The new century’s new era of computing
For developers, the early 2000s were a time when increases in computing power led to sophisticated, robust platforms, making software development markedly more productive than it had ever been before. Java had been on the scene for years, and now Microsoft was developing the .NET Framework.
At this pivotal time in the development of computers and software, eight residents in North Carolina’s hub of technology, the Research Triangle Park (RTP), decided to start a company that would capitalize upon their knowledge of C++ and software components, producing controls and frameworks that fit neatly into the emerging ecosystem of .NET.
2021 marked Syncfusion’s twentieth anniversary—a time to recollect the people, events, challenges, and opportunities that allowed the organization to grow from a fledgling startup to an established company. Today, with three international offices and more than 1,000 employees, Syncfusion supports thousands of companies as they endeavor to build top-tier software.
A convergence of visions
Syncfusion started with an idea. But that idea, on its own, could never manifest the company as it is today. It took ambitious people, sharing a mindset, intersecting at the right time, all having worked in software, who could see an opportunity only their collective skills could address: That development needed to be easier, faster, and more predictable.
Credited for that are the original eight founders of Syncfusion:
- Stefan Hoenig, current Chairman of the Board and President, who was the company’s first CEO and architect of its most well-known product, Essential Grid.
- Clay Burch, who was instrumental in setting up Syncfusion’s support system and was highly involved in its product development.
- Daniel Jebaraj, who was involved with multiple products early on, notably Essential Chart, and currently serves as Syncfusion’s CEO.
- Davis Jebaraj, Daniel’s brother who was involved in the development of several key, early products, including Essential Tools.
Additionally, Praveen Ramesh, Prakash Surendra, and Arun Srinivasan played indispensable roles in product development and infrastructure, and Ellis Gregory, an experienced RTP-based entrepreneur, was also an important figure in the company’s incarnation.
The initial offering
One evening in March of 2002, the team eagerly awaited a milestone that would be the first of many. All the previous year’s work and effort led up to it—the launch of their first product, a bundle of software libraries called Essential Suite.
The first software license sold, and there was a collective sigh of relief. But that satisfaction came with a twinge of anxiety. How would the product be received? Customers need support, as is always the case with software. Did Syncfusion have a speedy enough mechanism in place to deliver it?
This concern abated as more and more licenses sold, and Syncfusion was able to handle the expected increase in support cases. The team settled into a comfortable spot, assured that their exertions had not been in vain.
The feedback Syncfusion received didn’t just indicate that customers liked the product; it showed that they wanted more of it—more controls with newer features. A challenge Syncfusion would rise to meet.
Though the work wouldn’t get easier, the company’s sense of purpose would grow. Syncfusion had developed 33 controls by April 2004, gaining a broader base of customers who would eventually become a firm set of followers eagerly awaiting each new release. This earned Syncfusion the distinction of being named to the SD Times 100 list.
When giants aren’t looking the same way
When Syncfusion was created, the software component market was fragmented. Industry giants specialized in specific controls and dominated those markets alone. This left developers cobbling together applications reliant on products from multiple companies. At that time, there was no reliable single source developers could call upon for all their components. Deeply rooted in development, the company understood this issue.
Syncfusion realized how beneficial it would be to establish itself as a primary provider of everything needed to build a complex application. For that approach to succeed, however, Syncfusion would have to ensure that each component it produced was highly competitive when measured against those of existing vendors. But would that be enough?
As a company passionate about code, it knew what would be even more appealing: access to the heart of its controls. Taking a bold step, it offered source code to its customers, something no competing company was willing to do.
This was immensely meaningful to developers. That level of access to the inner workings of a wide range of controls, all from the same vendor, propelled sales of Essential Suite to new highs. The company had transformed from a good place to pick up one or two controls, to a bastion of everything a developer would ever need.
Growing products, nurturing innovation
In the coming years, Syncfusion would eventually make the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies list. Its success was propelled by how quickly it could adapt and build controls for new development platforms, which were being released or updated at an incredible pace.
Its initial product line, based on WinForms, grew to include WPF and ASP.NET. Eventually its web offering would cover everything from ASP.NET Core to Blazor to Flutter.
Syncfusion was early-to-market with Xamarin controls in 2017; a WinUI offering was released in 2020; and a slew of enterprise frameworks first developed in 2009 would eventually comprise the dashboard, report, and e-signature platforms now known as Syncfusion’s Bold line of products: Bold BI, Bold Reports, and BoldSign.
For shorter interludes, its product line included a Windows Phone offering, a suite for Silverlight (while Silverlight lasted), and Orubase—a Syncfusion-built framework for creating hybrid apps. The company exhibited its willingness to delve expediently into new territory, carving new paths and giving developers ready access to new technologies. Eventually the startup emerged as a polished twenty-first century enterprise hewn from the challenges of its early days.
Years of exponential growth
The number of achievements and accolades grew in tandem with the number of people Syncfusion hired. Its rapid growth required professionals in sales, support, and accounting. The company was transforming from a scrappy collection of multitasking individuals who daily sustained Syncfusion by applying the sheer will for there to be a company called Syncfusion, to a seamless group who divvyed up duties and trusted each other to carry them out.
In 2005, Syncfusion signed its first global license agreement, leading to the adoption of Syncfusion controls in industries such as finance, healthcare, and energy. Essential Suite became Essential Studio, and to meet the rising demand, Syncfusion went global, opening an office in Chennai, Tamil Nadu on the southeast coast of India.
