Govt 'competitiveness agenda' excludes mature startups: Nitro CEO

Nitro's $15 million funding round in US couldn't happen in Australia, says Nitro CEO Sam Chandler

Nitro CEO Sam Chandler moved his startup from Melbourne to San Francisco in 2008. Credit: Nitro

Nitro CEO Sam Chandler moved his startup from Melbourne to San Francisco in 2008. Credit: Nitro

Next steps

Nitro will spend the $15 million from its latest funding round on people and infrastructure, Chandler said. “The overwhelming majority of what we’re doing this round is hiring.”

The software company wants to double its staff of 160 people today within the next two years, he said. New roles will be available across the business, including product, engineering, sales, marketing and customer service.

While Nitro plans to hire worldwide, Chandler said most of the jobs will be based in the company’s San Francisco headquarters and a Dublin office opened at the beginning of this year.

The Dublin office, which now has 25 employees and includes former employees of Dell, Citrix and Salesforce, is expected to increase to about 100 staff in the next 12 months, he said.

Melbourne, the city in which Nitro first opened, used to be the company’s second largest office, but “now it’s kind of being dwarfed by [San Francisco] and Dublin,” with about 13 staff in the Australian city working on finance and local sales and customer service, he said.

Nitro has stated it is on track to make $30 million in revenue this year, and has been doubling revenue every two years for the last five years.

While Adobe has been Nitro’s biggest rival since its early days, Chandler said the number of competitors has increased since the launch of Nitro Cloud, which includes document sharing and collaboration tools in the browser and mobile.

“We’re going up now against e-sign vendors.”

From competing with the giant Adobe, “we’ve learned a lot about how to play the game when you don’t have the balance sheet or the [profit and loss] that the big guy’s got.”

Nitro has differentiated by trying to provide a better product and customer experience, he said.

“Our customers love us, and I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Oh yeah, we love Adobe.’”

Adobe has received much flak in Australia for its prices, with boxed versions of its products costing 40 per cent more in Australia than in the US.

In a March 2013 parliamentary hearing, an Adobe official responded that Australians should fly to the US if they wanted a better price.

Adobe later ditched boxed versions in favour of subscription-based, digitally distributed software with price parity across regions.

“It’s an insult to their customers’ intelligence when they say we’re going to charge you significantly more for something that is downloaded over the Internet,” said the Nitro CEO.

Chandler advised new startups to be persistent about achieving success.

“If you’ve got conviction and you’ve done your homework, those are very powerful things,” he said.

“Don’t be bull headed if you’re wrong, but if you really strongly believe that you’re right ... don’t let anyone dissuade you from completing your mission.”

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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