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Bertrand Schmitt, Founder of App Annie



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, 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.

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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.



Women on Top in Tech – Vidya Vellala, Founder and CEO of Faasthelp



(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Vidya Vellala is the Founder and CEO of Faasthelp, a 24/7 (round the clock) customer support on any business application through Artificial intelligence powered products. It analyzes what the customer is asking using natural language processing, machine learning and processes that to give the accurate responses to the customers instantly. Vidya is an Entrepreneur with a passion for innovation and latest technologies, having 17 years of Technology Experience. She won the India’s Best Startup CTO by Dell EMC.

What makes you do what you do?
I believe technology can solve any problem. Innovations in technology can improve the quality of life and the quality of work people does.
I am grown with a mindset which says self-sympathy is the enemy of self and hard work consistently without expecting a result will open bigger pathways. What I am doing is the combination of all.
Being an entrepreneur is an eternal learning which I love and I enjoy playing with technology and challenges that is the reason why I am doing what I am doing today.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Updating myself with the latest technologies is a must. Having said that, that alone is not sufficient. Always thinking positively, fighting against the fears, perseverance, and working hard helps.
I am lucky to have a big support from my family. My sisters who are also into technology field, make my life more beautiful and meaningful, to share not only the personal but also technical matters with them.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
With the bigger goal of supporting the future generations, this is the beginning. It had to start somewhere. In the very long journey this is the first step that I took.
My current startup is Faasthelp. We build artificial intelligence products.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him?
There have been many mentors at all stages of my startup. A startup eco system has brought me too many friends and mentors who have been very helpful at every stage of my startup and I am thankful to all of them.
My primary mentors in my life are my parents. The spirit of entrepreneurship was ignited when I was a kid and my mother was managing her small industry. The strong value system, sense of service, and responsibility towards the society is instilled in me by my dad. The strong urge to do something by myself was driven by my parents. They are the role models and driving factors.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
I take personal interest in grooming and nurturing talent. I have established processes that identify the potential talent and to groom. I play to the best of their strengths and encourage them to take risks. My business needs also drive me to develop new skills and grow them. I value emotional intelligence and so is the strength of my team.

Do you consciously or subconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously and subconsciously support diversity, this again I can say got from my parents, my dad always wanted all women to be empowered and my mother had more women in her work force.
I have mentored women entrepreneurs, especially in their technical initiatives as I come with a vast technical expertise. I have extended my entrepreneurial connections to other women entrepreneurs. Our organization has more women representation.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
To be a great leader, you have to be a good leader, for that you must be a good human being, driven by high values, honesty, and ethics with great empathy for the people around.
Motivating the team, being a good listener with persistent hard work is a general thumb rule. Now there might be several ways to implement these and depending on the industry the implementation might differ but the ground principles remain same.
Entrepreneurship is continuous learning and I encourage others to do the same. Aim high and work towards the set goals is a way to go. I believe mindset to do service is also a way to become a good leader.

Advice for others?
Always be positive and create a positive impact on everyone. Have your values defined and do not compromise on them at any cost. Each small step taken towards the big thing is important, value them and go ahead, you will succeed surely. Success is something which we define our self and it can be achieved from any field and anywhere, on the way keep helping others.
The present focus is to develop the startup which I have taken up and my next idea is to continue to innovate and create technology products which will improvise human life.

If you’d like to get in touch with Vidya Vellala, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn:

To learn more about Faasthelp, please click here.

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Lessons Learnt from The Lean Startup



The Lean Startup book authored by Eric Ries has been sitting on my shelf for quite sometime now, so since I am currently contributing to the making of a startup I figured I’ll take a look into it.

The book is divided into 3 parts, after reading the first two I had my mind blown with the pragmatic and scientific approach to building startups that is described in the book.

In this post, I would like to share some important insights that I gained regarding building highly innovative businesses.

