A Q&A with mParticle co-founder and CEO Michael Katz. The New York City-based startup, which has created a data management and analytics platform for mobile app developers, announced earlier this month the completion of a $1.5 million Seed funding raise. Investors include Battery Ventures, Harbinger Capital Partners and Bowery Capital. It was founded in 2012 by Katz and his brother Andrew. The pair previously started interclick, which they sold to Yahoo back in 2011. mParticle previously raised $4.5 million in initial Seed funding.
SUB: Please describe mParticle and your primary innovation.
Katz: mParticle is an end-to-end data platform for mobile app owners. We enable app owners to seamlessly connect with their audience as well as key vendors, while reducing SDK overhead. Our primary innovation centers around the notion of creating ‘data leverage,’ helping our clients move faster and increase engagement.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Katz: We are focused on large- and medium-size apps across content—large media companies—and commerce—travel, retail, games with in-app purchases—verticals. Each segment has different needs and use cases that we solve for. For example, a large media company with a portfolio of mobile apps will look to us because we can help unify audience data across all their apps, whereas a smaller ecommerce app will use us because we help accelerate development efforts.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates mParticle from the competition?
Katz: Nobody else offers an end-to-end data platform for apps. The choice that app owners make isn’t choosing between us and another company, but rather leveraging a data layer and extracting all of the benefits from it or continuing to embed numerous SDKs into their apps and understanding the cost and complexity as a result of doing so.
SUB: You just announced that you’ve raised $1.5 million in new Seed funding. Why was this a particularly good time to raise more funds?
Katz: We spent the first half of 2014 in private beta with a number of customers. The fund raise was done on the heels of a few big customer wins, and while it’s early and we certainly have a ton of work to do, we are encouraged by the early momentum. We’re expecting really big things in 2015.
SUB: How do you plan to use the funds?
Katz: As I mentioned, the first half of 2014 was really about refining the product based on customer and market feedback. The emphasis now is on creating awareness and demand as well as market education. Anytime someone thinks about mobile data and figuring out how to reduce SDK overhead, we want them to think of mParticle.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for mParticle? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Katz: Much of the inspiration behind mParticle was based on lessons learned while building interclick and observing the types of solutions required to help companies better utilize their data to take advantage of opportunities in rapidly evolving ecosystems. Before we built the company we had a number of conversations with app developers to test our hypotheses and get market feedback, which helped refine the idea even further.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Katz: The first step was talking with my brother Andrew, who is our CTO at mParticle and was our CTO at interclick, about the opportunity. After the sale to Yahoo, there was no obligation to jumping back into building another company, but we felt that this opportunity was one that we couldn’t sit back and watch somebody else pursue. We felt like if anyone was going to bring a data platform to native apps it may as well be us.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Katz: We believe that data is the atomic component of any great company, much like how particles makes up all matter, so the ‘particle’ in ‘mParticle’ is an abstract representation of helping our clients use data as a building block of success. We added an ‘m’ for mobile and that was it. Plus, the domain name was available so we didn’t have to spend a lot on it.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Katz: Doing anything from a standing start brings a number of complexities that make starting a business really hard. This has been challenging because it’s a completely different industry and model from what we had built before, plus we are bringing a new type of solution to native apps that had not existed before. So combining the need to educate the market with having to acquire domain expertise meant there was a steep learning curve in the early days, but with experience comes a level of focus and confidence knowing that as our learning curve flattens, our growth curve steepens.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Katz: We are a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform offering our apps a 14 day free trial which will convert into a set plan based on volume.
SUB: What are your goals for mParticle over the next year or so?
Katz: At a high level, its simply about customer traction, but that’s really a byproduct of doing a few things really well, including hiring and retaining world class talent, continuing to develop innovative technology that helps apps do more with their data, and forming winning sales and marketing strategies.