Intercom CEO Karen Peacock: ‘I do miss seeing people live’

Karen Peacock stepped into the role of Intercom chief executive in the midst of one of the strangest periods in recent memory. The coronavirus pandemic was in full swing, particularly in the US, where Irish-founded Intercom has an office in San Francisco.

The Bay Area was among the first parts of the US to recognise the danger posed by Covid-19 and react accordingly, declaring a state of emergency in February. In Dublin, where Intercom has a major presence, the government in March urged people to work from home where possible.

Like many businesses, Intercom closed its offices to safeguard the health of employees, turning to remote working instead. Weeks have turned into months and, although some restrictions have lifted, there is always the danger of a return to tougher measures, as was seen in Ireland this week.

So when Peacock took on the mantle of chief executive on July 1st, it was a remote handover.

“I personally miss seeing people live, and getting to interact face-to-face,” she says. “The type of work that we do, we have such great tools that we’re able to be very efficient during this time, but I do miss seeing people live.”

Founded by Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, Ciarán Lee and David Barrett in 2011 in Dublin, Intercom develops products that seem tailor-made for businesses in a pandemic. Its software platform brings messaging products for sales, marketing and customer support together, and enables companies to communicate easily with customers through their own websites and apps, on social media and by email.

Peacock joined the company as chief operating officer in 2017 with an impressive track record. With a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Stanton, she worked with Intuit from 2002 to 2017, ultimately rising to become senior vice-president at the company, in charge of its small business product. Under her leadership, the division saw its revenues grow to $2.5 billion, as Intuit’s market cap jumped from $7 billion to $40 billion.


Almost three years to the day she was officially announced as Intercom’s chief operating officer, Peacock was named as chief executive, succeeding co-founder McCabe. It wasn’t a surprise to her that she was being considered for the top role; it was always part of the plan.

“When Eoghan and I first started talking a little over three years ago, one of the things that he had shared with me was that at some point he was interested in moving into a chairman role and, in an ideal world, would be bringing on someone as COO who would eventually become the CEO,” she says.

“We didn’t have any particular timeline, it wasn’t a set thing, but that was always the intention and always Eoghan’s vision, so that he could continue to be involved with the company but from the board level, be part of helping on the product strategy and vision side, and transition to a new CEO for a new chapter of growth as we get bigger and bigger as a company and as we start to really scale.”

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The company has certainly achieved that. In January, it recorded more than $150 million in annual recurring revenue. Two years ago, it achieved “unicorn” status – a valuation over $1 billion – after it raised $125 million in funding.

It seems as if all roads will eventually lead to an IPO. The business has momentum, despite the ongoing pandemic. It’s not that surprising. In a year when we have all had to stay as far apart as we can from each other, the ability to communicate with customers efficiently and effectively is more important to companies than ever.

Intercom has made that its business, and it was what initially attracted Peacock to the company.

“The first time I saw the Intercom product four years ago, it was a lightning bolt moment for me. I’m a product person myself; I instantly saw both what it was at that time and what it could become over time, and I realised that was the product I had needed in every SaaS business I had ever run,” she says. “This is something big, this is something that could really help businesses connect with their customers, build relationships and drive growth, and that’s what really drew me to Intercom: both the vision and the breakthrough nature of the product, and the value that I saw Intercom could and was delivering to customers.”

The company offers a conversational relationship platform to help businesses build better customer relationships and drive faster growth through real-time personal messenger-based communication.


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