pieces where it makes sense for synergies and so on. That doesn't exist yet. Because Prosus is a holding company of various investments and companies that they own, and everybody operates independently. So our team stays in place, the SLT, the leadership team continues to stay in place, our entire organization stays in place, same structure, and we just execute on our plan to make a lot of impact for people around the world.

BP Yeah, I think what you say makes a lot of sense, you know, Prosus is not an operating company. And so for us to remain independent makes the most sense. And the same thing goes for what is the business strategy, will they you know, want to see Stack Overflow grow in its size and its influence and its value over time. So the formula is working, right? Like, they're not going to suddenly try to squeeze out an extra penny by putting questions behind a paywall that would be destructive to know both of our interests. So I think it's viewed that way, you know, it kind of makes a lot more sense why we would sort of stay the path. 

PC Absolutely. 

BP So I just wanted to change tack just for a second here, talk a little bit about something that you had mentioned within the recent blog post and before but we haven't had the chance to talk about on the podcast. Can you sort of give people a high level take on what is Reach and Relevance? So Stack Overflow, when I joined about two years ago, had three lines of business talent, advertising and teams. Yeah, we now have to, we have Teams and then we have Reach and Relevance, which in some ways combines we're trying to combine the best of our advertising and our talent. So for folks who don't quite know what is Reach and Relevance and what are we trying to do there?

PC That's a good question. So we've obviously evolved, the business and the company over the past couple of years since I've been on boards, obviously, we've had several changes remade. And one of the things that we wanted to do was really unify the company's product strategy. And this is with the help of Teresa Dietrich, our Chief Product Officer and her team, and our go to market teams, really, we said, hey, everything is in service of the user. Like that's what we are serving every day, right? So what we should do should be 100%. Focus on that. And that's why we're very big on a product lead transformation of our company at the moment to really transform it into a product SaaS company and of course, also deliver very predictable and reliable financial performance. But going back to your question, the many changes that we made in 2020 and 2021 year to date, we have aligned to one product strategy in the spirit of serving that user. And we have three fundamental product areas, if you will. The first one is the public platform and the public community the 50 million questions and answers to 100 million monthly visitors that visit the website. That's one. And we spend a lot of time thinking about how to make sure the experience for users leveraging that free platform is exceptional. And we're investing heavily here, we're hiring a new VP of community as, as mentioned recently, adding to the community management team, and so on. So a lot of great, you know, developments there. That's number one. Number two is our Stack Overflow for Teams product, which is a private version of our public platform for companies and organizations to use for private knowledge sharing, but the same q&a format with integrating into slack integrating into Microsoft Teams integrating with other tools like GitHub, and Okta and JIRA, and so on, to be part of that developer workflow. And number three is our second paid product, which is called Reach and Relevance. And our Reach and Relevance includes our advertising business, which obviously has all the principles that we've talked about a lot about, we're very thoughtful about what type of ads we put out to our community, public platform, and so on. That is for tech providers to be able to showcase their products and features. And by the way, we're going to be making some announcements here fairly soon, in the next few weeks.

BP Yeah, I think the podcast will air too soon. But otherwise, we could talk about some even Yeah, some more exciting developments that tie together a bunch of these ideas. 

PC Yeah, super exciting for the community. in about three weeks from the recording day, today, we will be making a very, you know, exciting announcement,. And then separately, so that's the advertising business, really enabling companies to showcase their products and feature releases, etc. So the users and our public community can try those features to get make them go faster, or enable them to go faster, with what they're building. And the second component of reach and relevance is for those same companies to be able to showcase their companies as great employers, because of their culture and the leadership team. And what it is to work as an engineer within those companies as a developer, and that is what we call employer branding. And that's, again, for our users to be have access to companies and the spirit of what these companies how they operate. And to get an inside view into that, again, Stack Overflow style. So the Reach and Relevance concept is combining all things advertising, you know, to really, again, serve our users to give them exposure to products, give them exposure to companies, so that they can build great things and potentially go join companies that they're interested in. So that's, that's Reach and Relevance.

BP That makes a lot of sense to me and I that some of that stuff, I feel kind of developed organically from my side, you know, when I came in wasn't really clear, what sort of the scope of content marketing would mean, and over time, you know, as we were doing talent deals, people would say, well, can we also do something for your blog, you know, we'd like to put this product in front of developers, or maybe, you know, one of our executives could be on the podcast, and you start to see that, yeah, you know, there is a tremendous amount of demand to reach developers at the right time to speak to them in a sort of, you know, manner that they can relate to that's technical, but accessible. And that content, you know, by developers, and for developers, I think this goes back to Prosus is an increasingly in a sort of booming business. I mean, it doesn't matter if you're on a paid platform, or you know, boot camp, but also just go to YouTube, or twitch or TikTok and there are just people who are making their whole living as content creators sharing that kind of education from a person first person perspective. So it's pretty cool to see. 

