Today, we are officially announcing the launch of N3TWORK’s Scale Platform, a suite of tools that programmatically builds ad creatives, constructs ad campaigns, automates the optimization of those campaigns, and generates meaningful user segmentation and behavioral insights, for use by 3rd-party app developers.
In 2018, these tools helped N3TWORK spend tens of millions of dollars in user acquisition media on our hit game, Legendary: Game of Heroes with industry-leading payback windows.
Why did we build The Platform?
The world was a very different place for mobile marketers just a few years ago. Having led mobile user acquisition teams at various companies over the past six years, in addition to running Mobile Dev Memo, a popular mobile industry trade blog, I’ve watched mobile user acquisition evolve from a parochial, narrow effort that most developers sought to build in-house into a broad, multi-disciplinary function that many developers struggle to staff internally now.
In a presentation I gave at the Mobile World Congress event in Los Angeles last September, I used two crude diagrams to contrast the mobile user acquisition workflow in the 2013–2015 time period, when the Top Grossing platform charts were almost entirely comprised of games as the free-to-play model hit its stride in the West, with how mobile user acquisition teams operate now:
What these illustrations show is that mobile user acquisition is far more sophisticated today than it was during the nascent period of freemium app distribution, and it requires deep domain expertise that is broader and more diverse than what used to be captured in a user acquisition role.
Now, as the top tier of the app economy diversifies into a multitude of verticals, the user acquisition function at any successful mobile-first company is staffed with data scientists, engineers, analysts, and artists that work with a broad set of tools. These tools typically help them identify the best users for their apps, build bespoke advertising creative for those segments, and even curate users’ first moments in the app.
The second mobile wave is now upon us, and it has introduced new monetization models like subscriptions and high-fidelity in-app advertising that allow a diverse range of app verticals to undertake user acquisition at scale. Over the next decade, this cycle in the app economy will create an order of magnitude more value than the first did, and performance marketing will be at the heart of that.
This sea change has largely been precipitated by “the Duopoly” — Facebook and Google — which, in attempts to reinforce the walls of their gardens, have built inventory purchasing mechanics that obfuscate targeting data and make advertisers dependent on their “black box” algorithms. Google’s UAC and Facebook’s AEO and VO bidding types, in addition to its new budget-balancing feature, eliminate the need for advertisers to “push buttons” to achieve optimized campaigns. But while it’s now trivial to create and manage ad campaigns, an interdisciplinary and more complex process is needed to tune them: by finding the best in-app event signals to send to Facebook and Google, or the best creatives to pair with certain types of campaigns, or the best early-stage ROI metrics to use to proxy success. Exhaustive ad creative experimentation and analytical discovery are now the ways in which a user acquisition team establishes a competitive advantage.
Having tracked these trends as a mobile user acquisition practitioner, I started a company in mid-2016 to build Agamemnon, a SaaS-based mobile marketing analytics platform that would help teams lean into this new paradigm and automate their campaign optimization. When Neil Young and Dan Barnes, N3TWORK’s CEO and COO, respectively, approached me about acquiring Agamemnon, they presented me with the opportunity to pursue a broad, bold vision: to build, from scratch but with Agamemnon as its foundation, an end-to-end mobile user acquisition automation platform that would capitalize on this new mobile marketing climate.
And so in June 2017, I joined N3TWORK and we assembled a remarkable team of engineers, data scientists & product managers to build the tools that we’re announcing today.
My thesis in joining N3TWORK was that the evolution of the mobile marketing ecosystem towards algorithmic, black-box campaign management would create opportunities for small teams to reach large scale with their apps using sophisticated user acquisition technology. After proving this thesis with Legendary, we are creating a new commercial enterprise that will allow third-party developers to benefit from the investments we have made into developing The Platform.
N3TWORK’s goal with Scale Platform is straightforward: to grow great apps into huge businesses by providing user acquisition technology, expertise, and capital. We want to partner with developers that need help scaling because either they lack the funds to fully capture their app’s potential or the cost they are paying to acquire quality users is too high to support a substantial marketing budget. Our tech can help with the latter, and our capital can help with the former: we have built a technology platform that can close the LTV / CAC gap, and we are so convinced of its power and effectiveness that we are willing to put our money behind it on other developers’ apps.
Our process of vetting potential partner apps is likewise straightforward: we will fund (with no expectation of being reimbursed!) a substantial user acquisition test using our tools and quickly assess whether we can help the developer reach scale with their app.
The N3TWORK Scale Platform is launching with a stellar team behind it: we have an entire product team distributed across our San Francisco and Santiago offices dedicated to continuously improving our platform tools, and we recently hired Greg Essig, an esteemed and well-respected executive whose experience spans the history of mobile gaming itself as an App Store lead at Apple, to head commercial partnerships. If your app is live on the App Store or Google Play, we’d love to speak with you!
Eventually, we plan to make our proprietary user acquisition technology available to all developers as a SaaS product: app developers will be able to interface with our Platform directly and use any or all of its features to grow their apps, in the model of an AWS for mobile user acquisition. We’re not there yet, but we’re happy to roll out N3TWORK Scale Platform as a managed distribution service that utilizes those same products to reduce the cost, increase the yield, and maximize the efficiency of mobile user acquisition campaigns.
In seeing the way new monetization strategies such as subscriptions and fully ad-supported apps have shaken up the Top Grossing charts over the past two years, our belief is that massive businesses built on mobile will only continue to rapidly proliferate over the next decade. This is the reason we have invested so much energy into developing The Platform and why we have made it available to third-party developers through the N3TWORK Scale Platform, and it’s why we’re excited to have ambitious developers with great apps that can use our tools and capital to build incredible businesses reach out to us via the N3TWORK Scale Platform website.