Initially serving as a technical support office, the Chennai location eventually expanded to take a more active role in product development, making it one of the first support operations in India to make such a transition. Now with three office locations—one recently opened in Kisumu, Kenya—and more than 1,000 employees worldwide, Syncfusion’s international operations are integral to every aspect of the company.
Reaching out, giving back
Two years after the launch of Essential Suite, Syncfusion joined the Microsoft Visual Studio Partner Program, cementing its position in the Microsoft ecosystem. By way of this connection, Syncfusion could more readily hear the discussions among developers who were early adopters of .NET, leading the company to recognize how it could play an important role in encouraging and supporting acceptance of Microsoft’s new platform.
This was the impetus for the development of many unique resources, tools, and programs designed to help developers improve their work.
Emboldening the developer community became an imperative for the company—a mission that went well beyond self-serving interest. Harnessing the insight gained from working with WinForms, Syncfusion and George Shepherd, a technology consultant, published the WinForms FAQ in June of 2002. One of the most exhaustive and practical WinForms guides of its time, the FAQ saved many developers from the drudgery of having to figure out issues on their own, rescuing many projects, and perhaps even a career or two.
Today, Syncfusion’s FAQ is still a second-to-none resource for developers seeking .NET answers, including WPF, ASP.NET, and now Blazor.
Metro Studio: a design asset
In 2012, there was an emerging concept in UI design simply called “flat.” Until then, standard iconography produced icons with an illusion of realness and three-dimensional styling—giving buttons drop shadows and making calendar icons appear to have a page corner peeling back. Flat design, however, favored the simplicity of two-dimensional design, requiring less rendering and hence appealing more to those designing apps for mobile devices.
To aid development teams who were transitioning their UIs to this new paradigm, Syncfusion donated Metro Studio to the developer-designer community. Any icon in the studio (a collection numbering more than 7,000) could be modified for color and size and combined to create over 100,000 unique UI elements.
Metro Studio has been updated over the years to be even more powerful, allowing developers and designers to do more in the course of creating and using icons for app development. With 170,000 downloads in the last nine years, this developer asset still proves to be a valued tool in anyone’s UI workshop.
The Succinctly series: liberating knowledge
Guiding a technology company’s path forward requires one to be a faithful reader of innumerable blogs, countless pages of documentation, and hefty books that target readers with an excess of information—more than an experienced developer needs, or perhaps even wants, to know. When CEO Daniel Jebaraj realized there was a better way—that most developers simply needed the essentials of a technology (an endeavor requiring no more than 100 pages)—the idea for the Succinctly series of ebooks was born.
The series’ first title, jQuery Succinctly by Cody Lindley, was published in 2012 and made freely available to the public. Since then, the series has attracted dozens of the best authors in the software industry, and more than four million copies of their books have been downloaded.
Syncfusion’s approach to writing about technology is unique, not only for its conciseness, but also for its method of teaching. Each book leans not on the theoretical way to use a technology, but on the best way as based on the author’s real-world expertise. This approach involves building a project piece by piece while moving through the book chapter by chapter. That’s why so many of the titles are packed with sample code that can be downloaded, so readers can gain firsthand experience on how the code works.
The Succinctly series library now contains more than 200 titles, ranging from books on artificial intelligence to web technologies. Every year more and more titles are added, and they will always be free to read.
Syncfusion Community License
The release of Visual Studio Community Edition in 2014 was an influential move by Microsoft. It demonstrated how making the tools of software production freely available to students and individuals could enhance their education and development. Syncfusion was so inspired by this that it introduced its own Community License, connecting individual developers and small software shops with all Syncfusion’s products.
Since its inception, more than 154,065 licenses have been claimed, resulting in over $1.9 billion worth of Syncfusion products that have been given freely to eligible developers, and those numbers continue to increase.
An alliance of partners
In 2017, Syncfusion launched the Alliance Partner Program, building up its relationships with software consultants and DevOps companies by providing them with access to a full range of enterprise solutions and supporting them in their efforts to land clients and grow their businesses.
By partnering with Syncfusion, select consultancies can differentiate themselves from their competitors by offering their customers a deep level of customization with applications built upon Syncfusion’s frameworks.
With numerous Alliance Partners, and an ever-increasing interest in participation, the Alliance Partner Program has proven to be a key cultivator of Syncfusion’s business relationships and a means by which the company goes further than simply supporting customers; it fosters genuinely meaningful partnerships.
A company is only as great as the sum faith of those who believe in it—those who see the company not only for what it is, but for all it can be. The origin of Syncfusion is a story of passionate developers so dedicated to the life of coding that they sincerely wanted all developers to easily create applications fully embracing the power brought about by a new age of computing.
The immutable passion that launched the company is the same force that propels it today. Its current offering consists of more than 1,700 components and frameworks that are constantly being updated and improved. Syncfusion remains steadfast in exploring new domains. Its venture into business solutions with the Bold line of products—Bold BI, Bold Reports, and BoldSign—demonstrates its drive to always build upon the expertise and value that established it as a leader in the software industry.
Recently, on an unusually warm day for early December, some of the founders and many of the employees based in Syncfusion’s Raleigh-Durham (RDU) office met in a park near RTP to celebrate the company’s 20-year journey.
It was the first major company gathering since the RDU office closed in the early months of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a wonderful opportunity for employees to reconnect and catch up with people they hadn’t seen in a year and a half. As members of the leadership team addressed the audience, long-time employees stood beside new and listened to reflections on the early days of the company. CEO Daniel Jebaraj, speaking about the company’s path forward, emphasized that Syncfusion would continue to focus on innovative business products that are reliable, are robust, and will always make a developer’s life easier.