How To Start A Startup Without Ruining Your Life

Paul Kemp: Welcome to another episode of The App Guy Podcast. I am your host, it’s Paul Kemp. What I do is I help budding app entrepreneurs, anyone in the digital nomad space, everyone who’s excited about the whole revolution that is mobile, and if you are running your own business or if you’re interested in startups, this is the podcast for you. Remember to share the episodes and talk about The App Guy Podcast; it’s a wonderful resource, but even better when you’re sharing.

Every once in a while I get an interesting guest on. I’ve got a fascinating guest and it’s highly relevant to what we do, because it’s a guest who is in the whole space of startups and mobile marketing. Let me introduce to you, direct from Hong Kong, given the international flavor of this show… This guest is Vadim Rogovsky and he is the CEO of Clickky, but he’s got a number of other things he’s also a co-founder of, a few mobile startups. And you know what? He’s even been on the cover of a Forbes Magazine.

Let me introduce this young CEO, Vadim. Vadim, welcome to The App Guy Podcast.

Vadim Rogovsky: Thanks for the introduction, Paul.

Paul Kemp: Thanks for coming on. It’s highly relevant what you do, Clickky… Let’s explore firstly what Clickky is and how it really tackles the whole world of mobile marketing.

Vadim Rogovsky: Yes, sure. In a nutshell, Clickky is a full stack mobile advertising platform. What we do is we connect app developers and brands that have a mobile app — Android or iOS. We connect them with the traffic sources that can deliver high-quality users for them. By traffic sources I mean any mobile apps or mobile websites where there is a relevant audience for them. Using the tools that Clickky provides, we can show relevant ads of the advertisers to the traffic sources, and thus advertisers get users and traffic owners get money. That’s the simple version of it.

Paul Kemp: Right, because is the big challenge that I think many of those listening to this show, especially if you’ve created an app — it’s app discovery. Trying to get people to download an app is really hard nowadays. There’s the big apps… The problem with the charts is it never seems to change, and the only alternative for indie app developers and small scale app startups is to actually advertise.

Talk more about these traffic sources then. Obviously, it’s great to know where to get downloads from.

Vadim Rogovsky: If we talk about the strategies for indie developers, for small developers to acquire users, I think that a company like Clickky is not the best fit. We tend to work with app developers who already have some experience, who understand the revenue funnel. That’s why if I were an indie developer, I would go to test different traffic sources, starting from Facebook, maybe Google AdWords… But of course, it depends on your app category.

I would also test some CPI channel like Clickky, but I would compare it to other sources that are available, to understand where the best performance is. I would also test some PR, some publications, I would test app store optimization, SEO, and see which channels deliver the biggest ROI and performance for my app.

Paul Kemp: Vadim, what would be great is trying to figure out who listening is the most relevant to using Clickky. It sounds like someone who is a mid-sized startup who knows a lot about their app conversions, the metrics… Is it a fair thing to say that you work with slightly larger companies and mid-sized startups?

Vadim Rogovsky: We work with mid-sized companies like game developers, utility app developers… We work with almost any categories of apps — with antiviruses, with weather forecasters, with music players etc., and we also work with big companies like Alibaba, Yandex and so on.

Our perfect client is a client that can spend at least $1,000/app/month. We require such minimum amount of money because we need it to be able to optimize the campaign, to optimize the list of traffic sources that we use, because we need some amount of traffic to get a minimum amount of traffic, of data points, to be able to analyze the traffic quality. That’s why we typically we are not running any campaigns with a lower budget.

Paul Kemp: This is fascinating, because we always like to know how the big companies are doing it, and what is most interesting is the fact that I guess it’s understanding the problem that you’re trying to solve… The problem that you’re solving is that companies spend usually a lot of money — the big companies like Alibaba and all the big companies you’ve mentioned… They are spending already a lot of money on trying to attract installs, so you actually then efficiently optimize what they’re already spending and make sure that you can get more traffic and more downloads for the money they are already spending. Is that right?

Vadim Rogovsky: Actually, we often also try to use the data that they already have about their users — some post-install data — so they usually share it with us, and thus we can run their campaigns even more effectively. We usually stick to a list of KPIs that they have in place, and we are constantly trying to optimize the cost-per-install, and we’re also trying to optimize the retention rate, to increase retention rate on day one, day three, day seven, depending on advertisers’ requirements.

