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Bertrand Schmitt, Founder of App Annie

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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.

Bertrand Schmitt

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.

Bertrand Schmitt 3

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.

Bertrand Schmitt 2

 

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.

Connect
Website: http://www.appannie.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AppAnnie

Callum Connects

Norman Tien, Founder of Neuromath and Early Math Matters

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From a young age, Norman Tien, found his passion helping students as a math tutor and went on to translate that into a successful business.

What’s your story?
From the age of 14, I knew I would be in business for myself and started designing my company logo.

Growing up in a poor family, I worked part time while I was in school. That’s when I started tutoring and realised I had a gift to help students “see” mathematics. I delivered good results, and my students started to love math as well.

A turning point was when I was down with dengue fever and I realised I had to grow my business to the next level. I started a learning centre and that was the beginning of Neuromath. The initial years were tough as costs went up while my personal income took a dive. I almost gave up, but I pushed through.

Today, we have 3 specialty math enrichment centres managed and delivered by my dedicated team of teachers.

What excites you most about your industry?
“How to win” has always influenced how I position myself in the industry. I researched the psychology of learning, why some students are so naturally good at math, while others struggled. I managed to find the connection, and have always sought out niches to position myself so I can win.

In the beginning, I fused academic delivery with psychology to differentiate my services. Now I have a good team of teachers fully equipped with a psychological skillset.

In the next evolution of our business, we will incorporate technology into education in order to customise each student’s learning experience based on his or her needs.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and educated in Singapore. One key driver why I started a business was, as a youth, I witnessed how my dad struggled daily as a taxi driver trying to make ends meet.

That said, I am very blessed to be in Singapore and to be given the right education. I see this as a very important factor to my success today.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore – well, for one, most of my businesses are here. Singapore is convenient for business and is very well governed. There are rules and systems that make the entire entrepreneurial journey more secure here. One big plus is the location: Singapore is a hub that allows us to connect to the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
船到桥头自然直 –
There is a Chinese saying that when a boat goes near the pier, it will automatically align itself (with the current). It means we don’t have to worry too much, that things will take care of themselves.

A mentor once challenged me: “But who can guarantee you can even reach the pier?”

It is such a highly competitive world we are in, who can guarantee success? This is the ONE question that has been etched in my mind for decades. The Chinese saying always comes to mind when I am positioning, designing and strategizing for my business.

Who inspires you?
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – The fact that he started ruling the country just like a startup. With limited resources, he was able to find a strong positioning to differentiate his country from the rest of the of Asia. With hardwork and proper planning, he transformed Singapore from a fishing village to a prominent financial hub in Asia.

Because Mr. Lee Kuan Yew positioned Singapore so well, government owned companies, such as Singapore Airlines, have emerged as the best in the world.

His story inspires me, spurs me to understand that success is not by chance but by design – every little step, all the strategies are all planned out. Not at all by chance.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
My business coach, Marshall Thurber, shared with me the power of the “Trim Tab” – a small part of the rudder system in a ship. This Trim Tab, despite its small size, is able to influence the entire ship’s direction by turning it.

This metaphor helped me see that a man can influence the entire world if the right effort is applied. We are now living in an entirely new world, the way we commute with an app on the phone – that’s the power of the Trim Tab at work.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would embark on the same journey but I would seek a mentor at a very early age.

I have been through many hard knocks along the way, and I definitely could have shortened the learning curve if I had a mentor to advise me on the many aspects of entrepreneurship.

How do you unwind?
Driving down long highways helps me unwind, that’s when I let my mind relax and wander.

I love long distance driving and riding. My wife gave me a Harley Davidson Tourer for my 50th birthday and we intend to embark on riding holidays together in Asia.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Hong Kong – I love the fast pace and the vibrance of the city. I love the cars there and it’s a very unique and exciting experience for me. And of course, I love the food there too!

Everyone in business should read this book:
One Minute Millionaire – this book highlights the mindset of an individual that is the key determinant for success in whatever we embark on. As long as we know we have a very strong reason why we need to do it, we can do it!

Shameless plug for your business:
I am the CEO and Founder of 2 Math enrichment brands:
Neuromath is a Specialist Math Learning Centre that helps students from Primary 1 to Junior College, empowering them with strategies, skills and a strong desire to learn and problem solve. We use technology to train students to avoid careless mistakes reclaiming 30 marks or more in Math exams and achieve their full potential in math.
www.neuromath.com.sg

Early Math Matters is a premier Mathematics and Cognitive Development enrichment centre for preschool children aged 3-6 years old. Through purposeful play and our renowned EMM approach, we help learners build a strong foundation for problem solving at an early age, and instil in them a passion & love for math that will stay with them for life.
www.earlymathmatters.com

We are actively seeking passionate teachers, entrepreneurs and investors who are keen to grow the education business with us.

