Navigating The App-Data Explosion: Localytics' Raj Aggarwal
ReadWriteBuilders is a series of interviews with developers, designers and other architects of the programmable future.
When Apple launched a little thing called the App Store in 2008, few people predicted the resulting explosion of mobile apps over the last five years. Raj Aggarwal is one of the few.
Aggarwal co-founded Boston-based mobile analytics company Localytics that same year to build the tools developers and marketers would later need to make sense of how people use apps. Sophisticated analytics engines have long been the bread and butter of the Web. Data produced by these tools helps developers and publishers make money, better serve their users and understand how people fundamentally interact with software.
The new era of mobile computing needed granular analytics centered not around the Web, but around the app. These days, the Apple App Store and Google Play store for Android feature roughly a million apps apiece. Every one of those apps generate data, from how many times a user opens it to what he or she does once it's running. The consequent data explosion demands interpretation and analysis.
And that's where Aggarwal and his co-founders, Henry Cipolla and Andrew Rollins, saw an opportunity—in a future in which the mobile app was everything. By providing an analytics engine for the mobile era, companies like Localytics and its rival Flurry laid down the infrastructure that help developers refine their work and produce new innovations. People like Aggarwal, Cipolla and Rollins are the builders that help other builders build.
I sat down with Aggarwal to discuss the explosion of the app economy, challenges in Big Data and whether to build your own software tools or to buy them.
Forecasting The App Explosion
ReadWrite: In 2009, the Apple App Store was a year old, the Android Market was just coming into being, and you happened to see an opportunity. So what drove you to start a mobile analytics company when it wasn’t clear that we would have this app explosion?
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Raj Aggarwal: In some ways we saw the app explosion coming, before the App Store or the very earliest days in the app store. I’ll give you a little bit of background. I was consulting to mobile companies for many years and worked directly with Apple and Steve Jobs to build the business model of the iPhone, built Disney Mobile in Japan and Virgin Mobile Canada.
So I was bullish on the space. I knew the smartphone would have a huge impact on the world, and apps provide so much stronger of a user experience that they would be the way that people would interact with their services on smart phones.
[W]e got very networked into the Boston mobile developer community and realized the tools and platforms that app developers and publishers would need didn’t yet exist. Analytics was something that was important to all of us, either as consumers or creators. We believed that the app space would be significant so we decided to go after building the axe and shovels for the space rather than going after the gold rush by building the next big app.