Believe it or not, but apparently, I’m one of the “Top 100 App Leaders of the decade”, at least according to the industry-leading online publication Business of Apps.
The award profiles business leaders who have impacted and changed the mobile app industry over the short course of its history.
When put in the context, I must say that their requirements are spot-on. Being a leader in this fast-changing industry calls for agility and flexibility, and lots of it; without those characteristics, there’s no way you’ll be able to quickly adapt to–and profit from–the everyday upheavals that define our industry.
I’m humbled by this recognition. It gives testament to how both my company, Zoomd, and I have managed to evolve and grow along with the industry.
So how did we get here?
Once upon a time, in 2007, my partners Ofer Eitan, Niv Sharoni (who are still part of the company, the former as CEO and the latter as CTO) and I decided to leave our cushy corporate jobs so that we could pursue our dream. We had an idea, an idea that we believed could take over the world. We opened up a web-to-mobile technology company called Moblin that focused on providing mobile content for old-fashioned feature phones. The idea was pretty simple: users could send images from the web to their feature phones and use them as screen savers. We were sure we’d get acquired by Flickr or another large image-sharing site in no time.
But as luck would have it the iPhone was launched that year, dashing our hopes of a quick exit and forcing us to rethink our strategy.
By 2008 we’d move to mobile advertising, creating campaigns for the likes of Doritos, Coca Cola, and Avis, to name just a few. Things went well and we quickly became the leading Israeli mobile marketing agency and one of the first in the world. We opened up a studio, developed creative capabilities and set up campaign and account management functions.
At that time, there were no other real mobile marketing agencies out there and we took over the market. We offered our services to both larger ad agencies who didn’t get mobile, and directly, to advertisers. Over time we developed tech and marketing expertise and soon began developing dedicated commercial mobile apps for our customers, starting with Sugat, Israel’s leading sugar manufacturer.
Pivot to International App Marketing
The Israeli market wasn’t big enough for us, and we soon set our sights on international customers. Back then, the mobile marketing industry was just getting started and we were lucky enough to land on one of the big fish, Poker Stars. Mobile marketing was a blue ocean; there was hardly any real competition out there, but also no one to learn from. We had no choice but to learn the tricks of the trade and the complexities involved in international mobile marketing on our own. We gained a lot from our successes but learned more from our mistakes.
We soon realized that we needed a way to manage all of the different campaigns we were running across all of the different channels we were active on. That’s more or less when we decided to develop an internal system to centralize and connect disparate ad networks for easier campaign management. At that time this was a revolutionary concept and the product was a huge success.
Our efforts quickly paid off. In 2015 we took the Silver Lion Award at the Cannes Festival for our work developing and distributing a security app called “BackMeUp” for Always, a Proctor & Gamble company. The app provided women with a way to quickly get help if they felt threatened and at its peak boasted 4 million users across 8 different countries.
Back Me App – Silver Lion Award 2005
In 2017 we sold the agency part of the company to a subsidiary of WPP Israel. We had to say goodbye to half of our employees, which was a difficult but necessary move. In the end, we knew that we’d only be able to achieve large-scale growth by getting rid of the service provision aspect of the company and focusing more on the tech and product.
The Road to Sustainability
That same year we had the good fortune of meeting Amit Bohensky. His company, Zoomd, specialized in developing internal search engines for websites. The synergy between our centralized campaign management platform and his search engine technology was clear to all and we soon merged both our companies. The result was a single, comprehensive platform that appealed to the entire app ecosystem by providing site search for publishers and acquisition for advertisers.
The new and improved platform was a hit, and its success soon led to our IPO on the Canadian Stock Exchange, TSX Ventures, after just 2 years. But that was just the beginning.
The huge amounts of fraud in mobile advertising had become unbearable by 2019 and we’d figured out a way to work around it. We closed down problematic media sources and opened up to new, transparent ones. Our goal was to ensure that only clean, trackable media buying took place on our platform so that our clients could benefit from full transparency into their real campaign performance.
Today we’re still going strong, adjusting to up and coming industry trends and providing solutions to the latest challenges. Just this year we launched self-service capabilities on our campaign management platform. Advertisers can now use their own in-house media teams to run their user acquisition campaigns on our SaaS platform, which integrates with different social media networks and media sources including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google, Snapchat, TikTok and Apple Search and countless independent publishers.
As you can see, we’re constantly changing our products and offerings as the market evolves. Right now we’re focused on developing self-service products as more and more companies develop their own in-house growth teams. At the end of the day, being a leader in the mobile industry means that you’ve got to quickly react to changes by constantly pivoting your tactics, sources, creatives and operations to respond to market demands.