How can people connect with you?
I speak regularly at workshops for schools, parents and platforms demonstrating the use of technology for peak performance in education.

Do contact me at
www.NormanTien.com

Alternatively, you can connect with me:
www.NormanTien.com/facebook
www.NormanTien.com/linkedin

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Mikyung Kim, TV Commercial Producer

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Mikyung Kim is a savvy producer who runs her own TV and print production business, based in Hong Kong.

What’s your story?
I am a TV commercial and print producer working with advertising agencies and brands to bring their communication needs to the screen. My background is in film production and I started my career in Hollywood working with Oscar winning directors Michel Gondry and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Before starting my own company last year to produce content directly with agencies and brands, I was with Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong for nearly five years as the Senior Producer and Head of TV running the film production department.

What excites you most about your industry?
How it’s constantly evolving! Every day is different and it’s certainly never boring. I love that it’s a creative industry and that my job involves talking to people with creative minds on how we can bring a story on paper to life. It’s exciting that the advertising industry places high value on the creativity and effectiveness of content. I’ve produced a few commercials that creatively push the envelope with fun and sometimes wild ideas that have converted into positive brand awareness. Ever heard of KFC Finger Lickin’ Good…Nail Polish that yes, tastes like chicken? https://www.adweek.com/creativity/kfc-just-made-edible-finger-lickin-good-nail-polish-yeah-tastes-chicken-171245/

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Seoul and raised in Hong Kong until graduating from high school at HKIS. I spent my university years in Boston at Emerson College and worked in Los Angeles at Anonymous Content and Partizan Entertainment. But on a brief visit back to Hong Kong in 2010, I decided to move back and continue my career here, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong is my home so it will always be my favourite city for business and for me personally. What I love about Hong Kong is that while I am based here, I can actually work with agencies and brands from anywhere in APAC. If I need to attend an important meeting, I can just hop on a quick flight easily. I spent most of 2017 working in Seoul with Korean agency Cheil and Samsung, and currently I am working with Japanese agency ADK and Toyota based in Singapore.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Fake it until you become it,” from Amy Cuddy’s TED talk. Worth a watch. This helped me early in my career when I felt like I was under qualified for the job I was in. I learned to fake my confidence and fake a powerful body language until I truly felt that confidence became something real. It was nerve wracking at first but it worked and now I don’t have to fake it.

Who inspires you?
My friends. Noelle who worked part time jobs while being a full time student to pay her own tuition while we were in college together. Osti who is a lawyer focused on supporting developing nations and a board member of Redress, an environmental NGO working to reduce waste in the fashion industry. Vanessa who runs a real estate company, co-owns the gym Crossfit Asphodel, started a health foods business called Quo and NGO The Keep Moving Project to promote wellness in our community. Cathy who will be the first Asian woman to direct a big budget superhero film starring Margot Robbie with Warner Bros and DC. And too many more to name!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
5.2 million plastic bottles are thrown away in Hong Kong every day. Plastic pollution is a major issue for the environment and we as responsible citizens can do our small part by reducing our consumption of unnecessary plastic. I do mine by having a water filter at home and carrying my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere I go. I love the brand Hydroflask because the stainless steel material keeps water hot or cold for hours, so I don’t feel tempted to buy a cold water at 7-11 on those hot, humid days we have here.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
About five years ago I purchased my very first stock and put one month’s salary into it, which at the time was a lot of money for me. Knowing how that stock has performed now, I would have put all my savings into it.

How do you unwind?
Exercise is essential in my daily life to help clear my head and de-stress. My go to is a workout at Crossfit Asphodel, running outdoors, yoga and hiking. But a glass of red wine and live music at Soiree in Soho on Sunday night works pretty well too!

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
One of the best trips I ever took was to the island of Lombok in Indonesia. Two girl friends and I did a 3 day 2 night hiking and camping trip to summit the Mount Rinjani Volcano. It was physically challenging but mentally relaxing. There was no cellphone reception, no distractions, we had the company of nature and nights with skies full of shooting stars. It was pretty magical. We then went to the Gili Islands for a few days of scuba diving, yoga and sitting on the beach doing nothing but sipping on coconuts. That was pretty relaxing too.

Everyone in business should read this book:
“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” by Lois P. Frankel and “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Essential reads for every working woman and/or man who wants to know how to support the working women in their life.

Shameless plug for your business:
I am a TV commercial and print producer that can plug into an existing advertising agency or brand team to produce their communication needs. Many advertising agencies these days are scaling down so they have creative directors and account services but may not have an in-house producer, so I can fill that gap by becoming a part of the existing agency team. For brands that want to produce content directly without involving an agency, I can also bridge the gap by bringing my production knowledge in-house and working as part of the marketing/brand team and liaising with the other departments in the company such as product team and ecomm.

How can people connect with you?
They can email me at [email protected]
or visit my website at mkimproducer.com

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started,
built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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