The Mobile Startup That Almost Shutdown Is Now On Nearly 1 Billion Devices. How Did They Do It?
This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.
For every mobile app valued at over $16B, there are hundreds if not thousands of their failed counter parts. But while some of these apps die off, some of their companies figure out a way to survive and in some cases, create real value by reinventing their businesses. Andrew Levy, Rob Kwok and Jeeyun Kim are one of the best examples of this transformation, and this is how they went from a broken mobile app to a dominant player in the mobile enterprise space. Here is a 6 part breakdown of how they went through that transition and attracted some of the best investors, customers, and ultimately achieved market penetration of nearly 1B devices worldwide (and counting).
Now for some disclosure(s): #1. I am a shareholder of Crittercism. #2. I’ve known Andrew my whole life.
Part 1. The Beginning And The End
In 2010, Andrew, Rob and Jeeyun started out by building their own mobile apps however they quickly realized that those apps had their own set of performance problems. They were slow, they were laggy, and they had a smorgasbord of bad reviews in the app store. Certainly not a great way to start a company. Like any good engineer would do, they problem-solved and asked a simple question: how do we fix and diagnose these issues more easily?
Part 2. The Pivot
They decided to build a lightweight version of a crash reporting tool that they desperately needed for themselves and after speaking at a few meetups about their new tool, they began to validate their idea with others people in similar shoes. They realized that the lack of transparency for understanding mobile app performance was a very big and far reaching problem. Although they knew they were on to something, they wanted to be sure they were solving a “hair on fire” problem.
Part 3. Proving The Pivot Is Worth It
In order to prove that this opportunity was really worth their time, they also created a landing page with a beta signup list that attracted a significant number of signups. This validation was important because they were bootstrapping and running out of money. Andrew told me that he literally had a spreadsheet with a list of jobs on it and was contemplating the end of the business altogether.
Part 4. Getting The Right Resources
Once they had a working product, Andrew and the team applied to an incubator called AngelPad, which was founded by a bunch of ex-Googlers. As a result of their quick iterations and early traction, they were able to get into the program. This provided the team with some much needed capital and social proof which helped them focus and lay the foundation for a much bigger business.
Part 5. Focusing
The first version of Crittercism was focused on two things: crash reporting and user feedback (you can think of it like an in-app support forum). They thought this solution was one product but after a closer look, they realized it was actually two separate offerings. The crash reporting side was growing much quicker then the support side, and the fact that Andrew, Rob and Jeeyun come from engineering backgrounds made it even more evident that this is where they should be focusing their time and energy. Again, the team shutdown part of their business and it freed them up to focus on their core strengths.
Part 6. Scaling
By building out a solid crash reporting tool, the team was able to wedge themselves into the mobile enterprise market. But now they are going after a much broader opportunity for mobile app performance management (mobile APM). It was the most visible, relatable problem that every one of their potential customers faced. As a result, the team was able to quickly attract large enterprise customers like Netflix, and parlay those initial use cases into a portfolio of new customers. Today that portfolio is growing by leaps and bounds. The Crittercism software is now installed on approximately 1 billion devices and analyzes all aspects of a mobile app’s performance.
That’s not bad for a company that almost closed up shop and it serves as a good reminder that not everyone needs to be the next WhatsApp, and that pivoting, if done correctly, can lead to big opportunities.