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HomeFounderTalkTransparency is crucial, and more difficult than one might think

Transparency is crucial, and more difficult than one might think

Splashtop provides easy, high performance, secure, and affordable remote access to all the computing resources

Please introduce yourself and your startup Splashtop to our readers!

My name is Mark Lee and I am one of the founders and current CEO of Splashtop. 

I was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the United States along with my family when I was 13 years old.  I guess you could say that my family pursued the American Dream and wanted me to have as many opportunities as possible. From Taipei, Taiwan to Los Angeles to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I graduated at MIT with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  It was at MIT where I met Robert Ha, Thomas Deng, and Philip Sheu, who later became my best friends. Together we founded Splashtop, which provides easy, high performance, secure, and affordable remote access to all the computing resources needed for work, learning, play, and IT support — anywhere, anytime, from any device.

How did you get the idea of Splashtop?

When we started our business journey 16 years ago, the company name was DeviceVM and we were focused on the PC market. We designed and sold the industry’s first browser operating system (OS) that allowed PC users to get online, securely, in less than 5 seconds. The OS product was named Splashtop—combining the term for the BIOS ‘splash’ screen, which boots before the OS boots, and the ‘top’ of the word desktop. As market condition changed due to the emergence of iPhone, iPad, and Android, we pivoted our business toward mobile, and we changed our company name to Splashtop.

In 2010 we launched the Splashtop Remote Desktop app for iPhone and iPad, with the intention of offering the best performance for people accessing their applications remotely. The app ended up attracting lots of gamers because of the high-quality streaming video and remote 3D gameplay and became the #1 selling iPad app on Apple AppStore, beating Angry Birds in 2011.

We discovered that many gamers are, indeed, IT professionals, and they began to give us feedback on how we could address IT needs through our technology. We kept on listening to their needs and that has helped us achieve solid success in the market. 

Why did you decide to start with Splashtop?

It’s all been a process of evolution. I have always had an entrepreneurial streak and when we were all students at MIT,  Robert, Thomas,  Philip and I participated in what was then a $10,000 entrepreneurship competition promoted by the institute. After graduating, the four of us followed different career paths working for big tech brands, like Intel, HP and Motorola but we kept talking of starting a company together.

In 2000 when the internet was booming, we took the leap and formed our first company, OSA Technologies, which made embedded intelligent platform management interface (IPMI) software and firmware on the Linux platform. Four years later the company was acquired by Avocent for $100 million. Initially we held positions at Avocent, but we became so frustrated with the long booting times of browsers, that in 2006, we decided it was time to start another venture together, and we founded DeviceVM, which later evolved into  Splashtop.

Our goal with Splashtop was to deliver a faster and simpler internet user experience, through an instant-on browser operating system. Our OS browser was as a precursor to Google Chromebooks and shipped on more than 300 million PCs across all major PC and netbook platforms, including Asus, Acer, HP, Dell, Lenovo, LG, Sony, winning the “Best of CES” award in 2009.

What is the vision behind Splashtop?

We want to empower people and businesses with the flexibility and freedom they need, by enabling them to access their high-powered computers and memory-intensive apps from any device, anywhere, with no gaps in performance, productivity, or security.

And we are known for providing high performance technology that anyone can use, without technical knowledge. 

We make security central to every product we build, so that our customers can always count on enterprise-grade security, regardless of the size of their company, because cybercriminals aren’t just aiming at enterprises — they’re targeting everyone.  

Most importantly, we put our customers first. For us, this means ethical pricing that is fair and transparent; unbinding cancellation policies; live support when they need us, regardless of the size of the account. This is core to our culture at Splashtop. When customers face an issue, they should be enabled to get back on track as fast as possible. They shouldn’t be asked to send an email or to submit a support ticket where they have to wait in line for days or weeks to get the help they need. Our customers can call us and talk to real people, who will address and solve their issue right away. Splashtop is the only remote solutions provider offering continuous live support five days a week.

How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?

The entrepreneurial journey is filled with lots of ups and downs. Building a company is a long-term project, and it’s important to enjoy the process and don’t let failure bring you down. For example, I once received an investment term sheet from a VC, but then the VCs pulled out at the last minute, just when we were closing the final agreement. In this and more cases like this one, the grit and resilience me and my co-founders have built has served us well, as we had to pivot our business a few times. 

