Although he didn’t found Softonic in a garage, but in the comfortable offices of the Intercom Group, Tomás Diago has nothing to envy to the prototype of a young North American entrepreneur. With the face of having never broken a plate in his life and not wanting to sin with false modesty, he asserts that the success of his company has “no greater merit than having applied in Spain a service already used in the United States worked”. However, his personal career at the helm of the company demonstrates the business acumen of a young man who, at just 22 years old, was able to identify a need in the market and implement a brilliant idea to cater to the consumer.
It was 1997 when Diago realized that there were no software download services in Spanish and decided to try his luck. At that time he was finishing his Engineering Engineering degree in Computer Management and was working for the Intercom group. Both circumstances were conducive to the elaboration of a senior year project, which was to create a download portal in Spanish, at a time when most websites offered their content in English, which was quite an inconvenience for Spanish-speaking users.
13 years have passed and Softonic has become the one Leading website for downloading and selling software in Spain, Europe and Latin America and number two in the world, with headquarters in Barcelona and offices in Madrid, San Francisco, Shanghai and Tokyo. However, Diago is determined to downplay his performance.
“I always liked software as a kid, I’m a fan of programs and I’ve always been passionate about computers; In fact, I started programming when I was only 15 years old. So my credit was the necessary preparation for the start of Softonic, but not the idea itself,” he recalls today of the company’s first steps. At that time, the Softonic promoter told his idea to Nacho González-Barros, one of the main Internet gurus and founder of Intercom, who did not hesitate for a moment to offer his support.
FAST AND EASY
Many are wondering what the key is to a Spanish dot-com that breaks stereotypes and goes global, spreading fear among the industry giants. The answer is quite simple: Softonic managed to create one user-friendly download system that adapts to the needs of the local user, including non-advanced ones. “It’s much better to download from Softonic than any author’s website because of language issues, ease of use and because it’s faster and more secure,” explains the company’s founder.
The web currently offers the largest selection of shareware, freeware, and commercial demos for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, Palm, Pocket PC, and mobile phone platforms. In total, contains more than 100,000 cataloged programs with detailed explanations of each of them. The portal offers the possibility of downloading from the author’s site or from its own server and also has a section focused on software for professionals and companies.
Immune to crises. From the company’s beginnings to the present day, Softonic has experienced an unstoppable boom in all markets in which it operates. With almost 80 million unique users worldwide, according to data from last March, despite the difficult economic prospects, the portal has proved to be invulnerable. “The bursting of the dot-com bubble didn’t affect us because we had a very low cost structure with a workforce of only 25 people at the time, so we held our ground well. We were not in debt and generated income. The current crisis is felt in Spain, but the fact that we are an international company helps us continue to grow. We have to keep in mind that for this year we expect 60% of our income from abroad,” says Tomás Diago.
The portals in Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish and Dutch are managed from the central headquarters in Barcelona. When the company decides to open a store in a new country, they hire a team of four or five local editors who move to Barcelona and create the specific version for that market. In this way, Softonic has become a global company, operating almost entirely from Spain and maintaining small commercial teams in its overseas offices, typically with a staff of no more than five people.
Specialization. Tomás Diago believes that one of the values that allowed Softonic to lead the market was specialization. “There are global competitors that are not focused on the software download service but are part of a general technology portal. We are dedicated solely to downloading software. In addition, we are currently in a transition phase to a model where the customer who downloads the paid software is offered installation assistance, allowing them to contact us by email and phone to resolve any doubts.”
The user thinks. One of Softonic’s differentiators is the importance the company places on users’ opinions about the service they receive. For this reason, the editors of the company test all programs before publishing them on the web and give their rating. But Softonic wanted to go a step further than the rest of the industry by creating a community of users where the customer who has used a program writes their comment about it and flags it. With all ratings given by the consumer, the portal awards an average mark for each product.
According to Diago, “The consumer values not only the opinion of an expert, but also the opinion of other web users. That’s why we strengthen the community. The customer values the average score of other users higher than that of the experts, since this score is based on the experience thousands of people have had with the program.”
Friendly company. In order to form a team and share employees’ free time, Softonic’s founder made sure to equip his offices with a space with table football and video games, where employees can be distracted from their tasks during breaks.
Softonic’s Spanish portal had a turnover of 15.4 million euros in 2009, making it the most profitable company in the Intercom group. 80% of bills come from advertising and 20% from download payments. The products most in demand are antivirus, Internet software such as Ares, eMule or Skype and multimedia programs.