Here, our main goal is not to spend more, but to deliver high-quality users cheaper and on a higher scale.

Paul Kemp: Vadim, let’s change gears slightly, because this show is also about inspiration. You’re working with some fascinating, big clients, and I know that you’re involved in lots of different startups. Tell us about the inception and start of Clickky. How did it get off the ground? It sounds like you’ve built it up to be a very fast-growing company, but what was the start of it like?

Vadim Rogovsky: At the beginning it was like a hobby for me. I was working in a big software development company, I also was…

Paul Kemp: Are you able to tell us which one?

Vadim Rogovsky: It was a local company called Softechnics, but it was relatively big. They were developing some social media networks, photo sharing services, and I was managing one of these big projects there.

Then I read some news that social media applications were growing really fast; it was the time when Zynga was very popular with its poker app, or FarmVille… It was the time when games on Facebook were very popular, and also the games on Russian-speaking social media, like Vkontakte or were also extremely popular… But all the app developers lacked at least one advertising solution to monetize their traffic.

As I was also a bit involved into app development for social media, I decided to test this assumption — to build a very primitive prototype of ad serving solution for social media applications and just to offer it to a few fellow developers, and maybe they’d be interested.

They actually were interested and they implemented these pieces of code into their apps. We didn’t have a website, so I was spending a few hours per day on that. I was acting as a project manager, so I asked my former developer colleagues to code this ad-serving solution for me. It started to grow very fast, and on the third month we had gathered around $10,000/week, right after the new year, in the beginning of January.

Then I decided that it would be the start of a successful scalable business. I quit my job and I fully focused on this company, I started to hire people, and at the beginning of 2013 we completely switched to mobile apps, from social media applications. The mobile app market had a much higher potential at that time.

Maybe the main piece of advice that I would like to give to the audience that is listening now is that you should not think about a new startup idea, about something very difficult or impossible or very hard. They should try to think about it as a hobby. Do it because you like it and not because you’re just thinking about the millions of dollars that you will earn in a few years, and do it as a hard job. Do it because you love it; if you’re not loving it, just stop doing it and choose another idea. That’s the main lesson that I’ve learned when I started.

Paul Kemp: Vadim, I really appreciate that. It’s such a wonderful message, and I just want to summarize what I’ve learned from you, because it’s actually touching on many of the big themes over the entire years of this show. Let me just summarize what I’ve learned.

First of all, you were working in a big company, like many of the appster tribe, the audience listening to this, but you have this idea… And instead of risking a lot of money and all your savings and putting lots of money on credit cards, you did a very low-cost prototype and you chose a very fast-growing space. You did it as a hobby, as a passion, as a side-project. Then you used your network — that’s another big theme of this show — and then you knew at which point to quit your big safe company, because you were actually making real money ($10,000/week), enough to know that it’s time to focus on it full-time. Then you started hiring people. Then you pivoted, as well — and knowing when to pivot is also a big theme of this show.

So you touched on so many different things… It’s almost like a blueprint of exactly how to start a startup. How does that sound in terms of the summary of your journey?

Vadim Rogovsky: Thanks, Paul. It’s exactly what I wanted to say, in a nutshell.

Paul Kemp: Great! I want to appeal to everyone listening… If you are in that big company and you’re looking to the future, don’t get distracted with a lot of the new where you can make a million dollars overnight with an app, but take advice from a genuine entrepreneur. Has it been worth it, all these years of hard work and without the safety net of a salary? Has it been worth it for you?

Vadim Rogovsky: Of course. I had some hard times as well, because I wasn’t an experienced entrepreneur at the beginning, so of course I had some problems with cash flow, with cash gap… Mostly with finance management, and then also when I started to hire people quickly, I made many mistakes. At that point in time I didn’t know who was my ideal teammate. Some of the wrong people that I hired — they actually caused some problems inside the company, with motivation or even just with bad quality of code.

The most valuable source of my experience was my own practice, my own mistakes, and of course I learned a lot… I’ve read a lot of books, I’ve attended a lot of seminars and educational programs, I’ve networked with fellow entrepreneurs — that was a very important part of my learning. And yes, it’s worth it, because at the end of the day I’m the leader of my life and of my business. Of course, I depend on the market, I depend on our business partners, clients, publishers, but at the end of the day that’s fascinating, it’s exciting, and that’s why I’m doing it.