Ours has been a unique experience though. My business partners are my best friends and I consider them family. Our families consider each other families. We share similar cultural backgrounds and experiences. There’s a level of trust there that you don’t see every day. And, it has given us the ability to persevere through the challenging times. 

Who is your target audience?

Splashtop caters to a wide variety of individuals and business of various sizes. Today our remote access and remote support solutions serve MSPs, individuals who work solo or at very small businesses and who source their own tech, just as much as IT Managers working in SMBs and large Enterprises, who have to support entire teams working on a multitude of devices. When it comes to the industries that we serve, our solutions span from Media and Entertainment to Education, from Retail to Government, from Healthcare to Finance, and beyond.

As you can imagine, the acceleration of digital transformation brought by the pandemic drove a dramatic shift to remote work and learning.  This turned our solutions from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” tool, to ensure continuity and productivity to most businesses across industries. With the pandemic behind us to a degree, we find that remote solutions remain a necessary part of most company infrastructures, because of the flexibility we create. This was a transformation that was inevitable, and the pandemic simply accelerated change.

What is the USP of your startup?

Every company says they’re not like the others, but at Splashtop, we work hard to do things differently. 

We look out for small businesses and everyday people—including teachers, accountants, video production artists, and many others—who count on our solutions to do important work and personal projects from anywhere. We know they’ve been burned by remote access providers that raise prices on a whim, or whose solutions are complicated and don’t always work when they should.

That’s why we make it a priority to build user-friendly tools that are easy to learn and solve real problems. It’s also why we offer low individual price points that most can afford. We believe all our customers should have secure, high-quality remote access, one-on-one customer support, and fair contracts. And I believe that  “thinking different” is what ultimately makes our “un-corporation” unique.

Where do you see yourself and your startup Splashtop in five years?

Cybersecurity is an area of investments for us. We want to deliver on the promise of helping our customers protect their critical assets and maintaining business continuity without worries. 

As the world normalizes remote and hybrid work, and BYOD policies proliferate, ransomware continues to expand. The use of private devices for work without proper OS/application patches installed, or essential antivirus software running can create security gaps for IT. Legacy VPNs that were not designed for today’s modern remote workforce create the perfect environment for cyber criminals to access and infect the corporate network. 

Splashtop has always been committed to securing SMBs and IT professionals with our remote access and support solutions, and we will continue to lead and expand in this area. 

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I like to start my day by walking my Shiba Inu, while I get my morning dose of news and listen to podcasts about the latest leadership interviews and SaaS startup stories. When I’m ready to jump into work mode, I always start with my whiteboard, where I keep a list of key priorities, goals, to-do’s and ideas, and I decide what needs my attention for the day. I’m very communicative with my partners and leadership team, so my days are often full of remote and face-to-face meetings, emails, Docusigns and texts.

We host a lot of lunches and happy hours with Splashtop folks and advisors. No matter what’s going on at work, I try to be home for family dinner, and on some evenings I take calls with our Asia team. On the weekends, I look forward to playing a round of golf with my daughter, and enjoying good food and wine with family and friends.

What 3 tips would you give to founders?

Transparency is crucial, and more difficult than one might think. Communicating with internal teams and partners helps with decision-making and momentum, but communication must be clear and targeted. At Splashtop we make a great use of KPIs to remove subjectivity from the work, stay aligned and keep the productivity high. 

Trial and fail fast. Innovating and pivoting is a big part of building a company. This means continuously trialing of new ideas, strategies, processes, and accepting that failure will be a part of the process. The earlier you realize that you need to rethink something, or that your assumptions are flawed, the sooner you can refine your thinking and move on. At Splashtop we trialed, failed, zigzagged, and transformed our business multiple times with different products and business models.

Hire for the right cultural fit, the rest can be trained. Building the right culture is critical for a startup. I strongly believe in hiring people who have the right attitude and ethics and who believe in what we are doing. At Splashtop we are fully transparent with each other. We treat our employees like partners, everyone is valuable and has a voice. Enabling a great place to work and a more caring culture not only contributes to everyone’s wellbeing, but it also paves the way to a better relationship with customers. 

More information you will find here

Thank you Mark Lee for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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