Remote and hybrid working are the order of the day, and now a startup called AnyDesk that helps enable that to be pulled off smoothly -- regardless of the architecture of a company's network, or where a person happens to be working -- is announcing a round of $70 million to fuel its growth. The Stuttgart-based company said that the Series C values it at over $600 million.
General Atlantic is leading the round, with existing investors Insight Partners, EQT Ventures and Possible Ventures also participating.
Knowledge workers have a lot of options these days when it comes to how they work: apps and documents often now live in the cloud and we often have fast connections to access them; and while virtualization was estimated to be used by only 30% of enterprises last year, it is projected to see a surge of adoption this year as COVID-19-led digital transformation continues to play out. Still, there is a lot left on the table when it comes to offering workers solutions that just work regardless of how organizations have built out, manage or invest in their IT architecture, or how well connectivity happens to be.
That is the big gap in the market where AnyDesk plays, and it has seen a lot of traction.
"The goal was that we wanted to make the leanest and smallest software that was easiest for the most people to use," CEO and co-founder Philipp Weiser said of AnyDesk's original idea. AnyDesk can work on connections as low as 100 kbps and still run smooth graphics, the company says. "The tech community likes us because of those things."
There is something a little anachronistic about what AnyDesk is doing: Not only is the software proprietary -- that is, closed source -- but it acknowledges all the actual shortcomings of the IT landscape today, and it is there to meet the needs of all of the many companies out there that either can't or won't buy into the concept of "digital transformation," at least not enough to move their infrastructure to the cloud.
"For every move there is a counter move," Weiser said, highlighting that for every company that is investing in virtualization, there are examples where this can't work. "Manufacturing pipelines cannot move to cloud. It poses certain risks." He also noted that in cases where data has to, by law, reside in a single country, AnyDesk can be used as a way for people in remote locations to work with it, without having to resort to using VPNs (which have their own latency and other reliability issues). In short, "the reality is always much more complex," he said.
And that has proven to be a big business for AnyDesk. Its software -- which lets people essentially create a low-latency mirror of one connected device's desktop on another machine (be it computer, phone or whatever) -- has been downloaded 500 million times since it was founded in 2014, and on average it sees more than 900 million sessions each month "spanning" some 50 million miles. Its customer base totals some 80,000 organizations, including educational and government institutions, media companies, IT services and a variety of other large enterprises.
Part of AnyDesk's attraction is the speed at which it works, but part of it is also how it is priced: individuals can use it for free, while business users can buy services in a variety of tiers starting at around $10/month.
As you might guess, the surge of remote and hybrid working that has swept the world in the last 20 months has led to a big boost in business for AnyDesk, which provided a quick solution for many people who unexpectedly found themselves needing to log into and use their systems remotely for the first time. Downloads actually doubled in the last year. But that was not completely in haste. Weiser said that the architecture of how AnyDesk works actually makes it very secure to use -- connections are encrypted, and users (and enterprises, when the usage is through a business plan) can also customize security settings.
But even if it's a bit of a renegade, the plan will be to incorporate VPN functionality for those who want it, and there may be plans down the line also to work within more established virtualization tech. The big providers of virtualization and remote services regularly reach out to AnyDesk, Weiser said, and you could see how it might make sense as a complement to what they are already providing customers, especially in more ad hoc situations where virtualized access is not possible.
It's the flexibility, specifically the fact that it's giving business users another choice for services, that is a particular attraction to investors, as well as the traction it has had in the market.
"AnyDesk is a strong example of the agile, forward-thinking companies that are shaping Germany on a broad scale. We believe in the company’s ability to create next-generation solutions that meet the needs of this new era of remote work and are thrilled to support Philipp Weiser and the AnyDesk team as they continue to set new standards for the industry," said Achim Berg, operating partner at General Atlantic, in a statement. He is joining the board with this round.
“We were particularly impressed by the activity levels on a global scale based on a technology stack that is built for a connected multi-platform, hybrid working environment world," said Christian Figge, managing director of General Atlantic. "We will support the company in further extending its offering for enterprise customers globally.”