Bertrand Schmitt is the CEO of App Annie. He is a technology entrepreneur with 14 years of executive experience in the mobile, Internet and analytics space across Europe, US and Asia. Previously, he was VP Mobile for Gomez, which was acquired in 2009 by Compuware for $295 million dollars, and before that he was COO and VP Marketing at Zandan, which was acquired by Keynote Systems. Bertrand has also held a management role at Neocom Multimedia and further, a founder role at Arkadia Netsystems. Bertrand holds an MBA from The Wharton School and a Master in Computer Science from ISEP, France.
An experienced and well known tech-entrepreneur who has been covered by the likes of Bloomberg and other prominent media agencies, he speaks to The Asian Entrepreneur today about his latest venture and his thoughts on entrepreneurship.
What exactly is App Annie?
App Annie is the leading provider of app analytics products and is the industry standard when it comes to app market data. Marketers, app developers, brand managers and financial analysts rely on App Annie data to make smarter decisions about their apps and app related business strategies. App Annie data and products are used by over 90 percent of the Top 100 grossing iOS publishers. More than 375,000 apps rely daily on App Annie Analytics to track their downloads, revenues, rankings and reviews daily. App Annie tracks the most downloads and revenues of any app store market data company to date, at over 36 billion downloads and more than US $9 billion in app store revenues.
App Annie currently has three products, Store Stats, Analytics and Intelligence. Store Stats is a free product that tracks the ranking by revenues and downloads for over 4 million apps across six major app stores daily. With over 190,000 registered users, Store Stats tracks rank history, feature history and reviews, and contains detailed background information for each app. 50,000 App Publishers rely on App Annie’s Analytics product, also free, which offers them a unified dashboard for tracking downloads, revenues, reviews and rank history for their own apps across iTunes, Google Play and Amazon, and an ever growing list of ad networks.
Finally, App Annie Intelligence is App Annie’s premium product, which provides download and revenue estimates for apps worldwide by publisher, category and country. Users can access this data through data file, web visualization, API or the BI Tool Tableau. This powerful market data has a variety of uses from competitive intelligence, to business and product strategy, which can all be used to give app publishers, digital executives, marketers and investors the unique insights they need to create winning business strategies. App Annie is a privately held global company of more than 160 employees with offices in San Francisco, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Shanghai, Seoul, and Tokyo. Investors include e.ventures, Greycroft Partners, IDG Capital Partners, Infinity Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital.
How did the idea for App Annie come about?
App Annie was founded to help app publishers have better access to their own data as well as data around the market, in order to make informed business decisions. We too had been in the same position, developing apps but struggling to make sense of the data available from the stores in a coherent fashion. As we developed tools for ourselves, we realized how useful these tools would be to all developers, not just us and so we decided to release Store Stats and Analytics to the public for free. They were the first free products of their kind on the market and quickly developed cult status within the app developer community, spreading internationally with zero marketing. Founded in 2010, App Annie has grown to become by far the most popular analytics tool in the app publishing space, relied upon by more than 375,000 apps and with nearly 190,000 registered users of the product.
Could you walk us through the process of starting App Annie?
Answered through the above question8. How has it been like managing the business since?We have gone through phenomenal growth and international expansion and I’m very proud of the team and products we’ve built. In the past three years by satisfying users and clients worldwide, we’ve grown to 160 employees, opened 8 offices internationally across 6 countries and raised $22 million in funding. One thing we’ve really done differently is to grow an international business almost from the beginning. Not only did we have multiple offices very early on, our sales have come from a diverse set of countries in our three main regions, APAC, North America and EMEA. Also, we innovated by building a freemium B2B SaaS business model, providing a free service first, which really helped us differentiate from the competition. We’ve done this, all while maintaining a software startup culture that focuses on innovation, quality and customer service.
Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup?
Starting an international company from Beijing was not always easy, we needed international people for the business side and Chinese engineers in high demand for the technical side. Our first VC investment from IDG Capital really helped us get visibility and interest from early team members.
