Tech Leadership and Innovation

Stack Overflow CEO sets sights on a billion-user opportunity

Prashanth Chandrasekar, CEO of developers’ favourite Stack Overflow, believes his site can go further.

A businessman using telescope on graph chart. Looking for future company pans
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Stack Overflow is deeply embedded in the global developer community to the extent that the tagline on its much-visited website has variants of “every developer has a tab open to Stack Overflow”. But its aspirations go even further than the torrent of visits it receives from coders asking questions or sharing expertise. The aspiration: to become another always-open tab on your browser if you’re a technologist, knowledge worker… or maybe even not involved in the digital realm.

But, to begin at the beginning, where is the company now? The numbers are vast, consumer internet-like volumes. It receives over 100 million visits per month and claims to be seen by 80% of developers every week and 50% every day. CEO Prashanth Chandrasekar hails the “network effect” that has seen one question alone (about GitHub since you ask) gain a million views and be upvoted over 40,000 times. It made $40m for the last year in the all-important KPI metric of annual recurring revenue and, 13 years after it was founded, the company remains a big growth story.

That’s thanks in part to Chandrasekar who took the job in October 2019 and helped create a monetisation model that appears to be working. His trick was to rationalise revenue streams down to a premium Stack Overflow for Teams SaaS and context-sensitive advertising. 

Chandrasekar also oversaw last June’s $1.8bn sale of the company to Prosus, a technology investment group primarily focused on the consumer internet and with an interest in education technology. That move has created a buffer for Stack Overflow to invest in the future and its invaluable community.

“Community is at our centre and we’re investing in both the free and paid community,” says Chandrasekar, a former software engineer, investment banker and Rackspace executive. Doing so involves creative ways from gamification upwards to keep them engaged and enthused; it also means walking a fine line between ads that are welcome and those that are irrelevant and/or intrusive. Hence the no video ad rule but if an expert contributor on Lamda gets alerted to a Lamda role, that works well for all concerned, Chandrasekar says. “We want to keep developers and technologists ‘in the flow’ and we never want them to be distracted by an email or a Slack message,” he adds.

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