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Philip Sheu, Splashtop Co-Founder
Life at Splashtop

Discussing Splashtop's Pivot, Present and Plans for the Future with Co-Founder Philip Sheu

By Splashtop Team
5 minute read


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Philip Sheu, Splashtop’s CTO and Co-Founder, helped drive the company’s transformation from a mobile app developer to a cloud service provider. Gillian Miller, Splashtop’s Content Manager, sat down to talk with him about this pivot, where Splashtop is today, and where he sees the company heading in the future.

Gillian Miller: Hi Philip, thank you for taking the time to sit down and talk with me today. Let's start from the beginning, what inspired you to start Splashtop in the first place?

Philip Sheu: As you may know, all the founders studied at MIT together. That’s where we caught the startup bug. Back then, MIT had an interesting entrepreneurial competition called the 10k Contest. Students would put together a startup team, write a business plan, create a prototype and pitch it. The winner would get $10,000 to put towards funding their venture. I think we made it into the semifinal where our pitch was judged by VCs. That experience and team effort set us on the startup path.

A few years later, after working separately at big companies, we couldn’t resist the startup bug any longer. Mark, Robert and Thomas got together first and started a server management firmware company. At the time I was designing server hardware at HP, but I joined them shortly after. The company was acquired after a few years. We ran it until 2006, which is when we all quit and started Splashtop as we know it.

Gillian Miller: That's a great origin story. So, how did you make the decision to pivot in 2006?

Philip Sheu: We were pretty open-minded in terms of product and technology. We did know that we wanted to build something for everyday users. Previously our direct customers were big server companies like Dell, IBM, and HP. While that was an excellent experience, we felt a bit disconnected from the actual users. So, more direct feedback became our first prerequisite for our new venture.

The second was to find a pain point. A problem to solve. A problem that we keenly understood ourselves. Apple had just launched the iPad. It was a shiny new object; one that became immensely popular in a short amount of time. Every iPad user still had a PC which housed their HD movies, games, music collection, etc. The app store was getting off the ground, there was no Netflix, no Spotify and no desktop apps. So, we thought, “Huh, folks might find it interesting to be able to carry around the iPad—with its beautiful form factor, amazing touchscreen, and eight-hour battery life—and enjoy access to their entire collection of movies, music, etc. without compromise in performance or experience.” With more smartphones and tablets on the market, we wanted people to be able to transition seamlessly between their digital lives on multiple devices. That became the pain point we aimed to solve.

Gillian Miller: What's the most important thing that you're working on now?

Philip Sheu: One of the most important things we’re working on—hopefully, it will grow into the next major pillar of our company — is remote access for IT and service desks at medium to large organizations. Moving up market from our largely SMB base is a challenging, yet exciting and natural growth path. I think we have a solid foundation of technology and products to build from and a passionately customer-centric mindset to attract and service those larger customers. We as an organization are ready to meet enterprise customers’ compliance and security needs.

We see many potential customers locked into a handful of vendors who have owned the remote access market for corporate IT and helpdesk. While those vendors have a long history and are certainly well known, we believe that many of their customers’ needs can be better served by a Splashtop product. Our products are higher performing, easier to use, and will plug right into customers’ existing IT environments. On top of that, the Splashtop team will listen intently to their needs and adapt accordingly.

Gillian Miller: Aside from moving up market, what is your broader vision for the future of Splashtop?

Philip Sheu: I, along with my co-founders, aspire for Splashtop to be the best partner for customers who need to do anything remotely and securely. That could be a service desk with a Fortune 500 company, animators at a movie studio who work from home, a major university offering their computer lab services to students off-campus, or really anyone that needs to do anything remotely.

We want them to be able to count on Splashtop. To have the responsiveness and video fidelity to feel like they’re in front of that other computer. We want it to be an easy and responsive process. Most of all, we want them to know that it’s secure.

Gillian Miller: Absolutely, that's an excellent goal for the future, especially in the world as it is today. It seems like you’re extremely dedicated to Splashtop’s growth. What is it about this company that gets you excited? What gets you out of bed each morning?

Philip Sheu: Two things. The first goes back to our original motivation—we started Splashtop with the goal of providing something useful directly to consumers. Continuous feedback from our customers, along with the chance to do something about it, gets me and my colleagues out of bed every morning. It’s a cliché, but our jobs feel like more than a paycheck because we’re making our customers’ lives easier. We feel a profound sense of pride and fulfillment because of our connections with our customers.

The second thing is the people at Splashtop. Here we have a diversity of personalities, skill sets and backgrounds. Our culture is the critical, common thread connecting us all. Splashtop feels like a second family in that we help each other succeed and grow. My colleagues are really good at what they do, but they’re also humble and collaborative. It’s truly a pleasure to work with our team every day.

Gillian Miller: What's an interesting fact about Splashtop to wrap up our conversation?

Philip Sheu: Various aspects of Splashtop today are tied to our college experience, where we came from, and where we grew up. Before meeting at MIT, we had all immigrated to California from Taiwan, which is where we were born. After college, we ended up moving back to California and establishing Splashtop’s head office there. Later, we established Splashtop’s first engineering office in Taiwan. It’s still our largest engineering office to date.

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