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Is product-led growth a new thing?

over 2 years ago 3 mins read
Adam Schoenfeld
Adam Schoenfeld

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ABM was "new" in 2015, but we had named account strategies for decades.

Inbound was "new" in 2008, but the concepts and tactics were always part of good marketing.

Same story with PLG today.

Words matter.

And with many of these movements, re-naming drives shared understanding.

But the underlying concepts and tactics are almost never "new." Looking at our 500 PLG List companies, here's how the breakdown by year founded:


*Note: We suffer from selection bias here.

We will naturally be thin on newer companies because they are less visible to our discovery methods.

As we continue tracking, I expect the 2020/2021 charts to explode.*

Take-away: We have many roles models and examples to study with significant operating history.

This helps those of us learning PLG today.

Looking back 8+ years, you can see names like SurveyMonkey (1999), MailChimp (2001), Atlassian (2002), Docusign (2003), and Squarespace (2003).

These companies have reached scale and had visible IPOs or exists.

They get lots of attention.

Digging through our list, I paused on the group founded 2014-2016.

Here's the view I'm looking at:


Something about that 5-7 year mark felt compelling.

Sorting this cohort on different metrics, a few names stood out:

* ClickUp, Dooly, Vercel, Synk, Lattice are amongst 15 companies in this cohort with 30-1000 employees and 100%+ Y/Y headcount growth.

Are these the next break-outs?

* Postman, Flutterwave, and Checkr are a rare combination.

They each have 300-1000 employees, but maintain less than 10% sales headcount.

As we've seen in past analysis, most PLG companies expand sales headcount as they scale.

I'm interested to dig into these more.

* Confluent, Gitlab, and Discord. The 3 companies in this cohort with 1K+ employees and very high growth.

The idea of going from 0 to 1000+ people in such a short time sounds insanely hard, especially in this talent market.

Lots of interesting stuff to dig into more here.

Which PLG role models are most interesting to you right now?

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