Paul: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. This is your host, I'm Paul Kemp. This is the show where we go around the world and meet CEOs, founders of just the most amazing app journeys that we can find, and it really does help us out in our journeys because we learn from these people. I'm actually delighted to be joined today by someone who is really supporting this show. He is Jeff Kim, he is the CEO of Neumob. Neumob - you would have heard me talking about that quite a bit recently, so I really wanted to get Jeff on and dive deeper into Neumob. So Jeff Kim, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.
Jeff: Paul, I'm very happy to be speaking with you. Thank you for taking the time.
Paul: Thanks for coming on. First of all, let's just jump straight into Neumob - what is Neumob and how can it help the app entrepreneurs and developers that listen to this show?
Jeff: Sure. Neumob, our tagline is 'App acceleration for a mobile-first world', and in short, what we do is we make apps faster, on both wireless networks and Wi-Fi. We increase the speed of load times and wireless transmissions faster so that users have a better app experience.
Paul: Alright, that's a great tagline. How did you come up with the idea? You must have obviously been in the field of mobile. Talk us through your inspiration for this idea.
Jeff: Terrific, yes; I would love to say it was hatched in my brain, but it was actually much more pragmatic than that. Customers came to us and started seeking this kind of solution. I've been in the CDN (Content Delivery Network) space for the better half of 16 years, and in that space it's all about making websites faster. But along the way customers started coming and telling us, "Hey, our websites are fast enough. Can somebody help us with our app performance?" and we therefore figured out that there was no solution in the marketplace. That's how Neumob was born.
Paul: Okay, so you were saying that customers were coming to you - was this you in your company, or were you working for someone else?
Jeff: I was the president and COO of a company called CDNetworks a while ago, and actually the specific customer family was Beats by DRE, before they got acquired by Apple. They were very mobile-focused, mobile app and e-mail. All they wanted to do was focus on the app experience, and they specifically asked for a solution like this, and they surveyed the market and there was no solution. As we talked to more and more customers, we figured out that they had the same kind of pain.
Paul: Did DRE take an investment in the company by any chance?
Jeff: No, no. After the Apple acquisition, I think they went on their own separate journey.
Paul: The reason I ask is two years ago we had a chat with a guy who got some money from 50 Cent to start his startup, and he ended getting two million downloads. So the thing I've learned from you already, Jeff, and anyone can take this away in their own journeys, is to just listen to customer feedback, what they're asking for and build something that people want. It seems to make sense.
Jeff: You know, it's how the old business works, you just listen to the market, and the market is creative enough to tell you what they need and what they are looking for.
Paul: So what sort of customers are you working with? For anyone listening, do you cover the whole spectrum of small startups in the entrepreneurs and app developers right through to the big guys? Give us an idea of who should be using Neumob.
Jeff: Absolutely, we do cover the entire spectrum, and I'll start off with the small startups and the indie folks. If you come to our website, Neumob.com, there's actually a startup package, and you can use our service, you download the SDK, you put it into your app, you get a hundred gigabytes - which is a significant amount for a startup. We're happy to serve the startup community that way. Our core business is actually selling to enterprise apps; these are the big names like LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Groupon; all of those app-centric companies who want to make sure that their apps are lightning fast for their end users around the globe.
Paul: How much faster would you predict the apps get when they are using Neumob?
Jeff: Right now, what we're seeing is within 4G LTE cities like San Francisco and New York, is a 40% speed boost for their apps, based on the current benchmarks. When you start going into 3G areas or even 4G not LTE, or even just faraway places for us like Australia or Germany, India - you start seeing 400% speed improvements, which is obviously significant for a business.
Paul: And I was just wondering, what do developers need to do to put Neumob on their app? You talked about an SDK - is there a lot of stuff to learn to put this in, or is it pretty easy?
Jeff: It's very easy. We know that app developers out there are facing 'SDK-fatigue'. there's an SDK for everything these days, with ads and analytics and all of that. Our differentiator is that our SDK actually has a very unique value proposition, in the fact that it will capture all of your wireless traffic and speed it up. For most customers, it’s two lines of code, and it just redirects all of your traffic to our SDK layer and starts working our magic to make everything faster.
Paul: And do you support third-party software as well? I'm thinking some of the app building tools out there, like Titanium, for example, or is it more for the core development?
Jeff: We want to support all of them. Obviously for native iOS and Android - that's functioning; we've just announced support for Unity about two weeks ago. We'll be launching our Web Bean support, Cordova, and the list goes on. We want to make this accessible for every app developer out there.
