Applifier started life as a game developer, but realised their idea of cross-promoting games could be used by other companies.
Several years ago Everplay was a social game developer trying to promote its games on Facebook. In a Eureka moment, they realised their idea of cross-promoting games between independent developers and publishers could be a viable business model. So Everplay metamorphosed into Applifier, the company that amplifies applications.
The idea was simple: allow app publishers to cross-promote their games. It is popular with smaller, independent developers who do not have huge marketing budgets. The service is supported by advertising, so could be free for developers. On 26 April 2010 Applifier’s network went live and experienced explosive growth, reaching 10 million users in little over a month.
Facebook and mobile
“2011 was a year of growth and changes,” says Pekka Aakko, Applifier’s business development director. “Our network now reaches 150 million unique users each month all around the world. But at the same time, the environment for social and mobile games has changed fast as the platforms where games are played change rapidly – for example Facebook or Apple’s platform – so in order to remain competitive, we have had to rethink our business model somewhat and what services we are providing to the end users, game developers and studios. So to sum it up, lots of changes in 2011 yet there are also good opportunities presented with these changes.”
Gamers on Facebook were the first big market for Applifier, but last July it moved into mobile, which is generally seen as the next big gaming environment.
“Mobile has the same issues Facebook games had three or four years ago, and that is mainly the discovery and lack of social features,” continues Aakko. “There are service providers that try to remedy these, but we still find the current offering to be somewhat lacking and ‘not quite there yet.’ We have a pretty strong idea where it should be and how we should get there as well. Our upcoming offering for mobile is built heavily on social features.”
Initially, Applifier had no venture capital, but its strong growth attracted much attention. In February 2011 it closed a two million euro seed round with a consortium of investors. The international investors include the San Francisco-based MHS Capital, the Dane Lars Stenfeldt Hansen, and two Londoners: PROfounders’ Michael Birch and angel investor David Gardner. In addition, some Finnish investors participated, namely Jyri Engeström of Jaiku fame, Lifeline Ventures, and Tekes.
“We have found it to be quite easy to work with such international investors, and we are constantly communicating with the investors and advisors we have,” Aakko says. “We chose investors that bring other knowledge from the games and advertising space to the table, not just money. They have been a great asset to us when we need to initially validate new ideas and approaches.”
The investment has helped the company expand. According to their financial statements, Applifier ended 2010 with seven staff members, but they have since tripled in size. They added artists, programmers, project managers and account managers.
“Currently we have twenty-two people, so our team is remaining quite steady on that number,” Aakko explains. “We have had a few changes there, but mostly we have been working with the same people for over one and a half years.”
In addition to the Helsinki office, Applifier also has a base in San Francisco. Aakko says that the US office handles sales and account management at the moment, while in Finland they focus on research and development. He praises the skilled staff they have been able to find in Finland.
“Being located in Finland gives us access to a skilled workforce: assembling a team like we have here in Silicon Valley, for example, would be a hard job and would definitely cost a lot more. We have been able to find good, skilled people to work with us here in Finland.”
The company has changed dramatically from its first foundation, and Aakko is amazed at what they have accomplished and looks forward to achieving their goals in the future.
“I think the whole pivot from a gaming company (Everplay) to the world’s biggest cross-promotion network for games (Applifier) is one memory that really sticks out,” he says. “It all happened in a few months in the summer of 2010. And the speed was just quite amazing. We got the first 55 million users in just less than 100 days. We also changed the whole ecosystem of social games and their user acquisition strategies by creating Applifier, so if an entrepreneur wants to change the world, we have done it once already. We’re looking to do that again this year.”
One of the keys to Applifier’s success has been its ability to rapidly transform: not only the change in its business direction, but also to change with the daily fluctuations in the industry.
“The speed and the competitiveness of the social games environment are just amazing,” he concludes. “I have never been in any business environment that changes and evolves so rapidly. That brings challenges but, as I said before, opportunities, too. We have had to change our plans even on the verge of launching new products, as the new features or change of rules by the platform owners – such as Facebook or Apple – have changed. At the same time, it is fun to run fast, but it can also bring disappointment as time has been wasted on something that we can’t launch for our clients. But on the whole Applifier has been a wonderful trip thus far and I am looking forward to enjoying the ride further.”
Text: David J. Cord, Helsinki Times
Did you know?
Founded: April 2008 as Everplay; 2010 as Applifier
Founders: Pekka Aakko, Jussi Laakkonen, Jalmari Raippalinna and Matti Savolainen.
Described as: “a cross-promotion network for social games.”
Funding: €2 million