Paul Kemp: And also, it’s nice to hear that you had problems early on with hiring people, because I had the same problem with my first venture after leaving my company, with hiring the wrong people. It’s amazing… It’s so important getting the right people and the right fit.

Also, I love that you mentioned you’re the leader of your life… What a wonderful quote. Doing what you do means that you can be in charge of your own destiny and you have it in your own hands.

I was wondering — you managed to get big clients, very impressive clients (you mentioned Alibaba and others), how difficult is that when you’re an unknown small startup?

Vadim Rogovsky: Of course, if we started this business this year it would be much more difficult, because the hype in mobile marketing is maybe not so noisy as it was four years ago… But when you have the right timing and the right product, a right value proposition, it’s easier. At that time the competition was not so active, the market was not so saturated, and that’s why it was easier. The biggest companies were more open to test new partners, much more open than now.

For example, if anyone would develop an ad network for a VR right now, then it would be much easier for him to attract the biggest companies to try it, because it’s much easier to get anyone to try VR advertising than mobile advertising right now. But in terms of money, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go into VR advertising for now.

So it was easier, but yes, we’ve also made some mistakes before we actually learned how to work properly and effectively with big clients, how to respond, how to prepare some reports for them… With each client we’ve become more and more experienced and increased our conversion rate when getting new clients on board.

Paul Kemp: So you’re constantly learning from what you’re doing, which is also another great life lesson. Again, finally, in the last few minutes we have with you, Vadim, you do sound a very global international entrepreneur; you’re there in Hong Kong… I’m sure you do a lot of traveling. Are there any parts of the world you would recommend in terms of the entrepreneurial community and network?

Vadim Rogovsky: A very typical answer would be the Bay Area. Still, Bay Area is one of the most active parts of the world if anyone wants to get some inspiration, some networking. Besides that, I think the Israeli startup system is growing very fast. There are more and more events that are worth attending, but the ecosystem is quite closed; it’s not so open-minded as in the Bay Area.

Also, the Berlin startup ecosystem is one of the most active in Europe. In Europe I see that London, Berlin and Tel Aviv — if we consider Tel Aviv as a part of Europe — seem to be the capitals of startup ecosystems. The Ukraine is also growing in this matter, and we also have more and more tech events. I am the organizer of a few, and of one of the biggest events. The biggest event in mobile marketing in the East of Europe actually is happening in Odessa every year, and Clickky is the organizer of this event. It’s named the Mobile Beach Conference.

I would definitely recommend you to come to Ukraine. One of the main advantages is that it’s much cheaper than to come to the Bay Area, and the quality of networking is actually almost the same. That’s it, in a nutshell.

Paul Kemp: That’s lovely, that’s a good summary. We’ve had a lot of previous guests from Israel; everyone interested in Israeli entrepreneurs, you could easily search my website and find them. We’ve had many of them on this show. Actually, we’ve had Berlin, Ukraine, London… Obviously, the big bulk of it is still the Bay Area, San Francisco and around the Silicon Valley.

This has been a fascinating chat. Do you feel like we’ve managed to cover everything you were hoping for in a chat about Clickky and your entrepreneurial journey, or did I miss anything?

Vadim Rogovsky: I think yes, because we’ve touched some really fundamental points that should be interesting for the audience. Feel free to ask any questions.

Paul Kemp: Yeah, we’ve got a good idea. If you’re involved in the metrics of app downloads and you’re in a mid-sized startup or a large company working as part of a digital marketing team, then they sound like perfect clients to go and check out Clickky.

Vadim, how can people best get in touch with you? What is the best way of reaching out?

Vadim Rogovsky: I’m actually quite open on LinkedIn or on Facebook, or just by e-mail — Or just LinkedIn, Facebook… I’m quite responsive.

Paul Kemp: Wonderful. It really has been a wonderful journey. I’m so pleased that we had that rundown and summary… Almost like a perfect blueprint of launching your own project and doing it without putting your whole life and financial savings at risk. Wonderful! Thank you so much for coming on and spending your time whilst in Hong Kong speaking to us on The App Guy Podcast. All the best!

Vadim Rogovsky: Thank you very much, Paul.