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Following my presentation Going Global from Eastern Europe I thought it might be useful to write more about success stories of Russian and Eastern European technology and Internet companies here on GoalEurope. Monday seems to be a perfect day of the week to boost with an inspiring story, so I will start with GetJar.
The largest cross-platform free mobile app marketplace GetJar has 30 million unique monthly users who download 100 million apps every month. The company was founded Lithuania. Here is its story GetJar’s founder and executive chairman Ilja Laurs told me over Skype a few weeks ago.
It all started back in 2004 when Laurs’ web development company based in Vilnus, Lithuania began offering mobile games development for local carriers. The company developed Java games, and since the device marketplace was very fragmented, they had to be tested on every device to make sure it worked.
The solution Laurs came up with was for their registered beta testers to have access to the games for free in exchange for simple testing feedback. Anyone could download a game from the website called Getjar (jar as in the extension of an archived Java executable file), and report back whether the game worked on his device or not.
The next step was to open the platform for any mobile Java developer under a premise that with the growth of the community the platform will get better.
Initially GetJar published 3 titles per week, but with opening of the platform the number of free games reached 50 per week and the beta tester community exploded as a result, doubling in numbers every couple of weeks. In six months GetJar became the biggest Java app website on the planet, according to Laurs.
Essentially GetJar turned into a unique developer-to-end-user app distribution platform. A typical business model for a game developer before GetJar was to go through a telecom carrier which would cost between $15,000 and $20,000 and result in 10,000 app users. GetJar cut out the carrier, and was in a position to offer 100,000 users for free. So it quickly became a distribution channel of choice, and the developers began adding full versions of their apps to GetJar community.
Eventually the requirement to register as a beta tester for the end user was dropped, and the website began to look more like a traditional app store.
The rationale for the app developers was either to sell items within their apps, or to promote something, but one either way there was a need for the large user base. So Laurs decided to launch a monetization option to regulate the demand for being listed on the front page. In 2007 this appeared to be a strong business.
At that time there was a massive wave of mobile apps for Windows and Symbian platform, and companies that used GetJar were well-funded startups from Silicon Valley, for whom GetJar became a default marketing channel.
At that point Laurs started to get calls from the VCs. Venture capitalists who backed those mobile startups noticed that more and more of their marketing spend ended up with GetJar. They saw an opportunity in the business. There were at least three portfolio companies of Accel Partners that spent money on GetJar, and this is why Accel invested $6 million in the company in November 2007.
Laurs used the funding to establish presence in London, and to bring Bill Scott, an American and a former executive at Openwave in Brazil to the team (he is now a VP of sales and business development). In 2009 the company opened its office in the US and closed series B funding. Laurs hired technical team in Silicon Valley. In February 2011 the company raised further $25 million from Tiger Global Management, totaling $42 million funding raised to date. Laurs says he is playing with the idea of profitability, but the company continues to invest in sustaining growth.
This year Laurs stepped down as a CEO of the company, as he decided not to move to the US. The company’s current CEO is Chris Dury, who has been with the company since 2008.
There is no Hollywood-style ending to this story yet, GetJar did not get sold, nor did it become a public company and revealed us its revenue and cash flow figures. But the investor confidence and the traffic figures (Alexa ranking of 12,288 worldwide) look pretty good to me to classify it as an Eastern European success story.
Psst! Cut The Rope is available on GetJar as well, and it is appsolutely free.
+44 (020) 3290 3544
vita at goaleurope dot com