New to our watch list, Passenger was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in New York City, Palo Alto, and Bangalore. The company’s Java-based SaaS community platform is built to support branded customer communities for customer collaboration, customer-led innovation, and customer advocacy. While Passenger does have a few B2B clients, its sweet spot is in the B2C space. Its client list, which includes adidas (see below), American Express, Chrysler, DirecTV, JC Penney, and Starbucks, illustrates that its platform can be used by just about any consumer-facing industry.
While Passenger’s clients are indeed looking for community members to act as customer advocates and brand ambassadors outside the community, they are primarily looking to get market research, product feedback, and other forms of customer insights. Its direct competitors are, therefore, Communispace (not on our watch list), HiveLive, and Spigit. It competes as well with the more general purpose community platform providers, such as Jive and Mzinga.
But more than most of its competitors, Passenger has thought through member recruitment and built the relevant processes into its platform. These include identifying, inviting, and registering customers who are the best fit for the community’s goals. While most online communities are largely a numbers game, successful market research communities have the added requirement of recruiting members who fit the desired profile (or profiles). Passenger has operationalized this requirement, which goes a long way toward ensuring its clients’ communities have not only the right number of members, but the right members (there is no value judgment here on the word “right”).
We also like that Passenger has developed a service offering specifically focused on socializing the community within client organizations. This ensures that sufficient resources are allocated and that stake-holders across business units are aware of and contribute to the community’s planning and execution. While all the community platform vendors we cover address this topic, Passenger puts this essential piece front and center.
The first half of 2009 was a good stretch for Passenger, as it landed over a dozen new client accounts and launched additional communities for existing customers. Its product focus is on the imminent launch of an overhauled version of its platform, which will improve the platform’s scalability and allow it to be managed via a Web interface. Passenger has some catching up to do with regard to business partnerships, particularly with research firms and agencies that can extend its sales reach, but this presents a good opportunity for continued growth.
This post a modified excerpt from our PSGroup report Online Community Platform Company and Product Update 1H-2009. For more on this report, see this blog post.