From great ideas to a sinking pirate ship! The story behind Readdle's success

This month Readdle turns 16, which gives us a valuable opportunity to reflect on our journey to date and key chapters. 

We are one of the world’s leading productivity brands used by companies like Siemens, BMW, Zurich, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and Roche; along with busy professionals who want to maximize their workflows, and get more done. 

We deliver quality products that regularly top the App Store, including: Spark Mail, PDF Expert, Documents, Scanner Pro, Calendars and Fluix – a leading workflow system for businesses. 

Our team consists of 296 Readdlers in over 30 global locations. But, it started with a small group of ambitious people and one big idea. 

From four young friends to a global team

In 2007, Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone to the world in San Francisco.

Though obviously a game changer in communication, it only contained a few native apps like the weather, a calendar and calculator. 

In those days it was impossible to read documents or books on an iPhone, and from this technology gap came the fundamental seeds for Readdle’s creation.

Three young graduate friends – Igor Zhadanov, Alex Tyagulsky, Andrian Budantsov – loved this sleek new device but were surprised and frustrated that they couldn’t read books on it in the same way they could on a Nokia phone. 

From humble beginnings in Ukraine, our founders saw an opportunity to build something ambitious.

They started coding relentlessly and rented a room to work from in an apartment block in Odesa – existing on sheer determination and takeaways. (Co-founder Dmitry Protserov joined the team within a year).

Andrian and Dmitry had great technical backgrounds, Alex was the one who designed the product and Igor took care of all the organizational and financial aspects. 

In the early years, it was an organic split of roles, and everyone worked super hard in order to make an impact.

“Initially, we created our first app ReaddleDocs, a document file reader, for ourselves and people like us,” says Igor Zhadanov, CEO of Readdle. “We genuinely used it and loved it. Later on, it scaled, but we always designed, coded, and created with the customer in mind.”

The breakthrough and beyond 

The name ‘Readdle’ was born from the word ‘read’ with the-then trendy doubling of letters. The new Readdle product soon caught the attention of developers at Apple.

This led to a challenge – for Readdle to evolve its new product into a compatible app for upcoming App Store launch.

The team bunkered down, coding for three months.The final submission remains a Readdle legend as the longest online call in its history – almost 14 hours to meet the deadline, and launch ReaddleDocs on the 2008 App Store.

In March 25 2009, further good fortune followed. Walt Mossberg from the highly-influential Wall Street Journal declared ReaddleDocs was one of his ‘favorite apps that makes the iPhone worth the price’.

This was a seminal moment for Readdle, elevating it to the mass global market. And as demand for our products grew, the awards started to land, both from Apple and third party platforms.

The Documents app for the new M1 Mac was unveiled at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in 2021.

Spark was the Best Android App of 2021. It also won the Golden Kitty Award in the Productivity category. Calendars app won the Red Dot Award for best design.

To crown things off, Apple added PDF Expert to the Editors' Choice list in 2022 and the product has just been gifted a Red Dot Award for design. 

Riding the wave of evolution 

Readdle was founded in Ukraine and the App Store allowed it easy distribution worldwide. 

The engine that fueled its growth was born from a combination of Ukraine’s educational system, economic forces and unique culture. This environment naturally fostered innovative thinking and problem-solving, even in resource-limited situations.

For instance, Ukrainian engineers might need to figure out how to manage two terabytes of data on small servers as opposed to just buying more. Those constraints naturally lead to innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and engineering a solution based on the resources at hand.

Over the years the company built 32 products that failed – including a pirate puzzle game that sank on its maiden voyage! All of these experiences taught the team invaluable lessons that helped them focus and improve. 

A big focus is put on quality and beautiful UX, even if going the extra mile adds to production costs because we believe in doing the job properly or not at all. 

We factor customer feedback into every decision we make, in the hope that our users will not only enjoy using our products themselves, but recommend them to friends and family. 

Our design approach has proved popular, as reflected by our top ratings on the App Store, the testimonials we receive from customers every day via email, and keen market consumption. 

In 2022, the company celebrated 200 million app downloads worldwide. Quite an achievement considering this goal was reached during the year that Ukraine was invaded by Russia!

Readdle timeline 

During the last 16 years, Readdle has grown from a small, dynamic startup to a global brand.

2007: Founders cook up an idea to create a document file reader for the new iPhone, and Readdle is born 

2008: ReaddleDocs appears on first-ever App Store

2009: Scanner Pro launch

2010: Calendars & PDF Expert launch

2013: New and improved Documents launch

2014: Fluix launch

2015: Spark Mail launch

2018: Readdle hits 100M downloads and 135 employees

2019: Spark for Android launch

2021: Readdle voted 'one of the 30 best startups' by Forbes magazine

2022: Readdle hits 200M downloads of its products worldwide 

2023: Readdle is now 296 employees in over 30 global locations and growing! 

A shared vision: igniting productivity for millions of people 

While technology has increased the quality of our lives in multiple ways, it’s also created lots of challenges. Few of us really know how to switch off from our work lives or stay on top of tasks, because we’re permanently connected to our devices. 

By helping customers deal with files at speed, scan documents from their pocket, integrate calendars in one stylish product or seamlessly stay on top of their emails, Readdle sought to create more freedom in people’s lives. 

From its earliest days, long before ‘productivity’ became such a popular movement in the tech space, Readdle designed products that would reduce stress and promote healthier workflows and a better work/life balance. 

This is because of a core belief that technology should enhance rather than complicate people’s lives.  

To sum up, we remain hugely grateful to everyone who has been part of our journey and wish to thank you for your contribution. Here’s to many more successes, and anniversaries to come! 

The Readdle Team The Readdle Team

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