Moshe Vaknin: Founder & CEO, YouAppi

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Bio:

Moshe Vaknin has been dreaming about YouAppi since he bought his first iPhone 3. After a long and successful career, leading companies such as ATT and VocalTech, Moshe founded three successful startups before founding YouAppi. As the CEO of YouAppi, Moshe brings vast experience in the advertising, publishing and affiliate marketing fields, fortifying him with the ability to identify opportunities, transform them into reality, and lead global teams.

How did you get into the industry?

I was born in Israel and lived there until the age of 18 where I went into the military for three years. After my service, I didn’t know what to do so I decided to travel to the US to explore a new world. During this time, I attended university where I completed two degrees including a masters in Engineering. Following this, I landed a job with my professor at Bell Labs which paved my way into ad tech.

An entrepreneur at heart, I had a long and successful career, leading companies such as VocalTech and AT&T. I also founded three successful startups, all of which taught me valuable lessons about the media and mobile marketplace. Then came the rise of mobile, to which I saw an immense opportunity in the app economy. The idea was pretty unique as mobile advertising had just started, but I took everything I learned from my twenty years of experience and built my latest venture, YouAppi - a fully managed data-driven marketing platform that connects brands with global consumers enabling them to build and grow their mobile business.

Any emerging industry trends?

While programmatic has brought a number of benefits to the advertising world, it has also unlocked a number of issues related to trolls and flawed systems that are not as evident in a direct environment. The irony is that the more automated we get, the more we have to go back and validate when we discover something has gone awry.

For years there has been a lot of noise around programmatic and how major brands have had to pull their ads after they were found appearing next to videos promoting extremist views or hate speech. These incidences highlighted an uncomfortable, and slightly awkward, fact about advertising in a digital age: most brands don’t know exactly where their advertising is running or who they’re targeting.

The world is moving into platforms and mobile technologies are continuing to evolve at a blistering pace, making it necessary for companies of all sizes to incorporate sophisticated technology into their advertising and marketing to meet customer demand. AI and machine learning are creating the greatest shift in programmatic capabilities – it’s at the heart of the advertising industry and is becoming a more integral part of programmatic.

AI and machine learning give marketers the ability to take control of their data to achieve the results they are looking for. It gives them the power to optimize their marketing campaigns pre-bid. They can determine exactly where they should place their bid, how much they should bid, and when they should bid — this is all before they even place the bid. The goal is to help them monetize their campaigns and deliver the best possible return on investment.

We’re seeing a significant shift from "traditional programmatic," and with the integration of machine learning, marketers and publishers alike will be able to spot ad fraud before it happens and assess the brand safety of online environments.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

On average a U.S. adult spends around five hours every day watching content on their mobile, and much of this is driven by native app experiences. Video-watching forms a significant part of a user’s mobile experience. We can process visual information much faster than text (60,000x to be exact) because our visual memory is connected to our median temporal lobe, which is also responsible for emotions. Therefore a brand has a much better chance of eliciting a favorable response from their audience with a good video ad than they do with a text ad.

We recently released an annual report - based on feedback from global digital marketing professionals across leading mobile brands - that revealed a significant increase in video investment for 2018 with 85% of marketers planning to increase their investment in video during 2018, up a full 10% from 2017. Additionally, three-quarters of respondents cited video as very or critically important to the customer journey, with marketers saying they use it for acquisition (71%), awareness (65%), engagement (56%), re-engagement (40%) and segmentation (31%).

The findings highlight that video provides a golden opportunity for brand marketers to attract the right customers and keep them engaged. Solutions like rewarded video will take consumer engagement to the next level as it offers value exchange between the end user and app developers.

While there has been reluctance to take advantage of rewarded video in previous years we’re starting to see a step change in the industry. Rewarded video is turning a curve in adoption, and the numbers will climb significantly across all categories of apps.  

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

YouAppi has been a dream of mine since I bought my first iPhone 3. With the rise of mobile, I saw an immense opportunity in the app economy. The idea was pretty unique because mobile advertising had just started. I remember going around asking investors for funding but they didn’t believe in the idea. There were not that many companies or investors who believed in mobile advertising or mobile apps.

When YouAppi was first launched, there were only 200,000 apps which were mainly games. Investors saw this as a stale market that would quickly fizzle out or only cater to gamers. I knew the market and the opportunity was bigger, and I knew mobile apps were eventually going to be ingrained into our everyday life. The idea was to build a company that would help guide developers and publishers to overcome old thinking and spring into innovation and effective message delivery.

