Swrve helps companies think straight on how apps are used
The Irish firm provides data that gives insight into what works for customers
As smartphones become increasingly important, Swrve is helping to push the idea of a “mobile first” world. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
It’s hard to explain everything that Swrve does. The Irish-founded technology firm covers a lot of ground with its products, but at its simplest, it helps sellers understand how customers are using their apps and how to make them better.
“It’s a mobile marketing automation platform. What it really means is we empower developers or publishers who release the mobile applications to essentially understand what the users are doing inside that application,” says cofounder Steve Collins.
Collins founded Swrve with Hugh Reynolds in 2010. The duo had previously worked together on Havok, the now Intel-owned software firm that spun out of Trinity College Dublin before moving on to Core, which provided scripting languages for console games. It was that venture that led to the eventual development of Swrve.
“I’d love to say there was a ray of sunlight and inspirational moment. It was a question of iterating,” says Collins. “Initially, we started developing a platform for mobile game creation back in 2009. Very quickly as we talked to developers and people creating these applications we realised one part of what we were building was very interesting to people: our testing and optimisation component, being able to dynamically change the application as users were using it, in response to how they are using it. That’s what we launched with in 2010.
“The games industry was the mobile industry for a long time. The other markets are now starting to adopt some of the tried and tested practices that the games industry led the way on.”
Among those are the media and entertainment industries, with some interest from travel, retail and financial services.
Collins gives the example of promotions or special offers, but it could also be used to adapt an app to make it more relevant to users.
“In some respects I liken Swrve to special effects in movies. If you see it, then it has probably failed,” says Collins.
“Swrve is very much in the background of the application. If the app feels like it is responding to you, if it feels relevant and it feels like you’re getting the information you want at the right time, if Swrve is in there, then it’s is doing its job. It shouldn’t be visible. We’re very much in the background.”
It’s not just about user experience though. Developers get important metrics about the people using the app: what works, what doesn’t, where they are abandoning the app. It also sends information on what country users are in.
“The key thing is engaging the users inside the apps. People have a very short attention span these days, it’s really about establishing the value proposition of the app as early as you can. That’s what Swrve is good at,” Collins says.
It seems to be resonating with investors. The company recently announced a funding round of $30 million, which included backing by Evolution Media Partners and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. This will give Swrve access to larger companies and potential new markets.
It also means the company will be expanding its engineering operation here. While Swrve is officially headquartered in San Francisco, its main development is done in Dublin. Currently it has around 45 people in Dublin, but it plans to double that to 90 in the coming months.
The company has also been on a modest shopping spree, buying LA-based adaptive.io, a data automation platform for mobile that provides real-time analysis to help maximise revenue. It also bought a small Irish company earlier this year, Converser. The LA office joins the Dublin and San Francisco locations for Swrve, along with the office in London and the sales office in Prague.
Patterns of behaviour
“Ireland is a great place to build an engineering team but you have to get close to your customer when you’re selling software. It’s still important to have a presence geolocated with your customer base. The initial target market for us was the west coast, then the east coast became important; London is obviously an important hub for us as well.”
To date, there have been more than 1.2 billion installations of Swrve’s software kit and more than 3 billion transactions a day over 750 million users are monitored by its creation.
When a publisher or developer uses Swrve, they embed the software into the application itself; on launch, the app sends a ping back to Swrve to confirm it has been started. But that doesn’t mean that the company is gathering private data. For the most part, its deployments deal with anonymised views of users, looking at patterns of behaviour inside an application.
“We know that a certain user has found an area of the application difficult to use and is failing to complete a particular task; we don’t know who that person is.”
In some situations, personal data is transferred, for example where an email address is used to confirm a purchase or download a ticket.
“In that situation we take a whole lot of extra precautions around that. We have to be recognisant that we’re holding and storing and processing people’s information,” says Collins. “We launched our European data centre to ensure we can retain and deal with all that data in Europe and deal with all the EU data protection regulations.”
Havok was eventually sold to Intel, and Core was sold to Havok; could Swrve be the next big acquisition target? Collins isn’t talking about plans that far into the future. As far as he is concerned, growing the company is all that matters for now.
“It’s true to say that any company at our stage is constantly looking at its sources of capital and growth strategy and always looking out for future rounds that may or may not happen. You constantly have that in the back of your mind at all times,” he says.
“It’s time to start putting money to good work. There’s no helicopter or jacuzzis right now.”