When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the switch to home working almost overnight, German remote desktop software company AnyDesk scaled seven-fold in a matter of days. The feat was achieved with just a handful of key employees who worked around the clock.
“The usage levels have remained constant since then,” Co-Founder and CEO Philipp Weiser tells The CEO Magazine. In fact, over the last four years, downloads of AnyDesk software have increased 700 percent as more and more businesses adopt a fully remote or hybrid business model.
Now able to reflect on the period, Weiser believes that the business would have grown to an equivalent position in the same timeframe just by continuing normal operations.
“As a company, I believe it would have been much healthier because we would have gradually learned how to improve our business instead of all at once,” he continues.
Part of this knowledge comes from working in the same place and meeting and conversing with each other, something he appreciates is “very hard to do online, especially with new hires”. Even when you have a software platform as fast and secure as AnyDesk to facilitate it.
For Weiser, who co-founded AnyDesk in 2014, conversation is at the core of his leadership style. “I try to talk to everyone,” he explains. “Almost always, really good ideas come from people when you give them the opportunity to speak up.”
He also refers to the podcasts of the legendary American microprocessor engineer and recently appointed CEO of AI chip company Tenstorrent, Jim Keller.
“He believes you need different kinds of people in a business. Some are those who will follow a recipe and they are excellent at repeating this,” he explains. “For others, their talents lie in inventing the recipe, rather than repeating it.”
I think the magic happens if you are able to recruit both to your teams and make them cooperate in a fruitful way.
The secret to success is in a balance of both, Weiser believes. “Now I think the magic happens if you are able to recruit both to your teams and make them cooperate in a fruitful way,” he says.
Weiser has clearly struck the winning culture formula as AnyDesk has grown into the trusted name for 170,000 paying customers in more than 190 countries, from small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) such as Remstar Management, the motorsport branding and management services provider, to some of the biggest companies in the world such as LG, Samsung and 7-Eleven.
The platform clocks more than 200 million sessions a month as colleagues collaborate on projects from all corners of the globe, or IT departments troubleshoot technical issues. In 2023, the ‘freemium’ model, as Wesier describes the free-to-download version, passed 800 million downloads.
“AnyDesk is actually the most used remote desktop software right now as we speak,” Weiser says.
Much of these impressive touch points owe to the backend technology that powers AnyDesk – the AnyNet platform.
We don’t have to pay third-party vendors to run our service on their service. It also allows us to have a high amount of value creation inside our company.
“AnyNet is so flexible because it is proprietary and we can offer the whole installation as a self-hosted service,” he says.
It’s an offering particularly attractive for large enterprises, due to data security rules. “This enables them to have the whole application under their control without us being able to access it,” he says.
Such a fully integrated value chain is unique, even in the software space, Weiser continues.
“We don’t have to pay third-party vendors to run our service on their service,” he explains. “It also allows us to have a high amount of value creation inside our company.”
The Rebel CEO
In an interview with Tango CEO Ken Babcock, published on Medium, Weiser explains how his interest in remote desktop softwares was solidified while attending university.
So quickly did he realize his passion for the domain that he quit school and made the leap into a full-time job with TeamViewer, where he met the two other people he’d go on to join as founders of AnyDesk.
He describes the choice to call a halt to his studies a “key decision”. “In Germany, this is an incredibly unusual move, but I had ambition and I took the risk because I was confident in myself. I am determined to carry this rebelliousness with me in life,” he says.
The in-house knowledge also gives AnyDesk a high ability to innovate. “Our idea is not to create a product suite by acquiring third-party companies,” he says. “We want to build those products ourselves and we’ve invested a lot of research time to create the foundation and basis for this.”
The business has established a dedicated innovation hub in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
Making an impact
Nearly a decade after its launch, Weiser can comfortably describe AnyDesk today as a scale-up. “We used to be a startup, but we’re no longer really young now. We have almost 10 years of business experience behind us,” he reflects.
True to scale-up form, AnyDesk’s status as a single-product company is about to change as Weiser draws on the company’s economic success to create more products around AnyDesk that run on AnyNet. To do so, he is scouting for the best software developers out there.
“We would like to hire the most open-minded people that we can find,” he says, adding that the multiple job openings on the AnyDesk website are written to express what the business is looking for, without trying to oversell the role.
What is sure is that any new recruits are joining the company at an exciting time in its growth story.
We will have the opportunity that not many others have to make a big impact on the software industry by creating our own services suite.
“Right now, we’re really about to benefit from this long-term development effort,” he enthuses. “We will have the opportunity that not many others have to make a big impact on the software industry by creating our own services suite.”
And there’s no doubt where any new products will be tested first. “We are just a company, as are all our customers, so we have similar demands for communication and challenges,” he says.
“We turn those challenges into opportunities by creating a software system that we can first use ourselves to improve our whole business. Once we do, we are usually quite sure that there will be a market for it.”
The way Weiser sees it, AnyDesk means many things. And there’s overlap between each definition. “AnyDesk is a product, a product company, a place to work and a place to do business with,” he says.
A leading provider of motorsport branding and management services, with a proven track record helping clients reach their goals on a global scale.