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Meet App Annie, the go-to source for mobile insight

Bertrand Schmitt

Seven years ago, there was no such thing as an app store. Today, the major ones—including those managed by Apple and Google—host more than four million apps generating $75 billion in revenue annually.

What’s the best way to keep track of bombs and bestsellers? Most leading publishers—including companies like Hasbro, Nestle, Universal, Fox, Amazon and LinkedIn—rely on analytics company App Annie, which you can think of as akin to the Nielsen rating system for the mobile app economy.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary this month, App Annie tracks metrics for more than 6.4 million apps representing $25 billion in gross revenue. The company closed an oversubscribed $55 million Series D round in January, led by Institutional Venture Partners (IVP). That brings its total to $94 million across five rounds.

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“If you believe that the app economy will continue to grow, and that’s a pretty good bet, you have to have pretty good information about it,” said Eric Liaw, an IVP general partner and App Annie board member. IVP was actually a paying App Annie customer before it became an investor, he said. The firm uses the data to help evaluate potential investments in mobile startups.

Anyone can sign up for the company’s trends information, which reveals general information about top publishers and individual apps. Want more specific data on usage trends or about how the competition is doing? You’ll have to pay for that insight.

“For every large consumer brand, there are 20 app startups with new-fangled services that are amassing huge downloads,” said French-born App Annie co-founder and CEO Bertrand Schmitt, who has been developing games since the age of 11. “However, for brands, that are looking at multiple ways of making an impact in mobile, developing and publishing apps is the most obvious way, as is taking advantage of new and native mobile advertising formats.”

What does Schmitt consider some of the best examples? One obvious pick is the Starbucks app, now fueling more than 7 million mobile transactions weekly. It’s hardly surprising that retailers also figure prominently in its rankings. Drug-store chain Walgreens, for example, was behind the third most popular app in this category (by downloads) last year—ahead of Walmart and Target.

“We pay particularly close attention to our customer feedback and measure it at several points throughout the [mobile] experience,” said Tim McCauley, senior director of mobile solutions for Walgreens. “So much of our success stems from this intense focus and responding to customer needs with innovative yet simple solutions.​”

Other companies providing useful mobile insights include Localytics (which raised another $30 million early this week), Flurry (bought by Yahoo last July); Mixpanel (which boasts an $865 million valuation); 4Info (which measures advertising); and SimilarWeb (which already tracks actual usage).

App Annie’s latest funding will support several initiatives, including potential acquisitions, international expansion and new offerings. Chief among those is the Usage Intelligence service (currently in beta), which will measure metrics such as active users, average time spent in apps, and frequency of visits.

“Usage data is of paramount importance to mobile app publishers and investors, particularly when you’re talking about analyzing apps that monetize outside of the store,” Schmitt said.

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