Freemium model a risk to engineering culture: Acronis

Acronis CEO Serguei Beloussov has big plans to build a multibillion company in less than 10 years, but going freemium to win customers will not be the way.

While backup software firm Acronis has some pretty aggressive growth targets in mind, offering a freemium product to attract new customers will not be on the cards.

Serguei Beloussov, the CEO of Acronis, left Russia to take on Singapore citizenship in 2001.

"It's just a focus for engineering," said Serguei Beloussov, the CEO of Acronis. "A lot of companies which do freemium, they sort of build a shitty product, and they say it doesn't matter because it's free , and then somebody will use it accidentally and upgrade it to premium."

The danger of going enabling a freemium business model is getting a bunch of low value products, explained Beloussov. He was referring to the difficult balance between offering enough features in a free version without cannibalizing paid customers, and having enough to entice new ones.

"It's not the inherent nature of freemium products, there's a lot of good freemium products but there's a risk," noted Beloussov.

The CEO pointed out Acronis had a much closer engineering culture to one of Apple. "I really believe you have to build super good products that people will have to pay for because they like them," he explained. "We want to build valuable products, and you should pay for valuable products."

Beloussov just returned in May 2013 to helm Acronis, which has its roots from a company called SWsoft which he had founded back in 1997. In 2002, SWSoft had split to form Acronis and Parallels, which he led as CEO from 2006 to 2011.

He described his return to Acronis as his best chance at creating a multibillion dollar company. Beloussov plans to get there in less than 10 years on the back of 30 percent growth annually. As of 2010, Acronis booked around US$150 millin in revenue.

High on his agenda is to ramp up efforts to tap Asian markets, where it currently gets one-third of overall revenue from because "the previous American management did not focus much on Asia". This includes setting up a global headquarters in Singapore over the next five years. It will also be partnering a data center in Singapore this year in order to offer more enterprise products in the region.

Part of that push will come from its newly formed business unit focusing on cloud-related products. The department currently contributes 10 to 15 percent of revenue, and the target is to grow it to 80 percent in 10 years' time.

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