Document productivity company Nitro, originally founded in Melbourne, Australia, will beef up its San Francisco headquarters after raising $15M from Bay Area venture capitalists (VCs) in a bid to go after the big fish of document management, including Adobe and Citrix.

Nitro's products, including Nitro Pro and Nitro Cloud, enable document sharing in the enterprise. This includes the ability to sign and share documents and exchange them on mobile devices.

Aussie Bossie

The company, founded by current CEO Sam Chandler in 2005, now has more than 160 employees and has raised more than $21.6 million. The company claims more than 490,000 active customers in nearly 200 countries. Chandler said in an email interview that it's now time for the company to scale up, and San Francisco was the right place to do it.

The company moved its headquarters from Australia to San Francisco about six years ago, mostly for strategic reasons. 

"We’ve had a San Francisco office for nearly six years, yet we hadn’t, until now, made the decision to raise money from US VCs," Chandler wrote. "We’re profitable, and so raising money is about accelerating our growth plans, investing in our roadmap, and scaling to support all our customers around the world."

The Nitro product is built around the idea of providing a more flexible rival to Adobe's Acrobat by enabling digital sharing and signing, to improve digital workflow and eliminate paper and faxing. Nitro also markets a cloud-based software to help employees and customers share, sign, approve, track and collaborate on documents.

Chandler says the company's chief rival is Adobe, but he doesn't believe Nitro competes with Google Docs. That's because the company is focused on collaboration and workflow, rather than sharing.

Focused on Freemium 

Chandler said the business model is "really simple. It’s classic freemium. We have free options for both Nitro Pro and Nitro Cloud, but when you need more features or functionality or enterprise support, we have premium options that cost money."

Nitro customers include AdRoll and KISSmetrics, and the company claims that 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies use the product. Key customers say the product can help streamline workflow by improving productivity through actions such as document sharing and signing, including employee job offer letters and new hires.

Alan Pelz-Sharpe, social business research director with 451 Research, thinks Nitro has done a good job differentiating itself by focusing on secure documents.

"There is a sub-set of the enterprise file sync and share market that is focused on secure documents," said Pelz-Sharpe. Nitro has "done a good job bundling together readable documents, in a common and trusted format, with embedded e-signatures."

Michael Brown, general partner at Battery Ventures, led the Nitro investment and will be joining Nitro's board. He believes that digital document collaboration is a growing market.

According to Australian publication Business Review Weekly (BRW), Chandler considered an IPO on the Australian stock market (ASX) before moving the company to San Francisco.