Was it hard to build the reception for AppAnnie?
We were very fortunate to have built a product that from day one was designed to solve a real world problem for app publishers for free. That gave us an enormous advantage and we were able to grow our user base rapidly mostly through word of mouth and CEO, becoming a “go to” product in no time. From that strong base, we were able to expand our product offering to include three main product lines. That’s not to mention that our data accuracy from the beginning has been and is second to none, which has placed us right in the epicenter of the booming App Economy. Having access to such valuable data has certainly made our jobs easier.
What is your strategy against your competition?
Being the clear market leader for all our products, there is not much direct competition, but we are always keeping our eye out for the potential competitors just around the corner. Our strategy is to keep innovating while focusing on keeping our customers happy. By providing superior products, and stay ahead of the curve, we are creating a successful long term business.
What can you tell us about the industry?
The mobile apps industry is an extremely high paced environment with innovation occurring constantly. Some of the early global successes were replaced by freemium games with near global appeal (Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Puzzle & Dragons) at huge scale. In addition, we’ve seen the rise of photo sharing and messaging apps culminating with Instagram, Viber & WhatsApp acquisitions.In the hardware space we’ve seen the rise of increasingly bigger smartphones, as well as the rise of the tablets as PC replacement/companion. Add to that the rise of a huge Chinese smartphone market with completely different dynamics through local Android platforms. With the fierce worldwide competition between iOS, Android & others, it’s shaping up to be a compelling moment in history.
How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?
App Annie has managed to stay relevant by having the most accurate data available in the market, and by constantly adding new features and products, such as eBooks, ad analytics, etc. Our indexes and market reports, released with the likes of IDC and IHS have become hot commodities, and we’re always keeping an eye on what new data we have that can create even more exciting insights the world can see.
What does the future hold for App Annie?
There are many exciting developments on the horizon, and frankly, we’re announcing new things on almost a monthly basis. We want to provide a platform where app publishers, marketers, brand managers and investors can get useful data for their apps, great market intelligence and extract actionable insights for creating a better business. You may have gathered some of this by some of our most recent announcements around support for eBooks, and very importantly, through our support for advertising networks in our Analytics product. We want to be the go to product when it comes to business KPIs and digital content.
What do you think about startups in Asia?
For developers especially, Asia represents a huge opportunity. China, Japan and South Korea are all booming markets for games, messaging and other apps and we expect that to continue for quite some time. It helps to be familiar with the local business customs as a startup in Asia. For example, while we are a B2B business, China regulations are very focused on the business-to-consumer (B2C) side, so if you’re working with consumers you need to be more careful. But China also offers the ability to recruit the right people without being prohibitively expensive for starting operations, so entrepreneurs shouldn’t shy away.I chose to start App Annie in China for several reasons, but first and foremost because of the opportunity to find talent, start inexpensively and grow. The market is vast and even with big players there is plenty of room for new technology. Beijing and Shanghai also manage to attract a lot of very talented international people and for an international business like App Annie, that’s very important.
What are some personal principles that guide your company?
Being honest, being aggressive at growing the company, thinking analytically, getting things done, combine different styles/cultures and being design focused. These are all key principles that guide my career.
What is your definition of success?
Having a positive measurable impact on our industry, deliver valuable services to our customers, treating employees well, satisfying shareholders, all while scaling fast and having a good time doing it.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
App Annie is not my first startup, I started my first company at age 21. Both times it was a passion for the mobile industry, building new cutting edge B2B products that nobody thought of before, and having the freedom to decide my own directions that drove me to being an entrepreneur.
What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
Success is not usually a straight line, there are bumps in the road and you have to anticipate and deal with them. Make sure your team shares your vision and be very focused as it’s easy to have ideas, but difficult to execute many. Also, don’t grow internationally too late.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
You have to move fast or someone else will be faster. Remember that it’s important to be both tactical and strategic. Bring great people to your team, get investors you can trust, love and breath your industry and enjoy what you do.