KPI’s for Life: Adding Beauty

Posted in Life, News and Politics, Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

My son was born almost 11 months ago and is just starting to walk on his own.  Seeing him learn to stand on his own feet and the look of sheer glee on his face as explores his world is  magical.  Watching him and his big sister become more and more themselves is basically the best thing in my world.  I think most parents experience something similar, having kids gives us a chance to see the world through new eyes and experience familiar things for the first time once again. Continue reading

A Close Look At Mobile Ad Fraud

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

I have a new article up on MediaPost looking at the various types of ad fraud in the mobile media space and how brands and their partners can combat them.

Media quality remains a top challenge for digital marketers. With mobile ad spending accounting for 70.3% of total U.S. digital advertising spending, many of the techniques used to perpetuate fraud as well as detect it have migrated from desktop to mobile. Mobile ad fraud comes in several varieties; let’s take a look at several of the most prominent.

Read more at:

Deep links and Cross-platform targeting

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , , ,

Two new posts up on corporate blogs for my job.  One is a product announcement on our new deeplinking solution:

Announcing: Smart Link

The second is an explanation of how data from that tool is being used along with other data to power our new cross-platform and cross-device targeting technology:

Cross-Device and Cross-Platform Targeting

(Hopefully) interesting stuff if you work in the mobile advertising and media space!

The art of jumping ship

Posted in Life, Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

I started a new job last week and was talking to my good friend Tim O’Neil about the where’s and why’s.  He’s happy in his current position but suggested I write a follow-up to my article on what to look for in a new company addressing when to start looking for that company.  After thinking it over, I thought it would make for an interesting conversation – so please feel free to add your $0.02 in the comments!

One of the hardest professional decisions is when to look for new opportunities.  Taking a new job is a risk after all!  The thing is, job security is a myth – it simply does not exist any more.  Layoffs are a normal part of business and startups die almost as fast as new ones are born.  No one is going to stay at the same company their entire career.   On the other hand, Silicon Valley is one of the only labor markets where demand significantly outstrips the available supply (thanks in large part to the abysmal failure of American schools to turn out the engineers needed to power our tech industries).  That puts talented workers in a uniquely strong position.  Millions of Americans who are struggling to stay afloat would be thrilled to have the opportunity we have.

The solution is to start treating your working hours like a stock portfolio – if you’re not getting the ROI you need it may be time to make a change.  Here are a few KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) for that portfolio: Continue reading

How to succeed in Technical Sales… and Life

Posted in Life, Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

In the last month I’ve been reviewing and revising the job description for Sales Engineering (SE) at work as I work on expanding my team here. These guidelines form a sort of code of honor that I try to adhere to as a professional and outline what I look for in potential team members.  They aren’t always easy to live up to, but making the effort is its own reward.  I hope they will help you as much as they’ve helped me. Continue reading

The Peter Principle

Posted in Fiction | Tagged

There are managers who you like and even learn from, people who make you feel motivated and excited to be part of a team and who lead by example instead of relying on threats and bribes.  And then there are managers like Roy.  He’s not a bad guy and was a decent engineer, but some people should never be promoted to management!

Robin was trying very hard to be diplomatic and failing miserably.  Roy had been a great programmer and when their boss had retired everyone assumed Roy would be the obvious guy to take over as Team lead, but his skill as an engineer had completely failed to translate into skill leading a group of engineers and he was floundering.  Everyone knew it, including Roy, and his panic at suddenly being bad at his job had made him defensive, which of course only made things worse.

She wasn’t trying to be critical, but things were quickly turning toxic and she wasn’t thrilled to have to contemplate looking for a new job.

Have you ever heard of the Peter Principle?

Jeanine had briefly studied organizational theory before dropping out of her grad program when she had her first child.  Having a career and building a human was all the stress she could handle.  She’d been talking about going back for most of the decade since.  In the meantime, she kept up with the field as best she could by reading on her own and finding excuses to talk over the ideas with friends.

Ok, so basically this guy Lawrence Peter argued that in most human organizations people get promoted based on their competence at the job they were doing previously, not based on how they’d perform in the job they’re getting promoted into.  Which means that over time, everyone who climbs the ladder will eventually get promoted to their position of incompetence where their inability to perform prevents them from advancing further and every large organization that doesn’t actively take steps to prevent it will end up being run by incompetent people.  It’s a side effect of the fact that our brains haven’t adjusted to moving out of a hunter gatherer society where it made sense to have the best hunter lead the hunt.

“So what you’re saying is it’s not Roy’s fault that he sucks at his job and I should just blame biology?”  Robin was obviously skeptical and her laugh dripped with sarcasm.  “Roy doesn’t need my pity, what he needs is a crash course in basic management skills.”