PC Absolutely, yeah, I mean, this is, you know, I think like you say, this particular announcement is really a testament to the impact of, you know, Stack Overflow more broadly, right, that includes 100 million developers, technologists who spend time on our website every month. So again, it's as big of an announcement for our community as it was for the company, all our users, and there's no way to go but up because, again, Prosus, you know, they serve a fifth of the world's population through their companies. This is the whole Stack Overflow, right. 

BP The fourth now, maybe I don't know what we added. 

PC But yeah, so this say, you know, very significant impact. And to your point, I think, you know, communities, especially in the environment, that we are now evolving into post a pandemic. And, you know, I think we're sort of hopefully in the back end of it, I think is here to stay, you know, community is very much a kind of a, I explained this before, you know, most companies focus on building products and focus on brands, but they may think about communities. And then I really believe this is a momentous time where communities get, you know, kind of the forefront and the the power of communities to build something of high impact and to help out their fellow, in our case, developers.

BP Alright. Well, that brings me to the last sort of question, really more of a discussion point, which is, as you said, you know, we are past a year into quite a world changing experience with a global pandemic, and, you know, beginning to see some hopeful signs in certain regions. I guess I wanted to chat a little bit from your perspective, you know, as the CEO thinking ahead to, you know, having this sort of global reach and scale, what how the world has changed and where StackOverflow fits in now? I saw something being shared recently was from HashiCorp, which is a software company based in the Valley. And they said something which I hadn't really seen before, which was like, you know, lead by example. Okay, I know that one established process. Sure. Got it. But it was make Docs an expectation, which is something that I'm familiar with, you know, documentation, but not something I see often being said out loud by companies that it feels like the move to remote and the sort of almost universal nature now, the expectation of remote and asynchronous collaboration in the cloud, has made some of the processes that were familiar to folks who work in software, like version control and documentation, almost more universal, you know, that they apply now to so many different knowledge workers, because some of those best practices that developers have sort of created over the years now makes sense for a lot of people. Right?

PC Yeah. It's a great, great point, Ben. And so I think that, you know, you touched on very, several very important points in what you just said. So if you think about what's happening in the industry that has, just in general in the world as a result of the 2020 sort of crisis around the pandemic, all this acceleration of people looking to digitize their businesses. And that's been happening for decades, by the way, but in general, this has received a steroid shot in 2020, right. And so you've got all the cloud transformation initiatives that are now on hyperdrive with AWS, and Azure and Google Cloud. All you know, you see them rising as a result of that, you've got this real focus on unlocking the power of data, through machine learning and artificial intelligence, you've got the power of being super fast with the concepts of things like DevOps and to see, you know, agile that have, again, come to the forefront. All these fundamental sort of accelerants that are happening, pretty much every company that you know, I talked to a lot of CIOs and CTOs, like every week, and everybody is dealing with this, they're all trying to really sort of make their company a lot more modern, agile, innovative, closer to their customers, and so on. And all that is happening. And to enable that as an accelerant. Stack Overflow is absolutely in that workflow, right. So we throw out Stack Overflow for Teams product, enabling all these stack these initiatives internally, for people to get on the same page, to really be enabled with the knowledge and be empowered to make the decisions through this asynchronous knowledge that we're collecting through Stack Overflow for Teams and companies can use our product for that. And the public platform sense, they are leveraging the content, because every is learning to code, more and more people are coming into the workforce to become technologists and Stack Overflow plays a huge role in that context. And of course, through our Reach and Relevance products, people are trying to get jobs and get access to new products that are being launched. And then to top it all off, is the point that you made around remote work. So the fact is that remote work is here to stay, it's not going away. Absolutely not, right? And despite, you know, you know, there probably be some, there will definitely be some level of hybrid work. And even for our own company, we have offices in, of course in New York and London, in Austin and Munich. And we expect to use that real estate to bring people together for creative work. But we also are not going to ask employees to come back because we've seen tremendous benefits of working, everybody has seen tremendous benefits of working from home. And you know, of course, it comes with some downsides with things like staring at a screen for 12 hours, and you know, causing Zoom burnout, and so on. But the pros generally based on surveys that we've conducted, even within our own company seem to outweigh the cons. So that remote working environment, again, put Stack Overflow in the center of it because companies can use our products without a public platform or Stack Overflow for teams to really collaborate asynchronously and share knowledge in this remote world. I mentioned one last point around this is that over the past year, as a result, even this year, we've seen a significant increase in the number of people signing up for Stack Overflow, our Public Accounts are of course, our products are all you know, very, very high growth momentums. And when hypergrowth and our Stack Overflow Teams product and Reach and Relevance product as well. But our public platform has seen on average, close to 200,000 signups all 2020 and 2021. Year to date, relative to about 150,000 signups from around the world every month in 2019. And this past month, in May of 2021 was our highest signup month ever in the history of the company. That was close to I think 280,000 signups something like that.

