PSPDFkit Raises $116M, Its First Outside Money; now nearly a billion people use apps powered by its collaboration, signing and markup tools – TechCrunch


An under-the-radar, seeded startup from Vienna, Austria — a hit with developers of technologies that underpin user experience for some of the world’s most popular apps — is doubling down on momentum and announcing its first outside investment, under the form of a large round of growth funding.

PSPDFkit – which provides APIs and an SDK that developers use to power document processing features such as e-signature, document viewing and editing, collaboration and more – raised €100m ($116 million). Funding comes from a single investor, Insight Partners.

PSPDFkit is already profitable, and has been for some time, so this investment is aimed at accelerating its pace of growth. He plans to use the investment to create more developer tools, make strategic acquisitions (co-founder and CEO Jonathan Rhyne is mum on what, except to say it will be to expand the suite of useful tools that ‘he gives); and, for the first time, making concerted efforts in sales and marketing.

In fact, much of PSPDFkit’s growth to date has been through word of mouth, a strategy that has taken it very far so far. His clients include Dropbox, DocuSign, SAP, IBM, Volkswagen, Fabasoft, Wolters Kluwer Deutschland and the European Patent Office, among a number of others he works with under NDA.

In many cases, not all companies are happy to admit how their user experience and technology has been built by third parties, and that’s the situation with where and how PSPDFkit is also used, but the fact remains that it is quietly huge: In total, PSPDFkit’s technology, through its APIs and SDKs, is now approaching one billion users in 150 countries.

Unsurprisingly, this traction has also meant that PSPDFkit has had a lot of acquisition interest over the years. Big tech companies that build productivity tools, already work with developers, and are already very active in mobile apps and cloud services have all knocked on PSPDFkit’s door. Although the startup doesn’t disclose its valuation, you can guess that given its size and profitable status, with this latest round it has definitely become a more expensive buy. (And if all goes as planned, it will get even more so.)

The history of PSPDFkit is interesting and largely reflects the evolution of mobile development itself over the years.

The company originally started around 2011 as a framework and toolset created by Austrian engineer Peter Steinberger, who was already involved in the iOS developer community and could see a need in the market from a number of applications for document manipulation features such as electronic signature. , editing documents and viewing documents. Apps let us turn a lot of things into virtual experiences, and paper was shaping up to be one of the first things to do.

This need turned out to be a classic use case for building this functionality and making it something that many others could access via SDKs and APIs: document manipulation tools – even something so basic than previewing a file contained in a cloud folder — are very difficult to build from scratch, are not necessarily part of the core business of businesses, but are nonetheless core to how they operate.

Steinberger’s framework thus became one of the first examples of how SDKs and APIs could be used to integrate different services and features into other applications — a basic principle has now been applied to a whole host of applications. other functionalities: integrated financial services, for example those used to build neobanks, neobrokers, assuretechs; integrated payments, for example Stripe’s payment APIs and others; integrated communications, e.g., messaging, voice, or messaging APIs from Twilio, Sinch, etc. ; etc

(The name PSPDFkit referred to Peter Steinberger’s initials; PDF because PDFs were, and largely remain, the company’s original focus; and “kit” in reference to the SDK that it was.)

As the creation and use of mobile apps began to really take off, Steinberger’s framework followed suit, and soon Martin Schürrer joined to build it. Rhyne, meanwhile, was working in the United States as an attorney representing the developers, and he became their attorney after meeting them at a developer event.

Soon in this relationship, the three realized that not only was there a growing business to run, but that Steinberger and Schürrer had little interest in doing so. In 2014, Rhyne left the practice of law and became the third co-founder, with Steinberger and Schürrer in Vienna, and Rhyne based in North Carolina in the United States.

With this cycle, Steinberger and Schürrer are stepping away from full-time roles but remain “significantly invested” in the company, while Rhyne remains CEO.

Things quickly evolved from there for PSPDFkit, in keeping with the meteoric rise of the apps themselves.

Starting with iOS, PSPDFkit today provides tools that can be used to build apps on Android and the web, using Flutter and React Native. The strategy is to work on building a larger platform to handle several related features that developers might want to use in relation to documents, and perhaps the broader world of productivity.

Rhyne’s basic description of what PSPDFkit and its customers do today is “obsolete paper”. But over time – much like how Stripe has progressed from its core functionality, providing APIs to power payments, to a broader suite of transaction-related services – PSPDFkit sees an opportunity to do more, including because the expectations of the world have also changed.

For example, Rhyne recalled how PSPDFkit set up a real-time collaboration platform in 2015, “but we were like, ‘Man, this doesn’t work, people don’t really want to use it.'” Then Covid-19 arrived, he continued: “Now every customer says, ‘That looks great.’ Yeah, we want to use that…’ I think we’re seeing a change in the way people interact with documents.

This speaks of a lot of opportunities for both the startup and its investors.

“Software developers and engineers are cutting edge simply by the nature of their craft,” Ryan Hinkle, MD at Insight Partners, said in a statement. “The way they work and collaborate must also be cutting edge. With PSPDFKit’s SDKs and hosted solutions, the company is revolutionizing document processing for businesses and the developers they charge to keep the company at the forefront of innovation. Insight is excited to play a part in the company’s growth journey. Hinkle joins the board with this round.

Yet for all of this, for PSPDFkit itself, expectations will change a little less: the business is run as a “distributed” operation as it has been since well before the Covid-19 pandemic, with a primary base of R&D in Vienna, but employees in many parts of the world. He is now hiring more on the same model.


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