Free is a good price. Just ask AVG Technologies, which announced today that active users for its antivirus software have now surpassed 110 million.
The Amsterdam-based company gives away its antivirus software for free. Most people use the software for free, but they can also pay to upgrade it to a full-featured security software suite. Back in October, the company said it had 85 million users, so the growth rate is impressive.
The company announced today that it will keep J.R. Smith as the chief executive as the company prepares for an initial public offering at an unspecified point in the future.
In each of the last three years, the company has posted a 75 percent increase in revenues. Dale Fuller, chairman of AVG, said that the board was initially looking for a CEO who had experience taking companies through public offerings — an experience that Smith does not have. But after another successful year, Fuller said that Smith’s ability to execute and his vision are far more valuable to the company.
AVG offered its first suite of free software in 2005 and launched its ninth version in October. In 2009, it averaged more than 1.5 million downloads per week, and total downloads in the year surpassed 251 million. Of the 110 million users, it’s not clear exactly how many are paying for premium software.
Microsoft announced last October that it was going to launch its own free antivirus software, Microsoft Security Essentials. While Microsoft is offering bare bones protection for free, AVG has added a lot of protection over the years through the acquisition of startups.
The company makes money by selling a paid version of its software starting at $34.99. With that, you get customer support, protection from infections via instant messenger chat, and a “root kit” that can protect against hidden threats. Future expansion areas include protection for cell phones and Mac computers. AVG was founded more than 18 years ago. In 2006, the company received $52 million in private equity investments from Intel and Enterprise Investors. Benson Oak Capital also owns about 35 percent of the company. Smith joined in 2007 and the company has since managed to fend off challengers and keep growing.