In 2005, Nitro PDF set out to make documents smarter, launching an Adobe Acrobat alternative that’s free and simplified. The idea was to use intuitive features, a freemium model, and a paradoxically badass name to do documents better than the reigning prince of PDFs.
Seven years later, Nitro’s products are gaining traction in that uphill battle: The company has 75 million downloads of its free product and 3 million monthly active users, 250,000 of which are paying customers. It’s operating at a profit, but to bolster growth, Nitro raised its first round of outside funding.
Today the company announced a $3.5 million round from Australian VC firm Starfish Ventures. Founded in Melbourne but headquartered in San Francisco, Nitro will use the cash to add 50 more heads to its current 67-person roster.
That’s all quite awesome. But comparing Nitro’s 75 million downloads with Adobe Reader’s 600 million is a nice reminder of just how small a David Nitro is to Adobe’s Goliath. Nitro raised $3.5 million in VC backing; Adobe Systems’ market cap is $17.2 billion.
Still, there’s a lot to be said for offering a simple, refreshing alternative to the dominant paradigm, which is what Nitro aims to do. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story? The company even touts its small size as a selling point on customer service, which naturally led me to waste five minutes digging up this clip from “The Office,” where Jim and Dwight make the same pitch. (It does actually work for them, I’ll add.) Perhaps more importantly, though, at $120 Nitro Pro is cheaper than Acrobat Standard, which costs $299.
I’ll note here that I wasn’t hip to any of the common complaints with Adobe Acrobat, like the apparently bloated software packed with niche functionality, or that it comes with confusing restrictions on usage, until Nitro pointed them out to me. That’s because I couldn’t remotely be classified as a “power user” of documents. Presumably this guy, who is a big fan, is. Same goes for the fine people at Continental AG, SwissRE, Boeing, GE, and the rest of Nitro’s corporate clients.
If like them, you like documents, might I offer you an infographic? Here is one the company made about itself. It is, quite obviously, a PDF.