Robin stopped to take a sip of her beer.  It had been a long week and even without an incompetent and defensive manager she’d have been tired.  Her relief at it finally being Friday night was palpable and, as much as she enjoyed spending time with Jeanine, what she really wanted more than anything was to curl up in a comfy chair and read a book.  She started to make an excuse and stood up without looking behind her, and bumped into a couple guys who were walking past.  Robin apologized reflexively as she turned around and was surprised to find herself looking up into a face she recognized.  It took a second to click and then


He laughed at her surprise and she tried not to let the way the crinkles around his smile made her feel register on her face.  They had talked a bit on skype after that first initial meeting, mostly work stuff but occasionally veering off into personal lives, music, sports.  All the standard  small talk.  She thought he’d wanted to ask her out but he never seemed to work up the courage so bumping into him here was as unexpected at it was pleasant.  He’d come out to Oakland from the city to meet a friend, Charles, who he promptly introduced.

Sorry, it looked like you were about to leave,  I didn’t mean to bump into you I should have been watching more carefully…

Oh no!  Nothing to apologize for, I walked into you.  Actually I was just going to get up and get another round.  Want to join us?

The two men looked at each other and it was Charles who spoke first.  “Actually, that would be just about perfect.”  Jeanine quickly chimed in “Well I’m glad that’s settled then!  You two go get us a pitcher” as she playfully shooed them away and motioned Charles to come sit by her.

John pushed through the crowd, Robin following after him, trying her best to not to make the fact that she was staring at his butt overly obvious.  She failed.  He didn’t mind.  It was a good night.

It’s a start

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , ,

Getting older is one of the few inevitable’s in life., and yet it’s a constant source of surprise.   I still can’t quite wrap my head around how fast the years since have gone.  9 years in a failed marriage, a house that my ex kept, a pile of songs no one sings on albums no one listens too.  And now even my career is falling apart.  I’ve failed at literally everything I’ve ever cared about.

Grant took another sip of his beer and stared straight down at the table, blank faced.  He was in one of his depressive moods and thought he was being philosophical and honest but as far as the rest of the world was concerned he was just wallowing in self-pity.  Jared looked across the table at his friend and raised his eyebrow.

Snap out of it man.  There’s a difference between failing and not having succeeded yet.  Everyone who knows you respects you – you have courage and integrity and you’re smart.  No one else would have walked into Mark (their CEO)’s office after a major product launch and told him the direction he was taking the company was wrong and would bankrupt us.  And I can’t think of anyone else who could have convinced him he was right.  That takes guts.  You should be proud of yourself, not crying into your beer. Continue reading

What to track in your Mobile App?

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Brand new blog post up on the HasOffers corporate blog!

Acquiring users costs money and keeping them is hard. Every app has some amount of churn but how much and under what circumstances depend entirely on you and the experience you’ve created. Since it’s impossible to measure uninstalls – on all three mobile platforms uninstalls happen at the OS level outside the app and are thus invisible to the app developer and to SDK-based measurement – the next best thing is to capture key engagement points and measure dropoff based on the number of users who hit each of these. Measuring Data

Since the functionality and flow of mobile apps vary so radically, it’s impossible to identify specific events that everyone should track. So instead I’m going to go through a few common types of events that I see our clients measure and the value propositions behind each.

1. Registration and user info acquisition

Whether you’re a game developer, an mCommerce merchant, a bank, or a lifestyle brand, the moment at which your customer decides they trust you enough to give you their personal information is a key turning point in the user relationship.

Analyzing the engagement rate here can provide critical insight into that relationship. If you’re demanding the info up front and see a large dropoff from Install to Registration you might want to consider allowing an anonymous mode. Conversely, if you see a high engagement rate it means you’re effectively building trust and your users are likely to stick around.

For most apps this is the first major obstacle in the way of monetization and your best opportunity to get an idea of who that end user is so you can customize the user experience and target more effectively. Ask for too much info and you risk alienating people, ask for less and you may pay an opportunity cost by failing to deliver that customization. Fitness, dating, banking, and other apps that have an obvious reason for requiring registration will typically have an easier time getting this info, as will established retail brands, but I can’t think of a single vertical where getting the end user to register (and measuring how many users from each of your acquisition sources complete this step) wouldn’t be beneficial.

2. Tutorial completion or skip

Depending on your app flow this step may happen before or after registration and may be either highly involved or very simple, but there are very few apps that won’t benefit from having at least a minimal “this is where everything is” experience. Measuring whether people complete this step or skip it tells you a lot about how engaging and useful that first interaction with your customers really is. Further, measuring the downstream dropoff rates of your various acquisition sources and comparing that to the tutorial completion or skip rates tells you a lot about the relevance of your app to the demographics being acquired by those sources.

3. First engagement with core value proposition

How you define your core value proposition depends entirely on your app. But every app I’ve seen succeed in the 2 years I’ve spent selling and implementing analytics solutions to mobile developers has offered a tangible value prop, usually something that can be easily summarized in a sentence by anyone familiar with the app.

Let me give a few examples:

For a music service it’s the ability to access a massive library of music on demand without having to buy individual songs first, so ideal metrics are the first time a user plays a song, favorites it, or adds it to a playlist.

For a ridesharing app the core value is the ability to get a ride easily and safely so an ideal measure point is the first time the user searches for a ride.

For a gaming company it’s the fun people have playing their games so level completions are an ideal metric.

For a dating site the goal is a human connection with another user so measuring the first message sent to another user is critical.