Thankfully, I wasn’t wrong. Today global mobile app revenue is predicted to top $102 billion by 2020, as mobile apps now account for 52 percent of all time spent on digital media. Alongside a great team, I have built YouAppi to meet the needs of today’s global brands, with 12 offices across eight countries in Asia, Europe and North America.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

YouAppi has some exciting news in the pipeline and the industry will see us making some noise around the programmatic space. Most importantly at the moment we’re preparing for the EU’s GDPR regulations which are going into effect on May 25. We’re delivering our commitment to helping our customers comply with the GDPR.

YouAppi continues to increase understanding of the advertising, conversion and revenue opportunities presented by shopping, lifestyle, entertainment and streaming applications. My future goals for the company are to continue bringing new products to market that meet the challenges mobile marketers face, and to improve the visibility for consumers to the apps that are relevant to them. I want to continue to expand our business globally, especially throughout USA, China, Japan and Indonesia where I see significant opportunities for mobile growth and expansion.  

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

It’s no secret that YouAppi operates in a competitive space. YouAppi has been fortunate to experience great success as we transform the way mobile marketers approach their campaigns. To date, we enable 470 of the hottest mobile brands in the world to secure profitable users across the globe.

Last year we launched our 360° Platform, a first-to-market, which combines the power of machine learning with YouAppi’s proprietary predictive algorithms and cohort technology. Our growth platform analyzes the mobile content consumption patterns of individuals, converting data into profitable users.

We are not interested in delivering a download for the sake of it, but rather, in acquiring loyal users, who are likely to return frequently to the app, and who have a high lifetime value. It delivers on marketers’ distinct KPIs across five pillars, covering the tech (machine learning), the ad format (brand video and rewarded video), and the desired outcome (user acquisition or re-engagement).

To date, the YouAppi platform has driven more than 35 million app downloads and counting, all with unparalleled transparency and safety. In the last 12 months YouAppi has expanded on an international scale with the opening of the company’s offices in China and Southeast Asia, which brought YouAppi’s proprietary technology, based on post-install events, to more app marketers.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Today YouAppi is recognized as one of the fastest growing companies. However, building the company didn’t come without challenges. YouAppi was created during a time when mobile advertising had just started. While I saw an immense opportunity there was a lot of skepticism, which made securing investment difficult.

When YouAppi was first started, gaming apps ruled the application universe. It’s easy to see how investors might look at this as an issue. Would the mobile phone become just another gaming console? I was determined to prove otherwise and knew the mobile marketing sphere would quickly become essential to business models all around the globe.

Fast forward six years and YouAppi has expanded to 12 offices, over 100 employees, and achieved profitability in just five years. Due to this rapid, successful growth, revenue now streams from all over the world.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Mobile marketers are plagued with similar concerns - how to acquire the best users, how to keep them engaged and how to convert downloads into loyal customers. In today’s saturated app market the challenges grow exponentially harder. YouAppi is a fully managed, data-driven marketing platform that connects brands with high-value global consumers allowing mobile marketers to build and grow their mobile business.

What’s more, we offer our clients unprecedented insight into the mobile user experience, by using AI and machine learning to analyze 66 unique data parameters across 4,200 apps and mobile sites, used by 2 billion people in over 200 countries and territories.

Fraud is another concern for most mobile marketers, one that seems to be getting worse not better. We have a dedicated fraud team and offer the most comprehensive fraud protection on the market - delivered through a lightweight SDK. This provides our clients some relief from the ever-present worry of fraud.

Keeping on top of industry trends and hurdles is a main priority. Our internal research has shown that native mobile ads significantly outperform other ads, such as mobile banner ads, generating a 30-40% higher click-through rate and doubling the conversion rate in top categories like retail. These are the kind of results we like our mobile brands to see in their marketing efforts.

How do you motivate others?

Good culture is a result of positive intentions that blend with the natural synergy of an organization. Building strong bonds with members of your global teams is key to sustaining a healthy company culture – the driving force behind happy, motivated team members. At  YouAppi we live by a set of core values and share similar passions which drive the team to be cohesive as individual contributors.

Health is an important element to a motivated staff. Employee health is highly encouraged at YouAppi and we make it easy for employees to maintain good health. Our team offers gym memberships, healthy snacks, and great health benefits along with employee wellness programs and perks such as massage and chiropractic. Good health keeps our team physically and mentally strong and allows us to perform at our best.

Along with physical health, we value the importance of healthy family relationships. As a family man myself, I care about our employees and their families. We make sure to offer appropriate flexibility in working schedules along with an award-winning family leave policy recognized by the city of San Francisco.

It’s always more exciting to come to work every day when there is a clear, shared purpose and direction. Our team works to keep employees informed about exciting new changes going on in the company. Keeping employees updated and advised about the future of the company ensures they are active and involved. We strive for honesty and openness with employees and treat them like a second family.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Always believe in your dreams even if others don’t. Don’t be afraid to fail but learn from your mistakes. In the words of Henry Ford, “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”

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