Can Oren Kaniel’s Appsflyer Become Dominant Measurement Tool For All Connected Devices?

Apps are big business. The global market is projected to reach $407.31 billion by 2026, growing 18.4% year-over-year, according to Allied Market research.

Yet back when Appsflyer was founded in Israel in 2011, there was a burgeoning app market driven in a huge part by the success of the iPhone’s App store, but very limited ways to measure App user engagement and success. Not even Google had a satisfactory solution at the time. Appsflyer founders CEO Oren Kaniel and CTO Reshef Mann set out to change that.

Appsflyer’s mobile attribution and analytics software provides App developers the information they need to understand how to profitably grow and retain their users that many consider a near de facto standard for App measurement.

On the idea for the company, Kaniel says, “I was in my twenties, and I wanted to take minimum risk and I said to myself, “Okay, I’m not going to go into gaming. I’m not going to do consumer, but I really want to build technology that would allow these Apps to do great things. impossible. And I said, ‘You know what? Maybe it’s impossible, but someone must solve it.’ And at the end of day, it was possible,” Kaniel says.

Kaniel was working in Philadelphia as an intern as part of his Wharton MBA exchange program with Reichman University when he had the idea to build B2B technology for the App market. He went back to Israel to talk to his childhood friend Reshef about the idea and began speaking with friends, family members and indie developers working on Apps about what they were using to measure the success of their Apps. Then set about building a version of the Appsflyer measurement software.

“That time gaining insights from the market shaped many of the ways that we do stuff in the company. I went to a Google Meet about Google Analytics for Apps. And actually, I was very afraid to ask, ‘Okay, where are the users coming from? How do you do attributions?’ And I thought to myself, ‘This is Google. They probably can put an army of developers to do that.’ So I asked anyway and the guy from Google said that he didn’t know, that they didn’t have that information and that this kind of measurement doesn’t exit,” says Kaniel.

At the meeting Kaniel told the group about the software he was working on and its ability to better help answer those measurement questions. One of the attendees told Kaniel he had an App and that he would be happy to try Kaniel’s software for free. He turned out to have one of the largest Apps in Israel. “He tried it, and after three days, he told me it crashed his App. So I told this new customer, ‘You know what? I trust you. Here is the source code. Maybe you can find the bug for me.’ And he did,” says Kaniel. That customer joined the company and is now leading portions of the company’s product development and innovation.

“The reason that I like this story is that it’s an example of why they tell entrepreneurs not to stay in stealth mode. You want to shout your dreams and tell the world what you want to do and your vision. Back then it wasn’t really a vision. We really wanted to help out a developer. But then, you kind of attract great people that share the same views or passion for problem solving what we’re trying to do. And some entrepreneurs sit in the garage not telling everybody what they’re doing, and they cannot get the feedback they need to improve. The first customer is also passionate about what you do, because they’re not going to buy from two people in the garage. They buy the passion, they buy the idea, they buy the idea of ​​working with you on solving problems. They’re really the first investors in this company. And I think it shaped our company culture on so many levels, because we learn from customers from day one and also after 10 years,” says Kaniel.

Appsflyer grew rapidly and moved its headquarters to San Francisco in 2018 and now has some 1,400 employees in 20 offices around the world. They have 10,000 different partners and provide measurement analysis for 80,000 companies, from start-ups to blue chip brands like Walmart, Nike, Coca-Cola, Ebay and Visa. Last year the company introduced its Privacy Cloud as a data clean room for ecosystem collaboration.

“We look at ourselves as customer obsessed. Now, if we are obsessed about our customers to deliver great products, we need to be obsessed about their own customers, because this is who we serve at the end of the day. And I think that it allowed us to really do the right things in an ecosystem that changes at an extremely rapid pace. If you look at the history of this market, this is probably the fastest, most rapidly changing industry ever created. And this is going to be the case in the future. It means that if you’re not agile enough, you’re not nimble enough, you’re not flexible enough, you’re not having the right vision in mind and you’re probably going to go out of business sooner or later, says Kaniel

While it was difficult to raise money in the beginning, the company’s continued growth momentum has Appsflyer to attract some $300 million authorized in venture funds from Salesforce Ventures, Magma Venture Partners, General Atlantic, Qumra Capital, DTCP, Eight Roads Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital , Goldman Sachs and others. Its January 2020, $210 million series D round led by General Atlantic valued the company at $2 billion at that time.

Kaniel was born in Israel to a family of modest means. As a child growing up in the early ’80s, he was always fascinated by computers and taught himself programming. He also worked as a teenager for a PC hardware shop. “That was really exciting. On the side, I came to peoples’ houses after they bought this ‘box’ and told them what they can do with it. And I programed small floppy discs with a menu to make it accessible,” says Kaniel. He and his best friend Reshef discovered the wonders of the early internet by using his mom’s phone to connect to the early billboards developing at the time. He and Reshaf learned through trial and error to navigate this new world of connected computers.

He studied computer science at the Technion Institute of Technology and worked for Intel as a software engineer while still attending school. He went on to get his MBA at Reichmann University and was accepted into an exchange MBA program with The Wharton School in Philadelphia. While there he was lucky enough to start working as a summer associate for a VC in Philadelphia.

One of the bigger research projects that he worked on was focused on marketing technology and advertising. He noticed huge problems in the digital ecosystem in general, specifically when it comes down to brands and advertising technology because he didn’t understand which side they represented. “They represent the brand or the advertiser. They represent the publisher, they represent both. And now it’s like conflicting interests. If you represent the buyers, you probably want to make sure that they get the most of what they pay for and the seller is the other way around,” says Kaniel.

His brief VC experience led him to work on a still nascent vision to help solve the technology conflict of interest dilemma by focusing on just one side of the equation—measurement. He moved back to Israel to join his friend Reshef to start working on what would become Appsflyer. Kaniel’s wife Lisa had experience in digital marketing and was also instrumental in the startup and later joined the company full-time as its Chief People Officer.

On its potential impending IPO, Kaniel says, “Our vision is to be independent and unbiased, which is the fundamental element for us to be trusted by this entire ecosystem. Being public is a big component of it. And for the IPO, we are going to practice being a great public company, not a great IPO, which is different.”

As for the future? “You always need to iterate and build new stuff and never fall in love with your own product, which is kind of hard. When you fall in love with your product, you cannot let go and you cannot build new stuff. So, we need to fall in love with the ecosystem. We need to fall in love with the people that actually use and connect the devices. So, our vision is to really make the connected device experience better and safer, better in terms of your experience, value and privacy,” Kaniel concludes.

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