Paul: Also, Jeff, have you done any research on the difference it makes to retaining users by having a faster app? Is there something you've done to help us understand the benefits of actually giving users a faster app?
Jeff: That's a great question. I will say that's one of the more exciting pieces in the industry right now, that we're collecting that information with our customers for their business KPIs right now. A lot of the learning that we've come to along this way are from the website world, and in the website world, big companies like Wal-Mart and Google have published studies that even a one-second difference converts into 25% more revenue, and there are similar metrics/stats there. What our friends over in the mobile app side have figured out is that those same metrics and those same revenue increases are translating over into mobile. One of the things that our marketing team is planning to do over the next year is to start collecting those metrics with our customers, leading the charge on producing those benchmarks. In the same way that on your desktop you expect things to load in under two seconds, mobile apps are going to be the same way with regard to expectations from users.
Paul: Jeff, we've covered a lot about Neumob, I'd love to know about you as well personally, because this show is also about the inspiration that we get from the CEO and the founders that we talk to. How much fun is it - I guess it's a strange question, but what's it like running your own company, and would you recommend that for other potential entrepreneurs that are listening?
Jeff: Wow, that's a big question. I would say this has been a blast. It's incredibly fun, but I'll tell you - you've heard this adage before - some days are sheer terror and the other days are sheer ecstasy, that's the kind of spectrum that you run. I will say especially in this mobile app market, because the ecosystem and the market is just opening up, we're learning so much every day. I mentioned before that I worked in a corporate IT, CDN, core operations in IT, but the mobile app world is brand spanking new, and it's just so much fun learning stuff every day, as the market develops.
Paul: And Jeff, I've had a lot of people who have actually listened to this show and made a change in their life, in their career, they've moved over to startups, moved over to the entrepreneurial world - is there anything you can give us to help us overcome the fear of leaving a corporate role and starting our own thing? Because that's one of the biggest hurdles we get. Sometimes it's just too big a jump to take. How can you help us understand what you went through to make that jump?
Jeff: Well, I'm probably gonna give you a little different perspective on that. I'm not a B2C person, I've always been a B2B person, and on that front - it's kind of what we've alluded to earlier in the conversation - you really want to see that there is actual customer demand and market demand before you start developing this kind of stuff on the B2B side. Whereas on the B2C side, obviously it's massively more exciting; you know, you get a WhatsApp, or you get an Instagram and all of that. Personally, I don't know how that market works all that well, so I won't be an expert on that, but on the B2B side, if you have customers and you see a need and you can fill it, you should jump and take a look. But it does come with experience and knowing your market very well.
Paul: Yes, actually a lot of people do talk about B2C (Business to Consumer), but you're doing B2B. Would you say that it actually may be a little bit more profitable to be in B2B? I think a lot of people overlook it, but do you think it's wise for anyone listening to actually consider that kind of market, or do you need a special network to enter B2B?
Jeff: No, I think B2B is always more pragmatic, because you're selling to other businesses and enterprises, and they come with budgets, so it should be considered. I think one way to get into this, and I've seen a lot of my Silicon Valley brothers and sisters do this, is to go with development tools. So there are deep linking companies, a lot of analytics companies. One way to do that, which is kind of B2C-ish, is to serve the developer community, and kind of learn the ropes that way, and eventually get into the enterprise, once you have more market requirements.
Paul: Yes, and from your perspective then, what are you seeing the big challenge is for small startups that are mobile-first and only mobile? What are in your perspective the big hurdles and challenges that we face in our businesses?
Jeff: As of late, as everyone has seen, the market definitely has cooled down. Here in the epicenter of venture capital, I think you're definitely seeing a cooling-down season. So just like anything else, there's summer and there's winter, and right now we're kind of entering into winter, so even more caution has to be played in having a sound proposition for adding actual customers, and then have a plan for revenue and profit.
Paul: Yes, because Jeff, one of the big things that we've done over the 427 odd episodes before you on this show is to try to get to the raw truth, unravel the onion, overcome the hype and get to the real situation. So you mentioned that we're all going through a cooling down period - what sort of indicators are you seeing to suggest that we're cooling down?
Jeff: I guess I have a good vantage point, the fact that we're pretty much like six miles away from Sand Hill Road, where all the VCs are. I also have the benefit that during our fundraising, we actually had 14 different investors in Neumob, so being able to survey them, talk to them, ask them "What are the market conditions? What are your recommendations and advice?". They were very good with giving me that feedback. My conclusion on this is pretty much an aggregation of data that our investors here in the Valley are telling me.
