Building a software company is no easy feat, but it takes someone truly special to persist, survive and overcome the most severe political, economic and competitive forces, and come out the other side a billionaire. Pavel Baudis founded his company in the 1980s in Czechoslovakia under stifling conditions, namely the Soviet regime. He was a chemist by training but realized his natural inclinations where not in science but in computers.
It was not long before Pavel honed in on cybersecurity as his field of interest. He had been made aware of one of the original computer viruses named Vienna and he figured out a way to find and delete the file-wiping malware. This early discovery laid the groundwork for what would become Avast. The path forward, however, was far from easy. In addition to turbulent economic times he faced competition both domestically with AVG as well as internationally with McAfee and Symantec.
He faced impending doom when in the early 2000s Symantec began dropping its prices with the goal of dominating the global market place. Baudis needed to act quickly and make a bold bet if Avast were to survive. After much deliberation, he decided to offer his software for free, resulting in a gradual then accelerated adoption across millions of devices. He would make money on premium versions of his software and even higher grade state of the art features.
While Avast had managed to survive Symantec’s competitive machinations, Baudis had yet to truly capitalize on the company’s cybersecurity products, expertise and potential. He decided to look for a CEO who could help advance the company to the next level. He found such person in Vince Steckler, who despite a checkered past, managed to vault the company from revenue of $20 million in 2009 to an operating profit of nearly $250 million in 2018. Part of Steckler’s playbook included a myriad of acquisitions and partnerships across the globe, including the acquisition of local competitor AVG, which it acquired for $1.3 billion.
Baudis’ hard work culminated to a glorious day, when Avast went public on May 10, 2018 at a valuation of $3.4 billion. It represented one of the top five largest tech IPOs to ever launch on the London Stock Exchange. Baudis had come a very long way from his early days in the 1980s as a chemistry grad. Today, Avast continues to be heavy on the research and development side and will be extending its offering to a consumer hardware product that protects individual and household data being transmitted through the various devices in the home.