Company: App Annie Role: EVP Product 2012 - 2016
Providing analytics for the entire app industry
App Annie is an app market data and insights company headquartered in San Francisco, California. It produces consumer and competitive information on downloads, revenue, ratings, usage (MAU/DAU), search terms, etc. to support decision making for app marketing spend optimization, partnering and investment strategies and product roadmap prioritization.
I joined App Annie in 2012, as the business was closing it's first real funding round ($6M Series B), with around 60 people based in Beijing. Over 4 years I ran a broad portfolio of departments including Product, UX, Product Marketing, Design, B2C Marketing, and Internal Analytics. As Executive VP Product, I oversaw the company's growth to 500 people based in 15 offices globally, raising $150M in financing and establishing App Annie as the global category leader used by over 800,000 app professionals.
At the core of App Annie is a unique data-science driven approach to building estimates of market activity
Traditional market intelligence firms use surveys and panels to obtain data, from which they extrapolate behavior of the wider market. These methods have remained fundamentally unchanged for over a hundred years. They are effective in estimating larger dimensions of population in aggregate. However, when estimating the behavior of millions of apps in hundreds of countries to a high degree of precision, traditional statistical methods require unfeasible sample sizes to be successful.
At App Annie, we pioneered a unique methodology to construct our data set. We merge from three distinct sources: public app store rankings for 2 million apps, private data from a subset of 800,000 publishers on their actual app performance, and consumer app engagement data from a panel of 3 million consumer app users. Merging these data sets into one unique model, our data scientists are then able to estimate the daily revenue, downloads, and usage of each app, in each country, globally.
This willingness to combine data sets of different scales and radically different origins in order to develop the highest quality market data has fundamentally differentiated App Annie from "last generation" market intelligence firms, such as ComScore and Nielsen, who remain tied to panel and survey-based methods.
App Annie provides analytics tools used by the majority of the world's leading app publishers: Over 90% of the top 100 app publishers use App Annie products. Today, we are almost ubiquitous, used both by publishers making millions of dollars a day and hobbyists hacking projects in their weekends.
Store Stats is a research product which tracks the rankings of 2 million different mobile apps in the App Store and on Google Play.
App Annie Analytics is a BI solution for app publishers. Analytics aggregates download, revenue, usage and advertising information from the many other tools and platforms an app publisher uses (including the app stores, over 50 ad networks, Facebook and Google Analytics).
App Annie Intelligence is the leading source of competitive and market intelligence on the app economy. Subscribers across a detailed database tracking the revenue, downloads, advertising and user engagement of over 2 million apps in over 200 countries. It is the definitive tool for investors, product managers and marketers looking to win in the app economy.
App Annie's BI tools are relied upon by 800,000 app professionals
With over 3 million monthly users, App Annie's consumer apps provide unmatched insight on app engagement
In order to track consumer engagement with mobile apps, App Annie operates a number of utility apps which are used by millions of consumers. Each of these apps offers a distinct free service to consumers, and in exchange captures anonymized data around the user's engagement with different apps.
Uniquely, these apps track all the consumer's use of all other apps on his/her smartphone, allowing App Annie to analyze how consumers shift their attention between different apps over time.
With over 3,000,000 monthly active users (and other data contributed via app data partnerships), App Annie's monthly panel of app user data vastly out-distances would-be rivals comScore and Nielsen, whose app tracking remains reliant on panels with fewer than 50,000 users.
The consumer app portfolio includes:
VPN Defender and Phone Guardian (iOS)
Apps which encrypt a users' mobile traffic for greater security when using public wifi systems.
My Data Manager (iOS, Android)
Designed to prevent users exceeding their monthly data allowance on the cellular contracts, My Data Manager tracks the data consumption of each app.
Distributed and highly interconnected teams outpace the competition and bring global perspectives to problems
My own team grew from 3 people in 2012 to 47 people in 2016, working with 150 partnered engineers, with teams based in Beijing, San Francisco, Utrecht and Vancouver.
Due to the complex nature of App Annie's market estimation methodology, all of App Annies' product lines are heavily inter-dependent. Data captured by the B2B Analytics tools and the B2C consumer apps are mixed and analyzed at depth, to create models of the behavior of every single app on the market. Consequently, the roadmaps for each of the three main areas of the business need to be planned in concert.
With teams spread over 4 offices, and high degrees of dependency between projects, maintaining clear communication, priorities and camaraderie becomes key.
Successful management requires balancing autonomy for small teams with the need for co-ordination.
I achieved this by creating three semi-autonomous product organizations each with dedicated engineering resources, supported by a matrix leadership structure in UX, product marketing, design and strategy.
Product division General Managers (or VPs) and their teams work intensely on a quarterly cycle to re-harmonize planning, assessing business needs, competitive pressure and issues of technical debt or opportunity. These planning workshops occur face to face, rotating between offices to share the burden of travel amongst the team. At the end of the planning cycle a revised 12 month roadmap is produced by each division, tying teams together for the next quarter, and helping the company progress towards longer term objectives.
During the quarter, inter-dependent product divisions continue to communicate regularly but focus more on their own direct objectives, with product leadership and heads of functional departments playing a key role in coordinating teams as issues arise or priorities need to be reassessed.
This process ensures that despite multiple cultures, offices, timezones and product lines, App Annie acts with greater efficiency than many simpler start-ups.