Friday, June 2, 2017
Eric Futoran: From Scopely To Embrace.io, The Challenges Of Mobile Development
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
The world of mobile apps has added serious challenges for software developers, who don't just have to deal with crashes—they have to deal with slow performance, strange hangs, multiple carrier networks, and more. To try to make it easier for developers to better understand what is happening in those environments, LA-based Embrace.io (www.embrace.io) has created a software toolkit which integrates with those apps to provide much better visibility into how those apps are performing, what's going wrong, and what's happening to actual users. We spoke with Eric Futoran, the CEO of Embrace.io, who also was co-founder of Scopely, to learn more about the company's software.
What is Embrace.IO?
Eric Futoran: Embrace.io is literally built out of what my co-founders and I, and a bunch of investors in first generation mobile, first games and tools like Burstly and Testflight had seen firsthand. We saw the pains of supporting apps in a live, production environments. Software is a different beast in the mobile environment. A phone, unlike a website, or server side application, has to run on disparate devices, in different countries, and through different carrier connections. This was born out of that experience, and the pain point we experienced building games and working with engineers. We didn't see any tools that were built for this process, only marketing tools for attribution and analytics, or for reactive, feature-based analysis. There was nothing that would tell you that a user was having an issue, and let an engineer see what was going on with that phone with the issue, how to reproduce it, and if it was a connection issue versus my issue versus an issue with a third party SDK. More importantly, the tools that already exist on the web, just don't exist on mobile. We wanted to change the paradigm of how we figure out how performant an app is running, not just errors. We want to make startup times faster, and applications run faster, which equates to a better user experience, and ultimately, revenue.
How are developers doing this today?
Eric Futoran: Honestly, today, a lot of times and engineer will throw up their arms, and say they just can't work on it, because it's a wild goose chase. There's very little data, or anything to go on, and literally, they can't reproduce the issues. By the time you plug in a phone, or ask a user for more information, it's already too late. You've changed the environment. You can't replicate it, because it's not the same running on a carrier connection. Sometimes, people will jury rig a marketing tool for this Some others might try a logging tool, or build their own crash reporting. But, these only cover a small percentage of things people complain about, and really doesn't do anything around optimization. All this jury rigging is generally not a good solution, my any means.
How did you go from Scopely to starting Embrace.io?
Eric Futoran: I was one of the co-founders at Scopely. My role was everything but being out in front in public. That was Walter's job. My side was really the publishing business, the technology, and monetization, the technology platform itself. We really got to understand Mobile 101 very quickly through Scopely. Nowadays, Scopely is at the size that it's no longer a startup. We have built an amazing company. I've been happy to grow with Scopely, but on a personal level, what I like the most is being early on and not knowing the answers to the problems we are facing. That's what gets me up I the morning. I know what Scopely needs to get to the next size, but it's just about making things as efficient as possible, not unknown problems. I think that's more fun. I was about five years into Scopely, and I could tell I was getting antsy.
Talk a bit about your funding?Eric Futoran: When I left Scopely, there was some interest in me from investors, especially those with a knowledge of mobile and who I am in the ecosystem. Mobile, in a lot of respects, is still in the super early innings. We're not even really purchasing things yet with mobile, except with Amazon and Wish. So we thought about what developers, apps, and the ecosystem needed. There are gaping holes. I started reaching out to folks who knew mobile, and was lucky enough to raise a round. We didn't talk to a lot of people. We talked to those who knew mobile, or already had tools or apps in the portfolio, which is how we have Techstars, Box Group, and Chernin Group. We also looked at people who had great mobile portfolios, media and content, and Saas, which included Karlin Ventures and Rincon in Los Angeles. Eniac was our lead investor, and they love it any time a new medium like mobile comes up.
How do you charge for your tools?
Eric Futoran: At the moment, we're in limited release. We're not accepting everyone in yet. It's a high touch product right now, and we are in B2B. The important thing in B2B is to make sure customers love you. If you grow too fast, and they don't love what you have, it will come back to bite you. Our charging model is per app, per month. We're firmly against volume-based pricing, like you see with analytics and monitoring, because it's a disincentive for people to use the service. It's also very difficult then to forecast the costs you're going to have in your business.
What's the hardest part of what you're doing?
Eric Futoran: The hardest part is that every app is different. Unlike a website or another area, each application has different things that are important. For example, how much time spent in an app is not necessarily the most important thing. For example, with Uber, you don't go into that app to spend a lot of time in it. It's how fast you get through the app which is most important for 99 percent of the people. Uber doesn't want you to hang out in the app, it wants you to request a car, and get out of the app as soon as possible. So, that's the hardest thing here. There are certain sets of apps with very specific problems and priorities. The hardest part is building a platform that can scale across all of these priorities, for different apps.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at Scopely?
Eric Futoran: The biggest lesson, which I teach to other entrepreneurs, is don't assume anything. Even when a VC comes to you with a term sheet, and say that their terms are typical, you don't have to take them. An example I give, is when I negotiated for a license at Scopely for the Walking Dead, I didn't know what a typical license looked like, and we ended up in a better place than if I had. You have to test your assumptions, and do the best for your business. I don't see a lot of entrepreneurs doing that, especially for fundraising.