Startup Interview with Lev Bannov, Founder & CEO at ONLYOFFICE

SoftwareSuggest

SoftwareSuggest

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: May 18, 2021

The advent of office productivity suites have really transformed the terrain of business communications over the past decade. Besides simplifying communications, it has also saved time and resources for many around the globe, paving the way for better understanding and collaboration.

Thanks to the development of such software, our interactions today are way smoother, safer and faster. However, these tools can vary a lot from one another. While some come with hefty price tags, others have limited functionalities and features. There are only a handful names among office suites which gracefully combine utility and affordability; and the foremost among them is ONLYOFFICE, which has garnered praise from millions around the world. And who better than its founder Lev Bannov to tell us more about how it all started and the journey so far.

In conversation with Lev Bannov, the Founder & CEO of ONLYOFFICE.

What inspired you to start ONLYOFFICE?

The story of the ONLYOFFICE project started more than 10 years ago. We wanted to create something really exclusive and high-quality. We felt there was a lack of reliable and powerful online document editors which inspired us to fill the gap with a relevant product. Looking back on those times, we feel this step was a pathbreaker. We took a risky step and decided to create the first online document editor based on HTML5 Canvas. Even with all the challenges we faced, we succeeded! Surely, this technology will not surprise anyone nowadays but back then, it was a real breakthrough. So, ONLYOFFICE online editors became the heart of our project, offering a vast number of ideas and scope for further development and improvement.

ONLYOFFICE rose to universal office apps, used and appreciated by millions of people worldwide on their personal computers, mobile devices, local networks, and cloud.

How is ONLYOFFICE different from a wide range of other productivity suites available in the market?

Actually, there are very few good online editing tools that allow you to create comprehensive, multi-page, persuasive documents apart from just typing several lines.

Of course, there are Google Docs and MS Office Online but users always want to have the latest and most user-friendly features. Moreover many existing online office apps simply do not meet users’ requirements and expectations, and also do not comply with global standards.

Our main offering of ONLYOFFICE is surely online document editors. But we also provide collaborative integration with multiple productivity tools (document and project management, email, CRM, calendars, chat, etc.).

What’s the unique selling proposition of ONLYOFFICE online editors?

  • Rich functionality- ONLYOFFICE provides its users with best-in-breed online editors which are fully compatible with MS Office files (docx, xlsx, pptx), support other popular formats such as odf, txt, csv, etc, to ensure highest-quality text formatting and lets you implement extra features easily with plugins.
  • Seamless collaboration- You can collaborate docs with your team using real-time and paragraph-locking co-editing modes along with comments, track changes, built-in chat, document comparison, and version history. Flexible document permissions (read-only, review, comment, fill forms, custom filter) allow you to easily set up access levels.
  • Data security- GDPR compliant ONLYOFFICE provides you with a wide range of security features and services to ensure safety of your data on all fronts. It uses open-source code, data encryption, private server deployment, and JWT to protect documents from unauthorized access, configurable cache lifetime, restriction on copying, downloading and printing, watermarking, etc.
  • Flexibility and scalability- ONLYOFFICE is the best choice for companies seeking a secure cloud office that can closely fit their needs – be it a small firm, a big corporation, or even a home office. What’s important, you are free to choose how to use the online editors: together with ONLYOFFICE collaboration platform / within any sync&share or ECM service like Nextcloud, Alfresco, Confluence, Seafile, etc. integrated into the solution you’re building yourself.

What challenges do you face regularly, and how do you deal with them? In the highly competitive scenarios what is your vision for the growth of your brand?

The most important challenge for us is limited resources, especially time. Our customers often have interesting ideas for adding new features, new customization options, new document level permissions. Of course, it would be really great to put all the ideas into practice and to implement all the requests. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible.

Would you please name some of your prestigious and happy clients?

ONLYOFFICE’s customers are small and medium-sized businesses, large enterprises, government and public sector organizations, educational and science & research institutions, nonprofits, etc. We love all our customers for providing us with such a diverse set of requirements.

Speaking of well-known names, surely we can provide a few here:

There are customers who are using the complete self-hosted ONLYOFFICE solution to create a cross-functional working environment (e.g. Oracle, Rutgers University, French Red Cross, GIZ, DIPF, Government of the City of Hopewell).

There is quite a big pull of customers using ONLYOFFICE in combination with other sync&share / ECM solutions like Nextcloud, ownCloud, Seafile, Confluence, Alfresco, etc. (e.g. IIEP-UNESCO, CERN, Suzuki, AARNet, sciebo, GWDG).

There are big financial and technology corporations that integrate the editors in their own document management systems (e.g. Thomson Reuters, Deloitte, Fujitsu, Egress). https://www.onlyoffice.com/customers.aspx

Any new announcement or development that your users can expect in the near future?

Yes, certainly.

One of our priorities is, needless to say, data safety. You’ve surely heard of Virtual Data Room Software. From our point of view, the existing virtual data room software can’t ensure ultimate security, since user data is still available to the providers. We are now working on Private Rooms, in the real sense of the word, and we are going to make it really cool. The ONLYOFFICE Private Rooms feature will go to the next level of security for document editing and co-authoring. Stay tuned! We will share more details soon.

What we are also planning to do is to create multi-functional forms. However, we don’t want to create just something similar to Google Forms. Instead, it will be something like PDF for cloud, a tool for working with serious online documents that will help companies automate lots of their business processes.

According to you, what is success? How do you measure it?

Success for me is appreciation and recognition from our product users. Naturally we love it when our product is in demand. And if there is a demand for the product, financial success will eventually follow.

If not ONLYOFFICE, what would you be doing differently?

We’ve already engaged ourselves with the development of online editors and we love it. However, if we are simply talking about things that I find interesting, I would say – artificial intelligence. I think this field is really promising.

How do you keep yourself motivated and updated?

Our competitors. They always keep us on our toes and therefore we always strive to become even better and more productive. Healthy competition is always a good reason to stay motivated and updated.

Any advice you would like to give to emerging entrepreneurs?

Find your niche, your lifetime project. Find things you are really good at and where you can be better than others. If you have already found your lifetime project, constantly develop it without losing faith in the idea and yourself.

Look to the future and don’t devote your time to the things you don’t like as it can distract you from self-improvement and inspiration.

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