Christian Henschel is the Co-Founder & CEO of adeven, a mobile ad verfication company that provides cutting edge app download tracking solutions with extensive analytics, allowing advertisers and agencies to understand and optimise effective mobile campaigns in real time.
Hi Christian, Thanks for doing this. How are you doing today?
Great – busy as always… but we just signed up some new, brand name clients; got some great media coverage on Econsultancy and Developer Tech, and have our developers just about to hit a huge build milestone this week. The word ‘satisfying’ would be an understatement.
On – I forgot to mention that adeven is short listed in the Europas awards as the ‘Best Advertising or Marketing Tech Startup’. You can vote for us in the People’s Choice Awards.
Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I’m an entrepreneur, dreamer and dad. As the CEO and a co-founder of adeven I oversee the business and its development. We are still growing so I have the opportunity work with my team on all of our key projects and partnerships (apart from the technical side). My background is in mobile advertising and I’ve been involved in the digital area for major media companies for over 12 years.
This includes working in the management team at madvertise, who are one of the largest mobile ad networks in Europe. I was also the Head of Commercial at MTV Networks for a few years and was responsible for the partner portfolio at InteractiveMedia.
I studied business administration at the European University Viadrina and the Bergakademie Freiberg and Communication at the Institute for Marketing and Communication in Berlin. It was an exciting time for me as it was during my studies that I founded my first company, which later became the most successful city magazine in East Brandenburg. This was my first taste of the excitement and the hard work that comes with a startup.
Tell me how you initially get into business?
Some people are satisfied with mediocre jobs, above average income and low job satisfaction. I used to have well paid jobs in huge corporations. This is ok for people who are trying to climb the corporate ladder, but I am not one of them.
I get a thrill out of working hard, working smart and seeing my ideas become a reality. There is nothing better than realizing your dreams and knowing that you have built a successful company. It is even better if you can achieve this with like-minded, motivated people.
How did the idea for adeven start?
The mobile advertising industry was in a bit of a mess a year ago (given the young age) and we wanted to help move the industry forward. Yes, there are companies who do analytics, but no one who provides a holistic approach to the ecosystem from both an advertising and developer perspective. The whole scene was a little bit blurry or dark and we turned the lights on.
We saw an opportunity to provide technically advanced ad analytics and verification products and services for the mobile industry that simply were missing before.
We founded adeven in April 2012 in Berlin and within the first six months we had secured investor support, launched our free online apptrace tool, successfully launched our analyzer product, and opened our London office.
Understanding the app ecosystem and the advertiser’s perspective gives us a unique advantage.
And what are you trying to solve with it?
There are three current key issues in the mobile advertising space: transparency, accurate ad analytics and verification.
Up to this point anyone using mobile advertising has only really received clicks and impressions. What constitutes a click and impression varies across the industry with many counting false clicks or un-rendered impressions. There is also an inherent conflict of interest when using a pay per click model, if the people telling you how many clicks or impressions you get are the same people you are paying for the advertising space.
We solve this conflict of interest by providing independent third party verification. We are neutral – we don’t sell media. With third party verification, advertisers are able to base their advertising decisions on fact rather than faith and are in control of their own data. adeven also delivers deeper insights through meaningful statistics.
The key question that anyone investing in mobile marketing wants answered is if the money you are spending provides a return on investment, not only in terms of number of users but also in terms of revenue.
This is what adeven’s adjust.io analyzer does. It attributes for example sources to installs. Other companies already do this, however we don’t stop there.
We offer additional valuable, data rich KPIs. These are comprehensive post-install KPIs that help qualify the users that are acquired through mobile marketing, giving a deeper understanding what users are worth and where they come from.
Our adjust.io analyzer product shows how the users from different sources compare over time and how much they are worth after seven days, a month and over their lifetime. Users from marketing campaigns can also easily be compared with the behaviour of organic users and custom events can be tracked.
Mobile advertising is a big number game – we are talking about thousands and millions spent on advertising each month. And there is a huge potential to optimise this.
On the other hand our free online tool, apptrace also provides transparency the iOS app ecosystem by giving users complete access to data including global rankings; graphs and charts showing app and publisher performance, and a sentiment analysis that crunches over 27 million app store reviews to give an idea of how addictive an app is or how high the crash complaints are.
