The corona crisis has given tremendous momentum to the development of start-ups focusing on online education and homeworking. This week Innovation Origins will therefore pay extra attention to start-ups in this edtech sector.
Philipp Weiser, Andreas Mähler, and Olaf Liebe set up AnyDesk in Stuttgart, Germany back in 2012 because they wanted to create ways for you to work from home within a digital office environment without any hitches. They cater to customers of all shapes and sizes. You can subscribe as an individual, but also as a company with a thousand employees that wants to use specialized applications. These might include the ability to manage large files such as CAD drawings, film, and photographic material. Custom applications are available for organizations that have sensitive data as well, such as healthcare and banking institutions.
Critical data is stored in a highly secure data center in Germany. The security level can be upgraded if required. AnyDesk provides remote desktop solutions for defense organizations’ data, for example, by building an internal network that runs on on-site servers. “We don’t even have access to any of that at AnyDesk,” says CEO Philipp Weiser.
Why did you set up AnyDesk?
“I’ve always been interested in remote desktop software. When I was at university, I adopted video communication software as part of a remote desktop workaround. When I completed that program, I added a number of screen options. That was a basic desktop setup. Then I released it as open source software. I subsequently discovered that TeamViewer (another remote software company, ed.) is also active in that area; I worked for them for three years. At the time, I put a lot of their functionalities into practice.
But I also had a vision that I was unable to fulfill at this company. After that, I decided to set up AnyDesk together with two colleagues. We wanted to build a framework that would allow us to design several types of solutions. We wanted internet connectivity between different types of platforms and devices. In addition, we wanted a flexible framework for developing end-user applications running on those platforms such as mobile phones, MacOS, Windows, and Linux 0perating systems.”
What was the main obstacle you had to overcome?
“We had to develop that broad base for the framework from the ground up, while not losing sight of the long-term goal by concentrating too much on the details.”
Why was that an obstacle? You knew what you wanted all along, right?
“A remote desktop top solution is an extremely complex product with loads of different elements that all have to work together seamlessly. We built our framework completely from scratch and didn’t use a single ready-made product. That goal was abstract and technical. However, at the same time, you have to achieve your business goals. We spent two years working on it without anyone else knowing what we were doing. We had no idea whether the market would accept our initial product. There were already ten providers of remote desktop solutions out there. The longer you work on something like this, the more progress you make, and the greater your stake becomes. We were also constantly aware that this might all be in vain. Obviously, that was a major stress factor.”
You were a bit like a sailor on the ocean who doesn’t see any land…
” Yes. It was like navigating through fog where you can only see a few feet ahead. To keep going, that was the greatest challenge. There were different opinions and different priorities all the time. It took a lot of energy to get everyone to focus on the same goal, especially since it was still quite a long ways away.”
What was the most significant breakthrough for AnyDesk during this process?
“When the market began to welcome us and the number of people using our product kept on rising. The reviews have been extremely positive. Since our first release back in 2013, we have been cash-flow positive.”
How many paying clients does AnyDesk have now?
“Approximately 25,000 companies, which includes international Fortune 500 companies.”
Is AnyDesk expanding as a result of the corona crisis?
“Yes. At the moment, this unfortunate situation is forcing everyone to work from home. AnyDesk offers a direct solution for this. Within seconds you can effortlessly connect your computer to a digital office environment. You can even control the printer remotely. As a result, we saw an enormous surge in demand. We have actually had to increase our server capacity fivefold.”
So, this year you will see real growth?
“That’s what we are expecting, yes.”
In what countries is AnyDesk used?
“In every country in the world. Literally. Even in Antarctica – probably at some kind of monitoring station. And on every island in the world’s oceans. That’s why AnyDesk has been accessible in 23 languages from the very outset.”
What do you expect over the next three to five years?
“We have customers in countries with various time zones. In order to serve them better, we will open offices in several locations. We’re aiming for a billion downloads of our software in the future.”
You can read more IO articles about start-ups here.