In our Platform Heroes series, we interview people who are building next-generation platforms and ecosystems at leading SaaS companies. In this edition, we interview Jean-Pierre Pequito from the Intercom App Store team. I first discovered Jean-Pierre through one of his great blog posts about how to grow a platform.
- Name: Jean-Pierre Pequito
- Role: Senior Product Manager Developer Platform and Marketplace @ Intercom
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/hellojeanpierre
What is your background?
I’ve been working with products for nearly a decade, and as a product manager for the past 6 years. I started as an entrepreneur trying to figure out how to build something truly valuable to customers, and with it adopting an approach of continuous learning, iterating and maturing a product throughout its lifecycle. It was a natural step to taking a product management role after a few attempts being an entrepreneur.
How did you end up at Intercom?
I had been following the Intercom blog for while, always looking up to Intercom for how they approached product development. Intercom came across to me as a thought leader in the space of software. One day I decided to reach out to Paul Adams and after a lengthy interview process I ended up packing my bags to relocate from Amsterdam to Dublin.
How would you define your role?
The role of a product manager varies across companies, and probably that reflects the nature of a PM: help the team wherever is needed to make progress and ship good product. I’ve always described the role in two parts. In one hand, at a strategic level PMs strive to build alignment and set direction. It’s not much about being a visionary, but more about drawing the line from all those inputs you have been hearing about. On the other hand, at a more operational level PMs fill the whitespace within the product teams. Optimizing for progress means you’re flexible to cater to the evolving needs of your team and your product.
Do you have a separate integrations team?
Partially. As a communication platform for the entire customer lifecycle, we’re targeting to a variety of roles like sales, marketing, and support teams. That’s why we have Use Case teams that work very closely to specific customer needs. In order for them to be successful, strategic integrations play an important part in their roadmaps. Other teams also contribute regularly with integrations and apps.
How big is your team?
I work with two teams: Team Developer Platform and Team Marketplace. Both teams are part of the App Ecosystem program, which entails all the pieces that allow external developers building & launching apps and internal integrations. The marketplace is a team of 4 engineers, while Developer Platform is 9. Alongside both teams, we have dedicated design and research. We also sit next to Platform Partnerships, who handle both developer relations and partnerships.
How do you allocate time to your team?
That’s a bit tricky, currently spread thin across two teams. We’ve hired a new PM who is joining soon and I’m very much looking forward to growing as a “group of teams” within Intercom. As a rule of thumb, I try to keep as much empty space in my schedule as possible so that I can react or support whenever is needed. The worst is to have a PM who becomes the bottleneck of your team’s progress and we start either slowing down or cutting corners that lead to less impactful results.
What are the daily tools that you use with your team?
Keeps changing, although some have remained persistent. For collaboration it’s Slack and Basecamp (we use Basecamp for a transparent product ideation phase), for issue tracking we use Github (just for bugs or tasks), for data analytics, it’s both Tableau and SuperSet, documentation is Coda, Google Docs and Notion. There are plenty of other tools (HoneyComb, DataDog, internal build tools, etc). Also, I don’t have a backlog. They have proven to be useless but that’s a blog post by itself.
What was key to the growth of the app store?
App Stores are two-sided marketplaces so you would have to see this from both angles. First, you need to have enough demand to attract app builders. This is both achieved by having a large number of customers (ie. the total addressable market) and creating the right feedback loops for customers to come back regularly to the App Store. Second, treating 3rd party developers as a first-class funnel is key for growth. That includes not just what opportunities are available for them to build, but also how are you going to help them succeed during and after building.
What are the biggest mistakes you see other companies make?
Building the APIs and waiting for developers to come. We made that mistake. It hasn’t been until a year ago that the platform strategy got some tangible shape. Every SaaS product has APIs and integrations, that doesn’t make you a platform. It’s nearly like addressing a different set of customers, and therefore you need dedicated marketing, sales, and support.
What metrics do you care most about for a platform?
For the time being, we’re looking at developer funnel velocity, ecosystem growth, marketplace health and app usage. We’ll probably change the focus over time.
What had the most impact on these metrics?
It’s easy to optimize and target for small increments, but the biggest impact has always been game-changing projects. You need them both hand in hand. The first iteration is never fully right. We often swing between ambitious strategic projects and polishing the rough corners. Also, not everything needs to be achieved through the product. Sometimes a webinar could do more than a feature.
Which platform companies do you admire and why?
I guess everyone is looking at each other :)
Are you planning to launch an app store fund like Slack, Hubspot, and Cloudflare?
It’s not something we have on the horizon for the near future. The idea of supporting new entrepreneurs launching exclusive or first-on-Intercom applications is quite interesting, but I think we’re too early as an ecosystem.
What’s next for the Intercom App Store? Is monetization on the roadmap?
The good news is that we have now a dedicated team for the marketplace, which will fence roadmap capacity to keep working on our App Store. We’re currently improving the discoverability of apps for customers who have not yet made a decision and helping them understand which one is best for them. Some pieces of work are smarter search, recommendations, and better selling listings. Monetization won’t be something we’ll be working on the coming months.
How will partner ecosystems (tools, roles, etc.) change over the next ten years?
All SaaS products today have integrations and APIs. Platform as a term has become meaningless and is being replaced by the notion of ecosystems, which implies a product is deeply integrated with other partner products. Over the years we will see more companies thinking about how an ecosystem can impact their customers, and as a result of this, they’ll be spending way more efforts in attracting, onboarding and supporting partners. Partner success was once a tangential initiative will become a strategic pillar in every company’s strategy.
What integration/product(s) couldn’t you miss for all the money in the world?
This is going to be a boring one, but I couldn’t do without Slack. I was before in a company that didn’t have internal messaging, all went over email. A few people were using Skype and that was the best it could get. It was horrible.
Where do you get inspired?
I do get inspired when I’m traveling, especially in airports! There is something about being in an airport that makes me reflect on work. Perhaps it’s the atmosphere of business travelers or the amount of wasted time you need to board a plane. Also, flights are an ideal time for switching off the internet.
What's your favorite superhero?
Not sure if that counts, but I was big into Asterix when I was young.
Thanks for your time!
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