EXCLUSIVE: Communities, brand and then product — CEO explains how Stack Overflow flipped the script on software development

EXCLUSIVE: Communities, brand and then product — CEO explains how Stack Overflow flipped the script on software development
Stack Overflow CEO Prashanth ChandrasekarStack Overflow
  • At the Business Insider Global Trends Festival 2020, Stack Overflow CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar explains how his company flipped the script on software development.
  • Most companies focus on their product, build a brand around it and then think amount integrating a community.
  • Stack Overflow, on the other hand, started off as a community 12 years ago, created a brand and is only now doubling down in its new product — Teams.
Companies usually think about their product first and then their brand. Time permitting, communities may or may not become a third tangent. But, according to Stack Overflow CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar, communities are at the heart of software development. It’s no longer a third vantage point that only comes in when everything else is already set instead, it should be the first step.

Bengaluru-born Chandrasekar started the company as a community first, and then established itself as a brand as a result of building a successful community. It’s only now that the company has started out on its products journey with software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings like Teams. “Communities will be absolutely essential for companies to really accelerate their development in the new digital world,” Chandrasekar said at the Business Insider Global Trends Festival 2020.

According to him, many incumbents in the industry are now racing to catch up as startups come up with their solutions. And, at the centre of the movement are developers and technologists building solutions fueled by working from home.

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“Companies are being forced to really rethink how they compete and this entire — what was historically probably postponed as something they would address down the line— has been accelerated very dramatically,” he explained.

Stack Overflow is a community of websites where developers can connect, share stories and learn from each other to build the ‘next big thing.’ It currently has over 100 million monthly visitors across its network of 150 websites. According to Chandrasekar, around 60% of developers worldwide sample Stack Overflow — that’s around 26 million to 27 million developers.

And, this strategy has worked just fine for the 12-year old startup created by Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky. The company started a community (a messaging forum, really), then built itself into a brand and now has a product to offer — Teams.

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In 2010, it raised its first round of funds amounting to $6 million from a group of investors led by Union Square Ventures. Seven years later, it released an official app on Android and iOS.

Next-generation of solutions fueled by the remote work environment
As more people worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic, Stack Overflow saw an uptake in the amount of activity for Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services.

According to Chandrasekar, this is fueled by the popularity of visual models which are enabled by a cloud force — and almost the nearly $1 trillion of spend that’s moving towards the public cloud.

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Movements like DevOps — practices that combine software development and IT operations to shorten a system’s development life cycle — have also seen a marked increase.

“All of this is fueled by the remote world environment,” remarked Chandrasekar. The pandemic and the culture of communities has leveled the playing field for everyone.

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