Validating Value Proposition And Growth Strategy Is The Priority

Usually, a highly innovative startup company is working in its most early stage at building a product or a service that will create a new market.

Consumers or businesses have not been yet exposed to something similar to what is going to be built by the startup. Therefore the absolute priority for startups in early stage is to validated their value proposition i.e. to get real data about eventual customers interest regarding their product/service.

The other priority is to validate that the growth strategy that is going to be executed is, in fact, effective.

The growth strategy of a startup is its plan to acquire more and more customers in the long term and in a sustainable fashion.

Three kinds of growth strategies are described in the book:

  • paid growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to be charged for the product or service, the cash earned from early users is reinvested in acquiring new users via advertising for example
  • viral growth in which you rely on the fact that customers are going to bring customers as a side effect of using the product/service
  • sticky growth in which you rely on the fact that the customers are going to use the service in some regular fashion, paying for the service each time (via subscription for example).

These growth strategies are sustainable in the sense that they do not require continuous large capital investments or publicity stunts.

It is important to know as soon as possible which strategy or combination of strategies is the most effective at driving growth.

Applying The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a set of techniques that helps us figure out correct stuff. After making some observations regarding a phenomenon, you formulate a hypothesis about that phenomenon.

The hypothesis is an assumption that needs to be proven correct or incorrect. You then design experimentations that are going to challenge the assumption.

The results of the experimentations makes the correctness or incorrectness of the hypothesisclear allowing us to make judgments about its validity.

In the lean startup methodology, your job as an entrepreneur is to formulate two hypothesis:

  • hypothesis of value (assumptions about your value proposition)
  • hypothesis of growth (assumptions about the effectiveness of the growth strategy)

These hypothesis are then validated/invalidated through experimentation. Following the precepts of lean manufacturing, the lean startup methodology prescribes to make experimentations while minimizing/eliminating waste.

In other words, you have to burn minimum cash, effort and time when running experiments.

An experimentation in the lean startup sense is usually an actual product/service and helps startups in early stage learn invaluable things about their eventual future market.

Sometimes startups learn that nobody wants their product/service, imagine spending 8 months worth of engineering, design and promotion work (not to mention cash) in a product/service only to discover that it does not provide value to anyone.

Minimum Viable Products And Feedback

As we pointed out earlier, an experimentation can be an actual product or service and is called the minimum viable product(MVP).

The MVP is built to contain just enough features to validate the value and growth hypotheses, effectively requiring minimum time, effort and cash.

By getting the MVP launched and in front of real users, entrepreneurs can get concrete feedback from them either directly by asking them (in focus groups for example) or via usage analytics.

Analytics scales better then directly talking to customers but the latter is nonetheless used to cross validate results from the former.

It is crucial to focus on metrics that creates fine grained visibility about the performance of the business when building(or using) a usage analytics system. These metrics are called actionable metrics because they can link causes and effects clearly allowing entrepreneurs to understand the consequences of ideally each action executed. Cohort analysis is an example of a analytics strategy that focuses on actionable metrics.

The bad kind of metrics are called vanity metrics, these tend to hide how the business is performing, gross numbers like total users count are an example of vanity metrics.

The author cites several examples of different startups that managed to validate or debunk their early assumption by building stripped down and non scalable MVPs and even sometimes by not building software at all.

You would be surprised to hear for example how the Dropbox folks in their early stage managed to created a ~4 minute video demonstrating their product while it was still in development. The video allowed them to get more people signed up in their beta waiting list and raise capital more easily.

Closing Thoughts

In the first two parts of the book, the author talks also about how employees inside big companies working on highly innovative products and services can benefit greatly from the lean startup approach, although very interesting this is not very useful for me right now.

The third part, talks about the challenges that arises when the startup gets big and starts to stabilize and how to address them. Basically it revolves around not loosing the innovative spirit of the early days, again, this is not very useful for me so maybe for good future reading.


About the Author

This article was produced by Tech Dominator. see more.

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