From Pod to GrowSumo to PartnerStack

When we trace the journey of a successful startup, we often come across a series of trials and tribulations, innovation, and consistent hard work. One such notable journey is of PartnerStack, a leading SaaS company that started as a humble project and rose to become a game-changer in the tech world.

From Pod to GrowSumo to PartnerStack Infographic


It Begins - Pod

The founders of PartnerStack were involved in a venture that closely resembled a weaker version of Slack. The team comprised of four individuals - two long-time friends, Luke Swanek and the author, along with Neil Chudleigh and Jon Mendes, who they met during their graduate studies at Western University. The quartet had embarked on their startup journey with a project named Pod, aiming to provide a communication platform for non-profits.

The Struggle

The inception of Pod was a struggle, to say the least. The founders even left their studies midway, committing fully to their project. However, the journey was not smooth. The founders found themselves in a financial crunch as they struggled to raise capital and attract customers. Their product was perceived as an inferior version of Slack, which led to potential customers choosing the more established platform over Pod.

The Epiphany

The founders, in their desperation to make their venture work, decided to pay commissions to external agents for selling Pod. This strategy surprisingly started bringing in revenue of around 20K per month. Unknowingly, they had created a channel marketing program. The realisation came when companies approached them, curious to learn how they managed their channel marketing.

The Pivot

At the brink of 2015, they had an introspective moment. Pod was a slow-moving business, and the team was ambitious to create something with a higher growth rate. After careful evaluation, the founders diverted their focus on the channel marketing aspect of Pod, which was proving to be successful. They built a landing page that highlighted this service and began cold calling companies, suggesting they use their platform. This strategy helped them secure 40 companies in just two weeks.

The Market Potential

A third of the $300 billion yearly sales in SaaS were through third-party vendors, i.e. partners. However, this process was being managed manually. The founders saw the potential in automating this process and was confident that this was the direction they should be heading in.

The Reinvention

Renamed as GrowSumo (now PartnerStack), the new venture was born out of desperation and the need to succeed. The founders had been applying to every incubator program they could find, but without success. However, their persistence paid off when they received an acceptance call from Y Combinator’s Kevin Hale, just when they had almost lost hope.

The Transformation

Their time at Y Combinator was instrumental in shaping PartnerStack. Despite the initial hiccups, they managed to make their mark by becoming a top-voted product on ProductHunt. This achievement helped them attract numerous customers and raise a round of funding in February 2016.

The Growth and Evolution

The rest of 2016 was spent building a product that the customers needed and wanted. Operating on a lean budget and a compact team, they worked slowly but deliberately. By 2017, they had their first sales representative and spent the year learning how to sell PartnerStack. By 2018, they were scaling PartnerStack into a high-growth company.

PartnerStack Today

Today, PartnerStack is a comprehensive solution for partnerships, supporting partner marketing, referral, and reseller activity. It caters to partner application management, engagement, attribution, education, payouts, compliance, and other channel needs. Companies using PartnerStack have their programs listed in its marketplace, giving them exposure to a network of over 450,000 partners. As a result, these companies see a 30% revenue increase in their partner channels.

The PartnerStack Network

The PartnerStack network allows partners to sell multiple SaaS applications from a single platform. This feature has proved to be a necessity for integrated SaaS solutions investing in the channel. The most trusted and rapidly growing SaaS companies in the world, including Intuit, Asana, Freshworks, Zendesk, Aircall, Intercom, and more, are turning to PartnerStack to support their channel growth.


The journey of PartnerStack stands as a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and the ability to adapt in the face of adversity. From its humble beginnings as a struggling startup to its evolution into a leading SaaS company, PartnerStack has truly carved a niche for itself in the tech world.

To PartnerStack →
Back to blog

Stories for Startups.

Get Smarter Every Week - We Send You Cool Stories About People Making Money, and Tell You How They Did It.

Stop anytime.