At Scripted, the last company I ran that had payroll and a board of directors, I had a colleague named Tori who would usually ask as we gathered around a table at the office or a local bar, still-cold beers in hand, "What's the peak and pit of your day been, Ryan?" And we would go around like that, celebrating the highs and mourning the lows, sometimes funny and sometimes sad. It was a really nice way to end the day. Later on, after Scripted was forced to downsize and I had to let much of the team go, I ran into Tori outside of a café in San Francisco.
"What's the peach and pit for you these days, Tori?" I asked.
"Wait, did you just say 'peach'?"
"That's amazing! I'm going to start calling it that now."
And that's when I realized that I'd heard it wrong all this time, but I'm sticking with the fruit analogy rather than the mountaineering one. Here's my peach and pit for 2020.
Easily the biggest boon to MightySignal since its own acquisition in 2018 was acquiring AppMonsta and bringing the technical prowess of Luka Kacil and Cata Stoica from AppMonsta onto our team. Not only are we now the longest-running, most-comprehensive App Store scrape in the business, we're also able to iterate much faster, adding IAB categories, exact Android downloads, and new Apple countries and compatibility fields. It's a huge feat to scrape the entirety of both stores every day and this team handles it with ease. They're also humble and nice guys and work from Europe, adding a couple new time zones to our team. In the meantime, Julian Gonzalez has been hard at work integrating the AppMonsta feeds into MightySignal for our own ongoing consumption.
This is one of those "You asked, we listened!" cases. A customer wanted us to add IAB categories to our App Store categories, so we looked into it and decided to take the plunge. The tech behind this type of granular categorization is a big deal. It required a ton of manual tagging of apps, building of machine learning models, and a bunch of trial and error to get them to a point where we felt comfortable selling this data to our customers. The IAB category application to mobile apps allows folks in ad tech to better target their inventory searches and effectively aligns the App Stores with the leading advertising body on the Internet. It's a pretty big deal and further entrenches into the field of alternative data.
The ultimate goal here is still a work-in-progress, but the Timeline API at least opens up the possibility of making your personal user timeline (where you see which SDKs that you follow are being installed and uninstalled in which apps) accessible outside the confines of our Web Portal. This, our newest API endpoint, gives you the ability extract your own timeline in JSON format and do with it as you like: compose alerts, send Slack messages, or post on a dashboard. Once it's accessible as JSON, a few lines of code can take this data anywhere. We want to go the last mile for you too, so stay tuned for our own email alert system to go live. Or in the meantime, you can use Salesforce!
Lab upgrade to iOS 14
Just in time for lockdowns, we rebuilt a lab in a weekend literally right in my own backyard. Our iOS hardware was in Las Vegas and the WeWork office that we worked from was no longer accessible. Plus, being in the Bay Area meant having to fly out there. It just wasn't in the cards. Instead, with the help of a really talented iOS engineer, we upgraded and dramatically improved the entire system, making the phones, jailbreaks, and Mac mini connections much more reliable and robust. We upgraded all the phones to iOS 13, got new Mac minis from the Apple Store, and saw our daily iOS scan rates more than double. The pandemic forced this upgrade upon us, and we responded in stride.
Mac compatibility field added to feeds
Another big change was headed our way on the iOS front. We began to hear chatter about new M1 chips coming out for MacOS. We were well aware that iPhones and iPads had the special chips. The M1 chips for iOS are what Apple uses to decrypt apps from the App Store. It's the reason we need iPhones in the MightySignal system. Soon, we began to notice a new field value on the App Store app pages which spoke to MacOS compatibility. This meant not only was the change coming, but we'd be able to gather when an app was to be explicitly compatible with MacOS. We started including it in our scrape, and it's now in the
"requires_hardware" field along with these values:
Lab upgrade to M1 Mac Mini
This was all prequel to the big dance: getting a new M1 Mac mini and figuring out how to make it compatible with our scanning system. The big development was done in November and we're spending the tail end of December of start of January ticking and tying everything together. But long story short -- it works! The team really pulled this one off and our iOS scanning will be much improved as a result.
If you're reading this, then you're already benefitting from the result of an awesome partnership with Xenon's once-newest portfolio company, UXPin. Nearly a year in the making, we rewrote the entire website, which forced us to rethink our ideal customer profiles and the distinctions between solutions and products. It was an arduous exercise but we're certainly better for it. Although it takes a while, I recommend the process to anyone.
New rev team members
We expanded our revenue team to include Alex Harvey and Sharon Louthen. Alex is our frontline sales rep, handling renewals, inbounds, and feedback from customers. It has been a huge help to have his time and energy on the customer-facing side of MightySignal. Sharon works more behind the scenes but has been instrumental in bringing our blog and social media accounts to life. She also did a lot of work on the website rewrite and redesign. The addition of Alex and Sharon allowed Frank Yoder, our "full stack marketer" at the time, to focus on a more traditional account executive role. If you've recently signed up with MightySignal, you got to experience one of Frank's excellent product demos.
Finally, we've been able to witness the broader growth at Xenon Partners. Now with over 100 people across a dozen companies, the Xenon family has expanded a lot this year. It was capped off with the addition of Baremetrics to the portfolio, a company I got to know a while ago when I was leading Scripted. We even recorded a podcast.
There would be no peach with a pit. And, to be honest, a lot of 2020 was rather pitty.
Rather than recap the gory details, as every blogger, Tweeter, and card-carrying journalist has already done, I'll describe a handful of the challenges we faced along the way.
Churn went up
Our churn increased and the rationale we heard again and again was that MightySignal is a point solution while a few of our competitors are platforms that incorporate app details with SDK Intelligence. It's true; we are known for SDKs, and although other companies also offer it, it's an add-on, not a core competency. When procurement mandates came down to cut all unnecessary spending, we were high on the list because our data is redundant, even though it's better than the rest. We were a "nice to have" rather than a "must have."
I'm not sure how to think about this. We could go platform, do the investment, and look a lot like the other companies. We could also go deeper into SDK data. In the end, we decided to ask, to test, and try to let the data decide. We'll include this in our 2021 recap!
Productivity went down
We were not immune to distraction. Between protests, and elections, and lockdowns, it was hard to focus. The ambitious roadmap I had at the start of the year got tossed aside and we went into more of a reactive than a proactive stance. It's not the best way to run a business, and we're getting back on our feet, but it was still a frustrating experience at times. Until our kids are in school and our friends and family can come visit again, things won't feel entirely comfortable. At least we know what it feels like now.
MightySignal was fortunate in 2020 to not have to let anyone go. Instead, we expanded our team. We've been cash flow positive since 2018 and being owned by a private equity firm adds a layer of cushion if we needed it. Fortunately we got by on our own resources. I'm committed to continuing to run a lean and efficient operation that focuses on customer success.
We were with you through 2020 and we'll do it again in 2021. Here's to many more peaches ahead!