For mobile retailers it’s the ability to shop easily from anywhere so favoriting an item or adding it to the cart for the first time is a key milestone.

For a fitness app the core value prop is the ability to track exercise, diet, or similar personal data points so capturing the first time the user goes for a run, calculates their calories, or otherwise uses the tools makes sense.

None of these data points is directly related to monetization (more on that in a moment) but all of them directly reflect on whether this is a user who’s going to stick around or not.

4. Monetization

Of course every developer is ultimately in it to make money, so measuring when and how your users are giving you money is critical. Whether that’s a monthly subscription event that you send to us server side, an in-app purchase, or even buying the app outright in the app store, these are the actions that fill your bank account and keep you in business. Capturing these events in a solution like MAT allows you to compare revenue to the cost of acquisition and calculate ROI across campaigns, acquisition channels, creatives, keywords, or whatever other metrics you’ve decided to measure (look for a future article on how to get the most out of our segmentation tools).

It’s worth pointing out that, unlike some other events which you probably only want to measure the first time, monetization should be captured for every occurrence. I’ve seen plenty of cases where one campaign brought in more initial big purchases but the users dropped off, while a different campaign brought in users who spent less up front but stayed engaged and spent more in the long term – leading to a higher cumulative ROI. The ability to capture end user data for the lifetime of their engagement with your app and trace all of that back to their acquisition point is critical, so make sure you’re using a solution that looks at lifetime value and not just the first few months.

5. What makes your app unique?

There are almost 275,000 games on the Apple store and over 165,000+ on Google Play – that’s a lot of competition! Meanwhile, every retailer, dating site, social media service, etc. who wants to stay in business has either launched, is in the process of launching, or will launch their own app at some point. So what makes your app unique?

This is different from #3 because there I was talking about the core functionality of your vertical which you probably share with all your competitors. Here I’m asking what makes your offering unique and why should people use it instead of one of your competitors?

Obviously I can’t tell you what this killer feature is – it will be different for every app. But if you don’t know what it is for your app or if your users aren’t taking advantage of it, it’s a good sign you need to put some work into your product development.

These are just a few ideas to get you started, depending on your vertical there may be additional events that you should be measuring. What would you add to the list?

10 Rules for Startups

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged ,

I was hiking with a good friend from a previous company this last weekend and we got to talking about some of the things we’d both learned over the last few years of working in tech startups.  I mentioned that I’ve put together a list of rules that for me determine whether I think a company is likely to succeed or not and he expressed interest in seeing it, so here it is.  I reference these rules both during the job hunting process as I’m evaluating opportunities from various recruiters and to decide if and when it’s time to jump ship and look for something new. Continue reading

First Impressions

Posted in Tech & Startups | Tagged , ,

I’ve been thinking a lot about Google Glass lately.  There are a lot of naysayers, as with any new tech, but I’m really hoping they’re able to pull off a successful launch.  Unfortunately, Google has a long track record of not giving their new releases the support and rapid iteration that’s required at the beginning of the lifecycle for a new product (ex: Google+) and then standing by while they wither on the vine.  So today I’d like to talk about some of the things that need to go into launching a new product and what we can learn from technologies in other industries that should have succeeded but didn’t.

Continue reading

Culture and Opportunity

Posted in Life | Tagged , ,

I’m kind of a radical.  I say “kind of” because I’m fairly sure that at 32 my days of living in treesits and getting teargassed at endless pointless protests that don’t change anything are pretty much over.  But I learned a lot along the way and these days I tend to see those lessons or principles as the most valuable part of the ethos.  The old lefty idea of a messianic revolution that will solve all our problems is pretty much completely discredited.   The good news is that there hundreds of mini revolution happening around us all the time.   And the more experience I get in the business world the more strongly I believe that horizontally organized peer groups are more efficient and productive then the standard top-down management structure that typifies governments and most businesses.

Continue reading

Data is King

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Back when I was in college studying Political Science I spent a lot of time (or at least a lot more then I expected going into the program) studying statistics and data.  In retrospect that was a good thing.  Knowing how to get reliable data from focus groups, how to write a survey and avoid bias in my questions,  and how to accurately analyze the bulk data resulting from that survey have all turned out to be very valuable in my work managing user communities.  I’ve found myself thinking about data even more then usual in the last month as I went through the interview process and started my new position at Kontagent. Continue reading

Dollars and Sense

Posted in Life, Tech & Startups | Tagged ,

The tech startup world, as anyone who’s spent time in it knows, is a weird place. It’s a strange little bubble universe that’s absolutely awash in cash while the rest of the economy struggles and stumbles along, but the people you might expect to be raking in the cash usually aren’t. Case in point – the people who’ve benefited the most from the tech boom in SF over the last decade are arguably the city’s landlords. There’s a city full of people with 6-figure incomes who each spend half – or more – of their take home pay on insanely overpriced tiny apartments. According to some studies I’ve seen recently (sorry, I can’t find the link atm, will try to add it in an edit later) rents across most of the city have doubled in the past year. And they weren’t exactly cheap to start with! Continue reading