Skype’s mission to become a ‘billion users’ company

Skype is known around the globe for providing exciting ways […]

April 5, 2013

Skype is known around the globe for providing exciting ways for people to connect, developing communications to further benefit people, organizations and businesses everywhere. Since its inception in 2003, Skype hasn’t stopped growing and now has 300 million users connected monthly. Enabling users to make free video and voice calls, send instant messages and files to other Skype users, and allow people around the world to make low-cost calls to landlines and mobiles, the company’s ambition is to become everyone’s communication provider of choice and reach billions of daily users.

Since Skype was acquired, Microsoft has continued to invest in and support Skype clients on multiple platforms. The acquisition has also provided opportunities to extend the value of Skype to other Microsoft products and services – Skype for Windows 8, Messenger, Bing, Office, Lync, as well as the expected integration are just the first steps. More than ever, Skype is user-centric and will do everything to deliver the products consumers want to the market. Skype will be watching closely how these developments will continue for years to come.

An interview with Mr. Neil Ward, VP and General Manager, Skype

  • Neil, could you tell us about Skype’s history and what has happened since it was acquired by Microsoft in October 2011?

This is something of a Luxembourg-Estonia success story: one of our first investors was Mangrove Capital – a Luxembourg-based VC. Skype was purchased by eBay in 2005 before being acquired by a consortium of investors led by Silver Lake in 2009. Then, in October 2011, came the acquisition by Microsoft and Skype’s integration into the organization as a stand-alone
business group.

Skype has grown exponentially over the past nine years. We currently have 300 million users connected monthly who, in the last quarter of 2012, made over 138 billion minutes of calls. Our business footprint has grown from European to global with offices around the world, including key sites in Tallinn (engineering); Stockholm (engineering); London (engineering and marketing); Luxembourg (Finance, Operations and Corporate HQ) and Palo Alto (engineering and marketing).
Through Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype we have seen the bringing together of two great brand stories. We’re extending Skype’s world-class reach and multi-platform value proposition, while enhancing Microsoft’s existing portfolio of communications products. The goal is that Skype and Microsoft will introduce new and exciting ways for people to connect—and make Skype the communications choice for billions of people every day.

  • What is Skype’s business position within Microsoft? What are your expectations for the brand with the integration of Messenger?

Skype operates as an independent business unit within Microsoft and this structure aims to preserve the creative DNA that has been critical to Skype’s success. However, by working with Microsoft we want to simplify things for our users while continuously improving the overall experience. The upgrade to Messenger made sense in this respect. With Skype, Messenger users can gain new instant messaging features, accessing great communications experiences on tablets, and connecting with friends in groups and in new places like Facebook. We’re excited for Messenger users to experience the breadth and richness of Skype and enable even more people all over the world to chat and collaborate in new and
different ways.

  • One of the best things with Skype is that it’s not only about technology but it’s also about putting the user at the heart of the solution…

Since day one, our strategy has always been user-centric. It has been really refreshing for us to see the scale on which Microsoft can add value in this respect – enabling us to provide our users with even better support and ask questions like ‘what else would users like us to do?’ As a result, we’ve been more intuitive and opportunistic in developing our products in a way that really benefits our user base.

  • How do you see Skype in the new multi-device approach?

Skype is now at the heart of daily life which means it needs to be everywhere –
whether you’re at home in front of your TV, at work in front of your desktop, or on the go with your tablet or mobile. As such, we remain committed to delivering great experiences across platforms. Microsoft has pledged that Skype will continue to be available broadly to consumers so that they can continue using the features they already know and love across their devices – including non-Microsoft platforms.

  • You also created partnerships with social networks and operators. What is Skype’s ecosystem right now?

Our core strategy is to be available to users across multiple platforms, devices and networks, which is how today users on any carrier can get Skype on their iPhone, Android device or Windows Phone. It’s in our DNA and won’t change. Our main co-marketing program for apps is open to all operators, allowing them to promote our smartphone applications in connection with their devices and data plans.

  • Do you see the growth of video calls vs. traditional voice calls affected by the new 4G, LTE or the fiber-to-the-home project?

We see the evolution of infrastructure as a key contributor to the development of our services – with 4G will come the ability to refine our HD capability. We also predict a range of new devices taking advantage of these improved networks, which we perceive as future platform opportunities for Skype.

  • Companies like Skype or Amazon have done a lot in terms of creating needs and opportunities, as well as a business impact for the country. Are you aware that you completely changed the landscape of Luxembourg?

It’s very humbling to see the brand recognized so broadly in Luxembourg. We are very fortunate to have great relationships with the government and local ambassadors that have enabled us to achieve this, in addition to the EU access points and Microsoft’s presence in the region. However, this is just the beginning – Microsoft’s and Skype’s presence here is something that will continue as we pursue our growth and – in doing so – create more opportunities for Luxembourg.

  • You also mentioned the numbers of talented people you locally attracted in Luxembourg, many of them being expats. How do you personally feel about Luxembourg as a country?

Understandably it’s more difficult to find talent in a smaller country than it might be in the US, for example. Fortunately in Luxembourg we have some key expertise that can operate locally, and a government committed to refining infrastructure and providing education necessary to scale technology and development in the future.

  • Are people aware that Skype is partially based in Luxembourg?

Yes, we believe so. It’s been a long-term commitment to the region that we continue to grow here.

  • What is Skype’s next big step?

Skype and Microsoft will introduce new and exciting ways for people to connect—with an aim to make Skype the communications choice for a billion people every day. Right now, Skype is a great brand that’s recognized worldwide as synonymous with video calling. We’ll continue to develop the experience we all know and love, staying true to the purpose of helping families and loved ones, friends and colleagues, businesses and partners, do things together whenever they’re apart.

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