Exclusive Interview : Bill Magnuson co-founder & CTO of Appboy,a Customer Engagement Platform for Mobile Apps

Bill MagnusonWe  spoke to Bill Magnuson ,the co-founder and CTO of Appboy world’s top customer engagement platform for mobile apps

Previously, Bill was a Software Developer at Bridgewater Associates and a Software Engineer at Google, where he worked on App Inventor for Android, later taken over by the MIT Media Lab. He was a winner of the 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon and a winner of the 2010 North American Debating Championship.

Originally from Minnesota, Bill holds a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS) and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a minor in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What is Appboy all about? What problem are you solving?

 Appboy is a customer engagement platform for mobile apps. We help app developers understand the people who use their products and turn them into loyal users post-install. We do this through a suite of automated marketing tools, including push notifications, in-app messages, email, social and customer support.

The problem we’re trying to solve is abysmal retention rates in mobile apps, which is the industry’s biggest challenge. Currently, 76% of people stop using an app after 3 months, in part due to the structural problems of the ecosystem, but also because app developers aren’t taking the time to build relationships with their customers. By giving them a way to actively re-engage these people in an automated and personalized way, we’re increasing their chances of building a strong app business while removing the pressure to constantly acquire new users.

appboylogoTell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

On a fateful Wednesday evening in May of 2011, I received an email from a former co-worker, Jon Hyman (now CIO), wondering if I was interested in competing with him at the Disrupt NYC hackathon that weekend. I had already made plans to spend the weekend in Vermont enjoying the great outdoors, but was pretty easily convinced to change them in lieu of hacking for 24 hours in a warehouse.

At the Hackathon, Jon and I built Gilt-II, which ended up taking top prize  and caused a huge amount of recruiting outreach for both of us. However, in the end it wasn’t one of the hundreds of emails that piqued our interest, it was a chance encounter on a street corner in Manhattan where I briefly met Bipul Singha (now an Appboy Advisory Board member). After 30 seconds of conversation waiting for the light to change, Bipul took down my email and later introduced me to Mark (co-founder Mark Ghermezian).

After a month of ignoring my inbox, I finally decided to take a break from my current work and go through the pile. Bipul’s email stuck out in the crowd and before we knew it Mark was flying up from Houston to meet Jon and I for dinner and discuss the terms of what would eventually become Appboy. Within three weeks we had all quit our respective jobs and moved to Manhattan. Appboy was born.

Who are the Founders and their backgrounds?

  • See Bill Magnuson’s bio above
  • Mark Ghermezian – co-founder & CEO

Mark Ghermezian is the co-founder and CEO of Appboy, a customer engagement platform for mobile apps. He sets the company’s strategic vision and drives adoption of its platform among app developers and brand marketers.

A seasoned entrepreneur, Mark has launched three companies in the last seven years. Prior to Appboy, he started XE Mobile, one of the largest MVNOs in the United States with over 3,500 points of sale. He also founded and sold Flush Media, an indoor advertising company with 2,500 locations in North America. Mark is an active angel investor in B2B and enterprise startups, which gives him an inside perspective on the future of the category.

Mark graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in Finance. A native of Canada, he made his first mobile call with a Nokia 6110.

  • Jon Hyman – co-founder & CIO

Jon Hyman is the co-founder and CIO of Appboy, a customer engagement platform for mobile apps. He is in charge of building Appboy’s technical systems and infrastructure as well as managing the company’s operations.

Prior to Appboy, Jon worked as a lead engineer for the Core Technology group at Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. There, he managed a team that maintained 80+ software assets and was responsible for the security and stability of critical trading systems. Jon met co-founder Bill Magnuson during his time at Bridgewater, and together they won the 2011 TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon.

Jon is a graduate of Harvard and holds a Bachelor degree in Computer Science. While at school, he was an active member of the research team for CitySense, the first citywide wireless sensor network, and advised several tech startups including Eduardo Saverin’sCareplace.

Jon grew up in Dallas and enjoys good BBQ and playing guitar. His first mobile phone was a Kyocera 2255.

How is your product so different when there are already similar?

Appboy’s rich segmentation platform further distances the company from pure analytics tools like Mixpanel and pure messaging platforms like Urban Airship. Rather than giving marketers and app developers more data, Appboy lets them act on data in a targeted manner using tools like push notifications as well as in-app messaging, targeted emails, content recommendations and general customer support. Best of all, the process is fully automated and custom segments only take a few minutes to set up.

Products available? Do tell us about your existing and New products .

Appboy’s Customer Engagement Platform for Mobile Apps.

Appboy helps developers and marketers understand their mobile app customers and build stronger relationships.  We make data actionable by allowing you to segment your customer base and engage them via a comprehensive set of marketing channels like push notifications, in-app messages and email. To streamline your workflow, all campaigns are fully automated.

Appboy has two components:

1 – Easy-to-install SDK (iOS and Android)

2 – Web dashboard to control marketing activities

What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Appboy’s next 2-3 years will focus on:
* Scaling our infrastructure to meet customer growth, including build out of “big data” solutions.
* Expansion of our existing product into other mobile platforms and publishing methods.
* Expansion into non-English speaking markets.
* Further development of our customer relationship management and automated marketing tools.

Which locations is it available? Are you looking to launch this product in other Geographies?

The Appboy product is currently only available in English, however, translations of our SDK are coming this summer with the dashboard to follow. Internationalization efforts outside of language translation will arrive in iterations alongside the translation efforts.

What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

As mobile explodes, more and more companies are focusing on the B2B aspects of the ecosystem by building services at every stage of an app’s lifecycle. Appboy focuses on empowering app owners to understand and communicate/market to their users. We also give them direct access to user feedback so they can make better decisions and listen to their customers. These services are best leveraged by CMOs at enterprise companies and decision makers at small businesses who need them to expand, engage and monetize their user base more effectively.

How are we targeting these decision makers at enterprise/small businesses, as well as individual developers? We have a diligent PR and marketing team that specializes in rolling out launches for startups and also have expertise in reaching outlets that target these ideal demographics.

As part of any rollout, our PR and marketing team announces new features, partnerships, and funding announcements. The same team also assists with securing opportunities with relevant conferences as sponsors, panelists, and keynote speakers.

Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors?

These two stories cover our current funding:
Appboy Raises A Cool Million To Let App Developers Better Engage And Understand Their User Base
With Another $1.5M, Appboy Launches App Management Platform, Hootsuite CEO Joins Board

We’re not interested in being contacted about funding.

* This is an exclusive interview by WirelessDuniya.


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