After His First App Flopped, This Entrepreneur Decided To Build A Startup That Shows You How To Actually Make Money Off Your Apps

jeff tseng kontagent

Photo: Kontagent

When Kontagent CEO Jeff Tseng wanted to find out how well his app was doing, he couldn’t find a way to track his users and whether they were buying anything.So he decided to build the app himself — and it worked. Unfortunately, it also showed that his app was actually pretty bad.

So instead of trying to change his app, he decided to change the direction of the company to sell the same technology he and his team built to track the app as a service to other business.

Now, the company tracks more than 200 million monthly active users. It helps business find out what to change and what to tweak to ensure that users are enjoying the experience and are paying for in-app purchases.

We caught up with CEO Jeff Tseng and chief science officer Josh Williams to find out what Kontagent does. Here’s what we learned:

  • Kontagent tracks hundreds of millions of app users, amounting to hundreds of billions of actions. It helps businesses track users from the moment they click on an advertisement to install an app all the way to the point that they decide to buy the equivalent of a FarmVille cow.
  • More than half of Kontagent’s traffic now comes from mobile. There was a big change-over from Facebook and desktop web surfing to mobile apps, and it only happened in the past few months.
  • Kontagent has more than 100 employees and it’s raised about $18 million. After starting off as a consumer app company, it’s since enjoyed the ride as an enterprise startup.

Here’s a lightly edited transcript of the interview:

BUSINESS INSIDER: Can you tell me a little bit about what Kontagent does?

JOSH WILLIAMS: We help business track and optimise their customer economics and customer experience in their social applications, mobile applications and websites. We track more than 200 million monthly active users across social and mobile applications. We handle more than 100 billion in-app user actions. We crunch all the data and track it in real-time as well as enabling deeper analyses. We give businesses tools and infrastructure to do that as well by providing a dashboard that delivers all that data back to them in reports and in a semi-real time basis.

JEFF TSENG: Mainly we’re helping our customers, the businesses, efficiently spend their marketing dollars to acquire customers. In the case of social gaming companies, a company being like Zynga, or our customers like EA, they have to spend money to acquire users to play their games. We provide metrics and dashboards around which types of channels and advertising are most effective toward driving high-value users. We help companies optimise the value of the customer experience, showing them what changes they can make to the user experience that increase the likelihood of the user spending money or using the app more frequently.

For example, in the case of a company that heavily uses mobile, like Uber, we’d show them what parts of the customer experience are stopping me from booking more tabs or spending more money. If they analyse my behaviour they’d see me keep clicking UBERx and see there aren’t enough cabs, so they might want to sign up more drivers. 

Anywhere there’s an advertisement where it’s run online, we can track the users who click on the ad and actually register — download an application or install a Facebook application and do something within the application. We can track the user all the way from when they click the ad all the way to when they generate revenue in the appellation.

JW: We do all that, but take it a big step further and we follow users through their lifetime engagement with your service and can show you, hey, the group of users that saw this specific ad on this platform in this time window had greater attention that other users who clicked on a different acquisition channel. This sort of user sticks around longer so you should target more of them.

BI: Can you tell me more about how the company got started?

JW: In the early days, Kontagent was an app developer for mobile and social on Facebook. We wanted to understand what was going on inside their applications and realised there wasn’t a good analytics service to use off the shelf. We started to build something internally, but once the data was available we realised our app wasn’t that great. I mean, it was great that the analytics worked to show us that, but we needed to change the business.

“We started to build something internally, but once the data was available we realised our app wasn’t that great. I mean, it was great that the analytics worked to show us that, but we needed to change the business.”

By that point we had a cool analytics system and started to look at an enterprise model. It started taking off and we started signing up more and more customers over time. I came on a couple years ago as an investor and also as our president and head of data science, which is something we take really seriously. 

BI: What exactly is a “data scientist?”

JW: In general, data scientists have skills that are a combination of mathematics and computer science, and generally you need to be an expert in driving significant conclusions from large sets of data. What this means, if you had your own application and just started collecting data, unless you had a great deal of experience, it’d be difficult to measure things. We’ll look at user retention and we’ll try to boil it down to the most actionable ways. We’ll try to help you as an organisation learn how to be more data-driven and make decisions based on certain reports.  

BI: How do you guys feel about the big shift to mobile? It seems like it’s just happened in the past few months.

JW: We were either smart or lucky that we started making the transition a long time ago. We started working with our first mobile customers a year ago before a lot of the changes happened with Facebook. We did that based on the data that we saw, talking with a lot of customers, realising a lot of our customers were expanding into mobile. We started working with our first mobile customers over a year ago and we started building our mobile expertise in front of that. The vision has always been to be multi-screen and multi-channel, so we want to help you optimise your customer economics and customer experience regardless of where your users are. Your mobile, your social apps, your business, your tablet, if that’s all you care about, we’ll be there. We’ve been cross-platform for a long time. 

JT: Potentially, the usage can be a lot higher on mobile. Even through we still have a lot of customers on the social gaming side, over half our traffic, our data, is coming from mobile these days and that’s only happened over the last few months.

“Even through we still have a lot of customers on the social gaming side, over half our traffic, our data, is coming from mobile these days and that’s only happened over the last few months.”

You see some pretty high engagement numbers throughout the day, I think that’s a pretty big trend. We’re also seeing a lot more people going in between tablets and phones and PCs, the experience is expanding to multiple touch points. When we looked at this there were a lot of gaming companies that were talking bout being able to provide user experiences that spanned multiple screens and now we’re seeing a lot of companies adopting that.

BI: How do things look now?

JT: We’ve raised about $18 million to date, a little over that. We did our last round in November, from battery Ventures. We’re pretty much exceeding the 100-person in the company right now. We’ve more than doubled our headcount every year over the last few years. If you look two years ago we were 7 or 8 people and now we’re over 100. There’s been very significant growth.

We’re working with a few hundred enterprise customers, some of the companies we’ve disclosed are EA, Ubisoft, a bunch others. A lot of the big guys on Facebook and mobile now. Outside of gaming, we work with a number of companies like Whaleshark.

BI: What’s it like running an enterprise startup instead of a consumer startup?

JT: Stressful in a different way, when we’re on the consumer side it’s on an hourly basis that things can change. On the enterprise side it’s actually been a lot of fun because you can be a lot more strategic, you can plan things over longer periods of time. You don’t have to be quite as reactive in how you plan products or how you plan marketing campaigns. It’s also pretty satisfying to be able to help business change their business. It’s been a really cool part of engaging with their teams, when we do see them actively using their products, it’s really satisfying.

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