You could easily get carried away trying to write down the amount of projects Ouriel Ohayon is currently involved in.
As he says at the start of our interview below "So I have been in the startup world for a while now, even since it existed". That's not an understatement - He was the former editor and founder of TechCrunch France. He is an Ex-VC who is now a co-founder of a french internet fund Isai.fr and I could go on and on, but the purpose on my interview with Ouriel was to speak about his current startup, Appsfire. Ouriel describes Appsfire as an recommendation engine for mobile apps.
The full interview is below.
Can you give you some background information about yourself, were you the entrepreneurial type growing up?
(Too) many years ago I started working in very large non-high tech companies. I was doing marketing for real products, you know? the kind you can touch and buy in real stores? But then i quickly realize i wanted to work in smaller companies and mostly be run my own shop. So I have been in the startup world for a while now, even since it existed. I worked both as an entrepreneur and a Venture Capitalist.
Tell me how the idea for Appsfire came about?
I loved the iPhone from day one. When the App store launched i started downloading apps, but i also started to receive every single day emails from my friends asking for recommendations of apps to install. At the time there was 20 000 apps in the app store. only
I then realized something was broken but also understood that on mobile apps would be the preferred way to consume online and offline content
Discussing with Yann Lechelle (my cofounder) we built a simple prototype of a service enabling friends to share apps. This was the very first app discovery service ever created. As it grew we understood there was a big opportunity and quit our day job to build Appsfire.
What is Appsfire?
Appsfire is a recommendation engine for mobile apps. It serves every single dimension of app discovery for consumers (search, passive discovery, content discovery, social discovery, geo discovery,...) and adds a layer app stores are unable to provide because they are built as...stores: meaning the same for every one. Appsfire is first a set of free mobile apps for iOS and Android to discover apps (think IMDB for apps). You can find them on Appsfire.com
Our business is to work with app developers on the promotion and marketing of their apps. In a way we do for apps what google did for links.
Finally we re building an app discovery network where we provide app recommendations through apps fire to many mobile properties, not just in our own apps. We work with mobile operators, publishers, 3rd party apps and provide the infrastructure for recommending apps.
Talk me through the first few months of running the business? What would you say was the hardest part of starting the business?
Finding the right angle to start with. Discovery is a very large and complex issue. Most companies who try to solve including big companies like operators fail. we needed several iterations both on the user experience but also on the recommendation engine to make it right. It took us over 12 months to find the right approach.
How were you able to fund the business?
We started without funding and grew the service to 50 000 users. Then we raised 1 million USD from top private investors and recently we raised an additional 3.6 m USD from a top tier VC fund in Europe. Appsfire is now generating substantial revenues and we may never need funding again. unless..
Would you say the initial idea for the company, or that your business model has changed since 2009?
Our business was always to build a marketing company for mobile apps and create the best ad experience to promote mobile applications. The product to get to that vision is changing all the time based on consumer needs and competitive pressures.
What makes Appsfire differently from other similar platforms out there?
We believe we created the best recommendation engine for apps. It is based on deep analytics of what an App store is (we call it AppGenome) surfacing the best apps for a given user. We re the only company who has a 360 degree approach trying to solve every part of App discovery (search, social, promos, …) And we also believe our user experience is the best: this is why we re winning several awards (recently 148apps best app ever) and are often in top rankings with over 5 million downloads of our apps (activated downloads…)
How big is your team now?
We re small. 16 persons between Paris and Tel aviv
What would you say has been some of the most crucial that you've done to build the company to this level now?
Building a great team. It all comes down to that.
What is your business model?
We work with developers to promote their apps. They pay us to give them a preferred visibility in our discovery engine.
Is the business profitable?
Our revenues are growing extremely fast. We re surfing on a big market.
What kind of things can we expect in the emerging app industry in 2012?
More apps. More difficulty to emerge from the app store. we re just at the beginning of an app revolution.
How does someone who want to get their app discovered do? In other words, how do you succesfully launch an app? what are the procedures?
It is just not enough to build a great apps. Greats apps compete against great apps. Developers need to have a very marketing minded approach and consider an app like a music album or a movie a constantly market it through its life cycle. There are many free ways to do it (tease, blogs,..) but eventually you will have to buy advertising to promote your app. This is where we fit in.
What’s been your most memorable moment so far on your entrepreneurial journey?
I always love the days we launch something new. Something no one has done before. We innovate all the time. And giving birth to something new is always exciting
What pieces of advices could you give to aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
Build a great team. And select your cofounder carefully. You need to love your idea enough to make sure you'll stay passionate about it for at least 5 years.
What can we be expecting from you and Appsfire in 2012?
If I told you, that would not be a surprise