Podia has been around for a long time, especially in startup years. Approaching 10 years old, there likely aren't many SaaS companies as old as us that are still around.
Being a profitable company has afforded us the financial stability to keep going, but it's our long-term strategy that's gotten us here.
The good thing is that I'm never bored and am more excited about Podia today than ever before. This isn’t PR nonsense, as I've definitely burned out on previous startups before.
Here’s what keeps things exciting.
Continuing to evolve the core product
A business that has a ceiling to it has never interested me.
Podia is an all-in-one product, so sometimes I'm asked why we didn't choose to go really deep on a feature, e.g. online courses.
Not only do I think it's a poor strategy to stay so focused if you want to build a company that can be around for decades (market demand changes), while at the same time being constrained to a product ceiling (there are only so many online course features you can build).
If you're looking to increase your company's longevity, solving a single narrow problem really well isn't likely to get you there. Of course there are exceptions, but diversifying what your product can do will broaden your opportunities as the market's demand changes.
Specifically with online courses, they peaked in popularity during COVID, but have since declined as the market has continued to evolve. If you were only an online course platform, then you'd either need to settle for what the market gives you, or scramble to expand your offering as interest declines.
Settling or scrambling is not a good strategy to have if you want to have longevity in your business, and neither of those two states of mind are going to keep things interesting, unless panic and chaos are your idea of interesting.
I prefer the approach of continuously expanding the scope of what Podia can do, because it protects us as markets change and is a much more interesting intellectual challenge.
Our value that I care about most, out of all four of them, is "looking to the future". If you want to stay interested in a problem, then that's the one for you.
If you want to be around for a long time, complacency can be the silent killer that ends your run.
I wrote about this in the post linked above, but the gist is that if you rest on your laurels for too long, then everything at your business will begin to slowly decay around you.
A lot of my behind-the-scenes attention today is on making sure that Podia doesn't lose its hunger to win and succeed. I wish it was as easy as turning up a knob here or there, but there's a lot more nuance than that. You need to be listening, thinking, debating, and choosing your words carefully in every interaction.
Not only do you need to make sure that the work everyone at the team does is only improving and never backtracking, but also making sure that people who have been at your company for a long time are still in it to win it.
Being around for nearly a decade means that you're going to naturally churn out both good and bad employees. Some will leave to pursue their own ideas or go work for someone else, while some — hopefully a small number — of others will become complacent and stop doing their best work.
You need to be very honest with yourself about who on your team is here to put in the work, and who isn't. We're not a culture of working nights or weekends, but we expect that when you are at work, that you're putting in your best. Any shortcomings need to be addressed and fixed or it will affect the rest of the team, because they'll feel like they need to carry the weight. There are only so many second chances you can give people.
In addition to being honest about your team, go back and question all of your old policies, processes, and decisions. I guarantee you'll find things that don't make sense and should be scrapped or reworked.
A recent example of us reevaluating a process is that we’ve completely scrapped annual performance reviews at Podia, after coming to terms with the fact that they were doing more harm than good. More on that in a future blog post.
Broadening your business model to attract more users
Along the theme of continuing to evolve your product to increase longevity, it's also very important that you continue to evolve your business model and pricing.
There are two examples from Podia that we've implemented over the past two years:
- We moved from a 14 day free trial model to a free-for-life plan. The primary reason we did this was because we realized, by looking at the data and doing user research, that many users weren't ready to make a decision so quickly, and that a free plan afforded them the time to come back to Podia when they were ready rather than losing them to a competitor who offered a free-for-life plan.
- Introducing expansion revenue if you don't already have it. One of the biggest levers in SaaS that isn't talked about as much as it should be is that your business needs a way for your users to pay you more money as they get more value over time, and I don't just mean upgrading their plan. In July 2023, we introduced Podia Email, which starts at $9/month on top of our base plan and earns us expansion revenue (they pay more as their subscriber count grows), which is extremely important to the healthiness of your bottom line and longevity. Many companies will have months where they churn out more users than they add, but because of healthy expansion revenue will have positive net new MRR months.
If you're not actively reevaluating your business model to the changing needs of your business and users then you're likely going to be caught flat footed in the future. It can be as light as a price change to get comfortable with this idea, but bigger changes will be needed eventually.
Why I've never been more excited about Podia's future
I wake up every day with new challenges to take on across all departments of Podia, and this keeps me interested. We do a really good job at everything I mentioned above, but we're still continuing to learn and get better.
And because there's still so much room for improvement, new challenges to tackle, and new surprises around the corner, things at Podia remain interesting as we continue our journey.