Appboy Raises $7.6M Series A To Bring Marketing Automation Tools To Mobile Apps

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Appboy, a company that helps mobile app marketers better retain users and keep them engaged, is today announcing $7.6 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Icon Venture Partners, and saw participation from new investors IDG Ventures, and Mike Lazerow, founder of Buddy Media. Existing seed investors, including Blumberg Capital, Accelerator Ventures, Bullpen Capital and T5 Capital, also participated.

The company has raised a total of $7.6 million. However, in addition to the $5.1 million in Series A funding, Appboy previously raised $2.5 million via convertible note seed financings, which have now converted.

While a number of companies from the earlier days of the mobile app ecosystem have focused on helping app developers acquire new users, Appboy is about taking the next step. It helps companies keep their users by offering a suite of tools that enable companies to better understand their user demographics, so they can engage them in a timely fashion through in-app messages, push notifications and even email.

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“It’s not an acquisition game anymore. I really believe 2014 will be about user engagement, retention – those kind of numbers – rather than how many downloads you had,” says Appboy co-founder and CEO Mark Ghermezian.

Once integrated into an app, Appboy’s platform immediately begins creating a rich profile on all the app’s users. Ghermezian explains that it’s not really an analytics platform, despite some similarities, but a mobile user management platform.

“If you want all the different, crazy charts, we’re not that,” he says. “But if you want to understand your users down to a per-user level, and manage all your communication with them…that’s what we are.”

The company has already found traction with some well-known app publishers on the App Store, including textPlus, Pic Stitch, GSN (Game Show Network), Urban Outfitters, and a variety of digital magazines through a channel partnership with Mag+.

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After user profiles are created, Appboy offers multi-messaging marketing tools that let its customers choose how and when specific groups of users are contacted through push notifications, messages within the app, or via emails. The company also provides a “news feed”-like product that developers can place in their apps, too, which allows them to keep users updated on things like new friends or comments, new features, new activity, and other alerts. Though a relatively new product at Appboy, app makers are already seeing 25-30 percent clickthrough rates in the news feed, says Ghermezian.

The founder believes that Appboy is the next evolution in marketing automation tools. He references companies like Buddy Media (whose founder has now invested in Appboy), ExactTarget, Radian6 and Marketo as examples of companies (several acquired by Salesforce) that focus on various aspects of online marketing, but points out that none offer a mobile solution.

Appboy, meanwhile, is designed not for the developers or the data scientists who pore over the charts and graphs from analytics providers, but for the marketing crowd. The dashboard lets its customers create campaigns using simple tools that slice and dice a larger audience into specific groups based on several factors, including demographics, social profile data, in-app behaviors, in-app purchases and more. That way, app marketers can target groups like “recently lapsed” users or “high spenders” or “passionate fans” in personalized, unique ways.

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The suite also offers tools that help keep an app’s bugs and glitches from tanking App Store rankings, by redirecting potentially negative app reviews to in-app feedback forms instead, and integrating with other systems like Zendesk, desk.com, and UserVoice.

Appboy will use the new funding to grow its sales and marketing teams, as well as get more aggressive with its own marketing, and it will begin to look into internationalization efforts, too. The now 30-person company has already doubled in size from the beginning of the year.

Along with the funding announcement, Appboy relaunched its website with a refreshed look and new brand, and adjusted pricing so it’s now 1 cent per user profile for companies with up to 100,000 app users, then custom pricing for larger publishers.

Also with the new investment, the plan is to continue to improve upon Appboy’s various tools. For example, the company added location to its segmentation product last week. Soon, it will be doing more with the news feed, too, by offering a variety of templated “cards” (calls to action) for things like feedback, surveys, increasing purchases and more. And longer-term, Appboy could take advice offered by its “Success Squad” staff, who help Appboy’s bigger clients, and turn that into actionable tips and advice and even automation within the core product itself.

“I want my Success Squad to be living inside the dashboard,” says Ghermezian. “Whoever automates this is going to win.”