Snom, one of the co-founders of modern telecommunications, celebrates its 25th anniversary
Changes to our working lives have accelerated rapidly over the last two years. But if you consider how different the world looked back in 1997 – the entire lifespan of the Berlin-based telecommunications company, Snom Technology GmbH – it is clear that these changes pale in comparison to those brought on by technological advancements.
“When we started thinking about our company anniversary, we came to the playful conclusion that 25 years in IT is the equivalent of about 2,500 years in the rest of evolution”, says Heike Cantzler, Head of Marketing and PR at Snom. “If you consider that the first Nokia smartphone – the Communicator, weighing almost 0.5 kg – had just hit the market, and that the first clunky Nintendo console was considered the latest thing, the developments over the following decades are unbelievable!”
Snom’s founder, Christian Stredicke, first set off in a completely different direction, developing a competitive “scanning nearfield optical microscope” (or in short, ‘Snom’). Whether this goal failed due to the horrendous hardware costs of the microscope or the increasing fascination of the founders for the completely new medium of IP telephony, is not clear today. What is certain is that Snom retained its name and emerged as an integral part of the telephony community, developing SIPs (“Session Initiation Protocols“) and the first worldwide codec for voice transmission – all of it open source and freely available to everyone.
In 2001, Snom launched the world’s first commercially available IP phone, the snom 100, confirming the company’s status as a pioneer in the industry. Since then, the company has continued to match the pace of change, receiving a number of prestigious industry awards in the process.
“What followed was certainly a wonderful, but also very challenging, time”, according to Cantzler. “We were an internationally-orientated, industry-recognised company with almost no money - perseverance was required from all those involved. But in fact, many colleagues who were part of the Snom team in 2001 still work here, which is testament to the company’s resilience.”
Snom’s real success started in 2005. Although IP telephony was still considered exotic by many, the technology and understanding of voice-over IP (VoIP) prevailed, paving the way for the establishment of offices throughout Europe and the US. This international outlook is a key part of Snom’s operations today, enabling the company to seek new innovations across the world.
“From our own telephone system (a failure), to the connection of third-party systems for building management (very successful), and the development of high-quality DECT-over-IP phones (extremely successful), we have really tried out a lot of things right and left of the beaten track,” reveals Cantzler. “It was always important for us not to leave the actual path but to try out different possibilities. The fact that one direction was a success when another wasn’t is all part of the journey. I guess you could say we’ve learned from our mistakes!”
Since 2016, Snom has been part of the VTech Group, one of the largest worldwide providers in the DECT sector. That same year, Snom appointed Gernot Sagl as CEO, who has brought a period of stability to the company after some turbulent times.
“If anyone in 2016 had told me I’d still be happily managing the business at Snom in 2022, I would have at least questioned them,” says Sagl. “But Snom is so agile and always pointing itself towards what’s new – before you know it, six years have passed!”
At VTech, Snom is regarded as the specialist in the field of IP and has a free hand in development capacities. As a result, Snom was able to adjust to the demand for headsets and conference solutions during the sudden transition to remote working at great speed. At the same time, Snom enjoys Vtech’s support to think and research in other dimensions.
“The size of the group doesn’t stop us being Snom from Berlin. The company that, together with partners and customers, anticipates the needs and wishes of communication in the future and tries to bring the best solutions possible to the market – sometimes even customised. This may not always make us the quickest, but it makes us more reliable – even after 25 years, we are still curious about the future and what it will bring.”
For over ten years, Heike Cantzler has worked in the marketing and press office at Snom Technology and can not only look back on a very eventful company history, but also with curiosity about the future of communication.
Gernot Sagl was born in Carinthia, Austria, but has lived in Berlin for many years. He has extensive international management experience and, prior to his appointment as Snom CEO, was CFO at the well-known software manufacturer Betasystems for seven years.