Outside of our product offerings, we are actively involved in industry discussions to help the industry move forward in developing guidelines, standards and an appreciation of valid statistics that are essential for efficient mobile campaign management.
Tell me about the early days, what was the hardest part of starting the business?
Everyone has dreams - some are larger others smaller. I am ambitious and have huge dreams. It took a while for my dream to crystallise before I knew exactly what company I wanted to create and how I was going to do it.
Many people don’t want to work in startups, let alone actually build one, as it is the hardest thing that you can do. No one knows your new business, perhaps the market is not matured or defined and you will be always at work.
There is an immense time and financial pressure to achieve things, and quickly. Established businesses have the luxury of achieving something in six months that a startup must achieve in four weeks – and with at least 10 projects in parallel.
The working hours can be a killer. From 9 am to almost midnight. Literally 24/7 in the battle against time to reach all the small but essential milestones as quickly as possible.
Fortunately two other co-founders, Paul H. Müller and Manuel Kniep worked along side me to get the company quickly up off the ground.
Our biggest challenge was to find talented and passionate people – we have great people working here now and look forward to growing even more in the very near future.
Because our company is operating at the forefront of technology, we spend a lot of time in training up our team on very specific technology.
I am very proud of the fact that we opened our London office within six months of founding adeven in Berlin.
How have you been able to fund it?
We have a great venture capital investor, Target Partners. They have years of experience as successful managers, entrepreneurs and venture capital investors in Europe and USA and are specialised in the technology area. Target Partners have seen numerous companies through exits and beyond.
What sorts of advice do you having for entrepreneurs looking to raise money for their startups?
Networks are important. We have a great relationship with our investors and continue to network to build the reputation of the company.
A great business model, clear market and product, and financial due diligence is important in the startup phase to show investors that you are serious about what you are doing.
Persistence is a key ingredient.
It is also important to have the ability to accept a “no”. There are people who might not get your idea. That does not mean the idea or the team is bad. It just means it is the wrong angel or venture capital for your company. Keep calm and carry on ;-)
Regarding the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
I think it was the excitement and adrenaline that kept me going. It is almost impossible to describe the feeling of seeing your dreams turn into a reality. There are those moments when clients or other people are saying the name of your company as if it is be the most normal thing on earth - and it is just a few weeks old. Thrilling!
Naturally there are a lot of frustrations. As mentioned, I am ambitious and when fighting against the clock there is always the feeling that more should be done. One important lesson I’ve learned is that you must be patient, especially with others.
The hardest thing is to stop sometimes and appreciate how much has been achieved not only by myself, but also my team in the short space of time. It is hard, but you sometimes forget that it is not about the destination of your journey it is also about the journey itself.
How did you initially get traction?
Our products solve key problems in the industry. We’ve been in this space for some time and we have great industry contacts and our products make sense. This has helped us get traction in the industry.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
Business models, technology, business plans are all important to a business but the heart of an excellent company is people. Things moving so fast and what you have planned a month ago can be redundant pretty easy. Having the right talented and ambitious people – with them, a business can achieve sustainable growth. We hired almost all of our employees from out network or through recommendations and we started the processes quite early. I think that it helps to do hires without compromises.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I remember this moment well. It was when we sent out our first invoice to our clients -that was only six months after we started the company. It was very exiting, because in my opinion a company without revenues is not a real company. The first invoice gives the feeling that you have made it.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the adeven team for 2013?
We want to encourage mobile advertising market growth. For this to happen, we know that advertisers need the right tools and services to manage successful campaigns. We are doing everything we can to support them.
Our verifier product has successfully and robustly been tested extensively by both advertisers and networks. We are just about to officially launch it onto the market in the coming weeks (stay tuned!)
Aside from this, our list of new features for apptrace is huge and we are only limited by the amount of work that can reasonably be achieved in one day. One of the exciting features slated for the next couple of months the download prediction tool. Guess our price – free.
We have a third adjust.io product in the pipeline and plans for international expansion this year.
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Dream big and put yourself in uncomfortable situations. This is where you learn and where you grow as a person. Surround yourself with people who challenge you, who are better than you. Again learn. Never stop learning.