BP There's a real trend happening that I've noticed, which is certificates, which are sort of like almost like an online bootcamp you can do and then you can be certified for to work in Azure or Google Cloud or you know, Salesforce admin, you could get good at observability. And it seems to me there's been, yeah, for a lot of people maybe a fundamental rethink of what they want their work lives to look like they've been, you know, at home, in some cases forced to be at home, and they realize there's all these new onramps to a technology career that there's a lot a ton of demand for these high paying jobs, many of which, as you said now are going to be remote and so they have avail themselves of tools like Stack Overflow as they start on this learning journey. And it's, you know, compared to your traditional liberal arts education, it can be so rapid, you can get these certificates in six weeks, or you know, three months, and then plunge into a field where people are hiring every day, there are just not enough people, you know, out there to do these roles. And they're, they're not exactly junior engineer roles, they're sort of, you know, it's sort of like domain specific. And from there, maybe you'll branch out and learn more of the, you know, the fundamentals of computer science, but you can master, you know, this sort of, it's almost like a, you know, an HVAC repairman, but for that Azure Cloud, you learn, you know, this specific set, I know how to work with this dashboard, I'm going to be able to help clients and you get, you can sort of dive into it.

PC 100%. I mean, you know, we really believe as part of our mission, helping write the script of the future by serving developers and technologists, we really believe in that democratization of that knowledge. And, you know, thanks to the benevolent nature of our community, who want to share and help out their fellow developers, because as we all know, writing code can be significantly frustrating, as I've experienced myself, you know, being a developer A long time ago, it is the right thing to do to unlock human potential to give people access to this basic information that allows them to go faster, then it's up to them with creativity to build some great things are beyond that foundation. So absolutely agree. 

BP To get back to one more point that you touched on before we say our goodbyes, about how remote is here to stay. Some of the, you know, surveys I've seen recently, you know, from reputable places like Bloomberg found 39% would consider leaving their jobs if bosses aren't flexible about working from home or 92% of companies, you know, saying remote is here to stay in some fashion or another. So I think the next six months to year, we're probably going to be a period of friction and turnover. As you know, employers and employees sort out you know what's thought about that line they want to sit on.

PC I agree how 2% and they live in our own company, I think that's why we've taken the position that we have, because you have to you know, listen to your employees and understand you know, what their preferences are, where they're most effective, and ultimately does take a shift in management style and leadership style to really empower your people to deliver great results. And you know, I think the traditional tops down way of managing companies I think are going to be really questioned.


BP Of course, we are hiring at Stack Overflow. And we do have flexible, remote work sort of culture here. So check out all of our career stuff on our careers page. As I do at the end of every episode, I will shout out the winner of a lifeboat badge. That's somebody who came on Stack Overflow and found a question with a score of negative three or less it gave it an answer got up to a score of 20 or more. And, you know, saved a question from the dustbin of history, now it's got some knowledge you can use. So thank you, awarded 20 minutes ago to Jordi. How to convert hours, minutes and seconds into minutes using JavaScript. We'll put it in the show notes. Prashanth, thank you so much for coming on. I am Ben Popper, the director of content here at Stack Overflow. You can always find me on Twitter @BenPopper. And you can always email us if you enjoy the show, leave a rating and review on the platform of your choice. We listen to podcasts, it definitely helps. Prashanth, who are you and where can you be found on the internet?

PC Yeah, no. Prashanth Chandrasekar, CEO of Stack Overflow you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter @PChandrasekar, that's my last name. So just look up my name on LinkedIn and Twitter and you know, happy to sort of engage with you on those platforms.

BP Alright, everybody. Thanks for listening and we'll talk to you soon.

PC Thank you, Ben.

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