What do you call a unicorn that flies under the radar? Meet Germany’s hidden champion, TeamViewer
Headquartered in Göppingen, a sleepy borough east of Stuttgart, the company had been previously owned by GFI Software, itself backed by American VC firm Insight Venture Partners.
The size of the acquisition remained under wraps upon closing of the deal, until it was later confirmed to be as high as €870 million (close to $1 billion at current exchange rates).
What is certain is that it was a huge deal for a European tech company, then as much as it would be now, and yet you wouldn’t have seen the news on Techmeme or any of the major tech publications we all love to read. Tellingly, even The Wall Street Journal reported the deal only in German (and got the price a little wrong).
Since its acquisition, however, TeamViewer has stayed the course and grown its business, prompting us to catch up with Andreas König (pictured), the chief executive of Germany’s forgotten unicorn / hidden champion.
TeamViewer was founded back in 2005, almost as a side project.
The idea was to build solid tools that allowed people to remotely do professional presentations and meetings, in what has since become synonymous for ‘online collaboration and remote support software’.
Fast forward to today, and TeamViewer’s remote access, desktop sharing and virtual meeting solutions are available on more than 1 billion devices, 27 million of which are connected to TeamViewer at any time. The company is currently serving 200 million active users, with close to a million new installations every day.
When I first caught up with König last year, he had only recently been appointed at the helm of the company, and his feeling was that there was too much going on inside the company to focus on prioritising time for product development.
In a more recent conversation, TeamViewer’s CEO stressed that the company has recently identified one area of growth in which it can truly excel: the Internet of Things (IoT).
It is also hard at work building the next generation of its collaboration software suite, which will be shown off later this year, with a team that totals around 600 people across the globe.
TeamViewer may not be a household name in the flashy tech startup scene, but it’s been building a couple of nice use cases over the years in a variety of sectors, from working with banks and hospitals to massive salmon farms and snow cannon manufacturers.
König says one of its biggest rivals is LogMeIn, coincidentally also a company with its roots in Europe, and that it doesn’t necessarily compete with the likes of Box and Dropbox. Behemoths that are also active in this space include Microsoft (Lync), Citrix’s GoToMeeting and Cisco-owned WebEx.
König concedes that his first months at the company — he joined less than a year ago — were “kind of crazy” and filled with meetings, internally and externally with clients and partners. Now, the executive’s focus is on defining a clear strategy (or an “over-arching goal” as he calls it), to become a leading company in all verticals it decides to go after, and how to improve processes across the board to improve sales, structure, conversion rates and whatnot.
Another key focus is on marketing, which I daresay he been subpar to date, given that almost nobody in the European tech industry that I’ve spoken with has ever identified TeamViewer as a contender, nor recognised it as one of the most successfully exited tech companies from the region ever. It’s almost like everyone’s sort of missed this one.
König admits that the message needs to get out more often, being one of Germany’s few unicorns with a truly global presence. He’s already undertaken steps to improve product communication and branding.
Not that TeamViewer isn’t good at getting clients to pay for its software.
Today, half of its business is in Europe, with the other half from all over the world (more than 200 countries today). Where it is seeing most growth is in the Americas — the United States is its biggest market in terms of number of customers and revenue — and a surge in demand from the Asia-Pacific region.
König didn’t want to discuss sales figures in detail as the company is privately held, but a source within the company tells me TeamViewer’s annual revenue rate hovers around €180 million, with “a healthy profit margin” to boot.
Though it was acquired itself (arguably twice if you include the founder’s exit to Insight VP), the company has never made any acquisitions. König argues that you need to be careful in how you grow, and he strongly believes organic growth trumps any other kind.
That said, now that TeamViewer is gearing up to tap into new territory, chiefly IoT, König says he will be keeping his eyes open for opportunities with regards to partnerships and/or M&A transactions.
I asked König whether being owned by a private equity firm automatically means that the clock starts ticking on yet another sale of the company down the line, and he conceded that this is one possible scenario — Permira didn’t buy TeamViewer to own it for the next couple of decades of course.
That said, the company’s CEO said Permira has been an excellent partner since the acquisition, and that they’ve been very supportive on all of its plans so far. The private equity firm certainly has a strong track record, that includes investments in the likes of Ancestry.com, Magento and Informatica, and it’s been very helpful in increasing the value and market of TeamViewer to date, König said.
With its numbers and current growth trajectory, another possible scenario outside of an outright or partial sale might be an IPO.
If and when that happens, it will be interesting to see if TeamViewer manages to garner more attention than when it made an interesting exit two years ago.
Either way, we’re keeping a close eye on the company from now on.