Simply put: bootstrap. is. over.
If you know us, you know we’ve always taken great pride in building a company that was profitable from Day-One. A company that needed no external funding to grow to 7 million users, a rockstar staff of 40 mobile experts and availability for our little app, AppGratis in over 30 countries. We did not want the spotlight, we didn’t care much about shiny press releases and fancy investors, we were under the radar and happy to be flying there because we knew we were building something so big that in the early days, the less exposure, the better.
But now that the news is out, I understand that it may come as a surprise to some. So I thought I owed you a little explanation.
After all, I’ve always been – and still remain – bootstrapping’s biggest evangelist, always advising fellow entrepreneurs *not* to take external money and build their businesses with their passion and bare hands — at least in the beginning. This is pretty much how AppGratis grew out of a daily newsletter sent from my bedroom. I even have this big pile of 37signals’ Rework book (the Holy Bible of bootstrapping) in my office that I gift to people from time to time when I think they need it.
But now obviously for us, the situation has changed.
So what has changed, you ask ?
Well simply, it’s about the whole goddamn world transitioning from desktop to mobile at breakneck speed.
Of course, there’s growth in the West. But Brazil, which we entered 18 month ago is on FIRE. India is on FIRE. Japan is on FIRE.
It’s not only the US or Europe or some specific place. It’s truly global.
And what was a nice little fast-growing market when we started back in 2008 is now forecasted to be north of $25bn by 2015. The “mobile wave” has grown into something that looks more like a monster tsunami these days. Clearly, market growth is outpacing everyone — and because we still want to be leading this race in the years to come, we felt now was the perfect moment to push the hyperspace button.
That’s how, early last year, talking with my partners Franck and Sylvain, we came to the conclusion that we needed an extra boost to tackle global growth. I made the call and on the road I went. Very few entrepreneurs tell the story of their roadshow. I won’t today, either – but believe me there are some interesting tidbits in it. What is sure though, is that the journey taught me a lot about myself, about what AppGratis was, and what I wanted for it.
In the end, we picked Iris Capital and the Orange Publicis Fund which now provide us with a healthy combination of VC money, mobile DNA, advertising excellence DNA and global reach. And because the company was already very profitable when we sat at the negotiation table, we took the time we needed, and inked a perfect deal.
But back to the money, and what we intend to do with it.
Most obvious, international expansion.
This can be a costly game, as you know. AppGratis has operations in dozens of markets, from Brazil to Japan, from London to San Francisco to Paris. In the office we speak English, French, Italian, German, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Arabic, Turkish and Russian. And more languages are coming in our attempt to span the world. But while our model allows for great centralization in our Paris HQ, we still need to be in the field, close to the game developers, the studios and the mobile brands. And they’re everywhere. We’re opening overseas offices this year, and some of Air France’s crew members know us by name now. This is one big thing the money is going to go to.
But clearly, that’s not all.
AppGratis is a wild beast to run.
Because it looks like such a dead-simple consumer product, very few people — out of the tech industry — understand the crazy forces that are at work in the backend to power over 30 different app deals pushed every day in 12 languages in 30 markets in as many timezones as there are, in a seamless cross-platform / cross-country fashion.
For this reason, we’ve been busy over the years building an engine we’ve nicknamed the “App Server” — it will probably never make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs but will certainly help us fulfill our mission of connecting great apps with great people.
To execute such a hard task perfectly though, there’s no trick but to consistently go for top talent. So hiring talent is another big thing the money is going to go to.
And then, there’s the developer community.
I’m referring to those 50,000+ devs, start-ups and studios in the world building amazing software for the Stores as we speak. AppGratis always had a strong pro-developers mindset, and nothing makes us happier than delivering hundreds of thousands of engaged users to an app.
Because of the incredible following we’ve built, we now help other businesses achieve global distribution, and — if their product monetizes well — profitability.
In fact we even started as app developers ourselves, before switching focus to app distribution. We scratched our own itch — and because the developer community gave us so much, we want give back even more in the years to come. How? We have a few big ideas that are into production right now, and will see the light of day later this year. So stay tuned — and if you are a developer with an amazing app, and want to tap into our global network distribution opportunity, get in touch please.
Et voila my friends!
Now back to work and to AppGratis & the fantastic team behind it: keep pushing.