Success Story

How Smallpdf grew from a one-man project to a multi-million users app

Catering to +25 million users, Smallpdf is making the world a better working place.

Smallpdf Success Story

~ Henry Ford

It is difficult to pin-point a mantra to success, but there is no doubt that it comes to those who think before doing and never procrastinate when the time of action arrives. One classic example of such leaders who gave “thinking” the first seat, rather than using their talents in exchange of money, is the trio of Swiss entrepreneurs Lino Teuteberg, Mathis Büchi, and Manuel Stofer who co-founded the digital company Smallpdf in 2013. Today they offering 20 tools in 24 languages, with +25 million users around the world. Their latest offering the PDF Scanner app has been able to garner more than 1.5 million downloads and +4.6 star ratings on Apple store and Google Play Store, in less than a year. 

Over a conversation with the MobileAppDaily team, the Senior Project Manager of Smallpdf, Darko Luković explained many reasons for their consistent success, not with just the PDF Scanner app, but with their other products as well. He has been driving the App’s path and success since its inception. 

The Beginning

Founded in 2013, Smallpdf offered just the web app with a single tool, a PDF compressor. Hence, the name Smallpdf. Addressing the real-world problem of every day working and documentation related issues, Smallpdf launched 20 products addressing different documentation related problems. Some of their popular tools are CompressPDF, PDF Converter, PDF editor and many more. In late 2019, Smallpdf launched its latest product, PDF Scanner. After all, not very many people own a scanner, but more than half the world’s population (52%) surfs the internet on a mobile device.

Darko Luković

Darko Luković was Smallpdf’s first-hire. Soon enough, he hired an iOS and an Android developer, bringing the team total up to three. A year later, the mobile team comprises ten people working exclusively on the development and design of native solutions.

Milestones reached in a year

Smallpdf’s Scanner app launched its Minimum Value Product (MVP) successfully in the first quarter of 2020. In the second quarter, they were able to release their compressor and converter tools for mobile devices. Battling the challenges of the pandemic, The PDF editor, which lets the user add text, highlight, draw, and organize pages, followed in the third quarter. Now, in the fourth quarter, PDF Scanner has reached the most remarkable milestone yet of over 1.5 million app downloads. 

Milestones reached in a year

Source of motivation

The founders of Smallpdf wanted to solve people’s everyday problems. PDFs have revolutionaries how we have been working, but still, there are many issues which hinder the working process. The huge file size, device sharing limitations and limited access are some of the issues which still keep standard PDF as something you have to workaround. The world is changing and even before pandemic everything was getting digitized and paperless. There was a need for something which can take the ease of working online to the next level. And that is what inspired the founders of Smallpdf. Today, what inspires Smallpdf is the users’ feedback, high ratings and praise. They are currently at 4.7stars for the iOS app and 4.6stars for Android. Even after seven years of their inception, they are standing strong with their principals and working to create better tools making digital documentation easy. 

Source of motivation

Dealing with the Pandemic

Smallpdf did not slow down during the Pandemic, instead re-thought how best to collaborate. They relied heavily on Miro and Figma to help them stay as efficient and as effective as before. 

Future Vision

Smallpdf has come a long way since its inception. From a 3-men start-up, it has grown into a company with 50 experts working in 5 cities to serve more than 25 million users across the globe. Smallpdf is making a difference in the everyday lives of millions of people who play vital roles in our society. Smallpdf is making those everyday tasks easy. Their plans are also the testament of their ideology. They plan to launch an e-signature tool and multi-device pdf updates within the next few years. The e-signature tools will make signing documents digitally easy. Imagine being in New Jersey and signing a document in London, Smallpdf’s e-signing tool will make that happen. In the next 5 years, Smallpdf will be able to update a pdf on multiple devices, in real-time, even when editing is done through any one device. Their goal is to serve their family of users with their tools and make the world a better working place. 

Advice for the newcomers

On advising new entrepreneurs, Darko said, ”Don't try to reinvent the wheel. But build upon what other people have already done well”. He added that entrepreneurs should look around them and find problems for which there are no suitable solutions. But so much has been done already, that finding a unique problem is difficult. Rather one should take an existing solution which can be improved and make it better. Keep things shorter and simpler than you usually would and make sure you keep making yourself better to become an ultimate success. Focus on the app's core feature and try to release updates as frequently as possible. Finally, stay up-to-date with mobile-specific best practices and industry trends in general. Once you are on the right path, better opportunities will keep knocking on your door. 


In just seven years, the Smallpdf brand has become a household name. I believe that’s one reason they were able to achieve +25 million users in seven years coming again and again on different platforms, is the way they address real-world problems and provide solutions which make a difference. If you find out how you can add value in something existing, you can be a great success as well.

Key Takeaways

  • Smallpdf grew from a team of 3 to a team of 50 in a year.
  • App developers should focus on real-life problem solving for making their apps successful.
  • Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Build something upon what other people have already done well.
  • Rethinking how to collaborate during lockdown efficiently has added in the company’s constant growth.
  • While planning an app, keep things short and simple.
  • A product is never perfect. There is always room for improvement.
Aparna <span>Growth Strategist</span>
Written By
Aparna Growth Strategist

Aparna is a growth specialist with handsful knowledge in business development. She values marketing as key a driver for sales, keeping up with the latest in the Mobile App industry. Her getting things done attitude makes her a magnet for the trickiest of tasks. In free times, which are few and far between, you can catch up with her at a game of Fussball.

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