Paul: Right. And actually, you mentioned fundraising as well, so another big question I often get is how to actually go through fundraising - any tips that we can have? You've just gone through that - is there anything you could help us with to understand how we can improve our ability to fundraise.
Jeff: The honest truth is there is no one way. It's hard. By the conclusion of our Series A, I had talked to 66 investors, up and down Sand Hill Road and in San Francisco. The first 20 had rejected me, so I guess one thing is persistence and courage to keep going if you truly believe in your business. You will get rejected. On the flip side of that, you've got to listen to the rejections, and listen to why they are passing on you and what's going on. That helps you work out your business model. The final piece obviously now is you've got to get in their network; you can't throw in a business plan onto a website or put up an e-mail address. It's who you know, or who that person introduces you to. That's the way it's done.
Paul: Yes, and I'm guessing actually your location is pretty handy as well, the fact that it's on your doorstep. Do you think that's critical to actually running a successful app business, to be based in Silicon Valley?
Jeff: I don't think it's necessary to run an app business, but I will say that it definitely helps raise funding, because people are people, and the VCs are people as well. They want to see you, and they want to shake your hand. You know, if you're anywhere remote, it's going to be difficult for that personal interaction. Because, at the end of the day, they're writing you a check and trusting you with this money, so that old physical, personal thing needs to be there.
Paul: So Jeff, there's two more things we need to do before we say goodbye to you. One is that I go out to the audience just before we're about to have a chat, just to see if there are any question, and Quentin Smith wants to know what it is you have to do with the SDK, and I guess he wants to know does it actually speed up performance? You've kind of addressed that, but how involved is the amount of code that you need to put in in the SDK?
Jeff: A very good question. It really is one line, it's “Initialize Neumob”, for both Android and iOS. That's pretty much it.
Paul: That's great. So really then, you don't actually need to be a coder to be able to use Neumob.
Jeff: That's correct.
Paul: The other one is from Morten F., who's a student and iOS developer. He wants to know... 70% to 90% of latency in mobile application occurs in the mobile mile, which is the distance between your outer edge and your user device. Is that where you're really tackling the speeding up of the apps, through the mobile mile?
Jeff: Yes, great question. Absolutely. Our real differentiator is the fact that we're increasing throughput over wireless networks, be it O2, or Vodafone, or Verizon here in the states. We didn't too much about the technology, but what we actually do is once you invoke that SDK, it captures all of your wireless traffic, we convert it from standard TCP/IP, which is the underlying protocol of the internet, into our proprietary UDP protocol, where we can do special things to maximize throughput. So there's some hardcore technology underneath that bundle line of “Initialize Neumob”, where we change the protocol. We enable our own special routing so that we can maximize how much data goes up and down the wireless signals.
Paul: Yes, because I can imagine that... I mean, how much of a percentage of traffic do you think are actually using their apps and smartphones through wireless and mobile, rather than broadband?
Jeff: There's plenty of market research out there, yet one of the things I've said in the past is everyone talks about mobile-first. Well, you have to be thinking global-first.. If you’re going to serve the next billion users, well those next billion users are not in the UK, and they're not in the US. They're in places like India, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America - and they have jumped past the desktop stage and they're going straight to mobile, and all of those mobile users run 3G networks.
Paul: And the final thing, Jeff, is we love to get tips from our guests. Without touching your phone, do you have an app or an online tool, or a tip for us to help us with our own app entrepreneur journeys?
Jeff: Sure. One of the tools that we use a lot is a tool called Aro. It's freely available, and it's produced by AT&T. What it actually does is it analyze all of your network traffic. So you plug your Android device or whatnot into your laptop, and you run it through Aro and it shows you all the different network calls that your app is calling. I encourage our customers to actually do this, to see, "Wow, my app is making all these different calls". It helps you to figure out why things are slow, and why there are so many dependencies to make your app work better.
Paul: That's a great tip. On episode 428 there will be a link to Aro. Jeff, it's been a great chat. I want to make sure that everyone listening does have the opportunity - they can go to Neumob.com obviously, then there's full show notes at Episode 428 on theappguy.co, just search for Episode 428 with Jeff Kim. Jeff, how best can people try this, try Neumob, reach out to you and connect? What's the best way of getting in touch with you guys?