Publisher Spotlight: How two savvy high schoolers turned their idea into a multi-million dollar app

March 26, 2018

Tags: 2018, Publishers

Julia Martin
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We’re excited to share the next episode of MoPub’s Publisher Spotlight video interview series, where app developers can find tips and inspiration from some of our top publisher partners. This interview series is not only about highlighting important monetization strategies for apps, it’s also about sharing the stories of the people who make those apps successful. There are many different paths to success in the app world, and we’re delighted to be able to hear the stories of some of the best in the business.

Six years ago, friends and programmers Aaron Wojnowski and Christian Lunny never realized just how huge their app Musi would become. Now, consistently ranked within the Top 5 iOS apps in the Music category, with tens of millions of downloads across more than 150 countries worldwide, Musi is certainly that today — huge.

But part of what has made Musi’s rise to the top of the charts so incredible is that its two co-founders were just sophomores in high school when they built and launched it.  

In our premier episode, we sat down with three top performance marketers, representing three key verticals: Communications, Gaming, and FinTech.  These three marketers (Tyler Cooper, Head of User Acquisition, TextNow; Stevie Duffin-Lutgen, User Acquisition Marketing Lead, Mobilityware; and Cole Morris, Growth Marketing Analyst, Root Insurance) are all part of MoPub’s Marketer Program, and each have years of experience in mobile marketing under their belts. Today, we’ll be sharing much of that knowledge with you via takeaways from our latest interview. Read on to learn more about how these mobile marketers approach all things programmatic. 

Transparency, flexibility, and scale

To be successful in mobile user acquisition, you have to test, test, test, and then test some more.  With each test comes new learnings and an overall better understanding of what works for your business and your app.  For Tyler, Stevie, and Cole, programmatic offers a combination of transparency, flexibility, and scale. As Cole puts it, “we have total control over [the users] we are acquiring, where we’re getting them, and the context in which we’re getting them.”  This isn’t necessarily true with social channels or ad networks which can operate in a black box. Furthermore, diversification is key, and programmatic allows for that control and transparency, along with unparalleled reach and scale.

Programmatic budget allocation

So, how much of your marketing budget should be spent on programmatic?  For our marketer interviewees, the range is anywhere from 40-60%. According to Tyler, this percentage continues to grow: “We’re shifting more budgets over time [...] to DSPs.”  Why? Outside of the obvious reasons around improved performance and lower cost, some DSPs offer excellent creative services. Stevie shares, “[DSPs] can be really dynamic in helping you, with small sets of assets, produce hundreds of creative, that would be difficult  to do in-house.”

Absence of fraud

Finally, there’s fraud — or rather, as Tyler and other top marketers have found, the relative absence of fraud in mobile programmatic, compared to other channels.  Tyler says TextNow uses a combination of fraud detection tools and have found programmatic to pose the least amount of risk, primarily due to its inherent transparency.  “We know what we’re buying [...] we’re able to see the impression, the click, the install, and the post install event, matching it all together to know we’re actually driving performance.”

Be sure to tune into Part 1 of this episode to hear more about programmatic best practices from Tyler, Stevie & Cole —  and reach out to our team if you’re interested in working with us. Stay tuned for the next episode. 

Aaron Wojnowski and Christian Lunny, co-founders of Musi, discuss how they started the app in high school — and how they tripled revenue overnight using MoPub mediation

The idea hit them when they were driving around in their car together listening to music from the YouTube app, like many of their high school peers did at the time.  Aaron shares, “Vevo was really getting popular on YouTube [but] it was an app for video watchers, not an app for people who actually wanted to listen to it like a music app, like iTunes. That was the core idea for Musi.”  

Aaron and Christian, both self-proclaimed “nerds building weird stuff,” decided to partner: Aaron handling the core development work, Christian the design.  A few months later, Musi was born, and thanks to word-of-mouth, Aaron and Christian became local celebrities-of-sorts in their relatively small town of Winnipeg, Canada.  Aaron admits, “It was a great little jumpstart [for Musi], but nothing too spectacular.” So with very limited budget (remember, they were still in high school!), they decided to learn everything they could about app store optimization (ASO). They soon stumbled upon something that would prove to be pretty incredible — one small tweak to the app title “sent us overnight from 1,000 downloads a day to upwards of...25,000; we just shot right to the top of the app store.”

Musi became a hugely successful app, yes, but Aaron and Christian weren’t profiting right away because they hadn’t yet figured out a monetization strategy.  They confess that they were “huge about user experience” so didn’t initially like the idea of running ads in the app. When they finally added banners they realized, “hey, this is covering all my budget as a first year University student, so there’s actually stuff we can do here with ads, [but we need] to be tasteful about it.”  At that time, they were working with just one ad network and were beyond pleased with the revenue they were generating — it was “more money than we ever thought we could be making [at 18].”

So what prompted the move to MoPub?  According to Aaron, it wasn’t until MoPub reached out and clearly explained the value of ad mediation that he realized MoPub’s platform was completely additive to his existing revenue stream.  He would continue to be paid directly by the network he was already working with, but by bringing in additional demand partners and MoPub Marketplace, he would be allowing for competition, which in turn would yield higher CPMs and more overall revenue.  And what were the actual results? “Our ad revenue, overnight, tripled...which was great,” Aaron laughs.

Needless to say, Aaron and Christian haven’t looked back, and they credit MoPub for helping them realize the true monetary potential of their thriving app and user base.  And revenue isn’t the only reason they remain dedicated MoPub partners. “MoPub is so flexible and it really affords you the ability to work with any network, in any way that you want. As a programmer I like the ability to tinker with things, and MoPub allows me to go as deep down as I’d like or stay at a high level and keep it super simple...I haven’t seen that with any other ad mediation platform,” Aaron admits.

As Aaron and Christian continue to take Musi to new heights, adding new features and thinking about the future of the app, they have one last piece of advice for existing or aspiring developers out there: “Think of your app at all times as an MVP — what is that ‘minimal viable product’ that is going to convey value and let people do something?  Make sure that core feature is still at the frontlines, because that’s what’s really going to make you stand out.”

That philosophy has certainly rung true for Musi and we look forward to seeing much more success for the app, and for Aaron and Christian, in years to come!


ⓒ 2018 MoPub, Inc.
TWITTER, MOPUB and the Bird logo are trademarks of Twitter, Inc. or its affiliates. All third party logos and trademarks included are the property of their respective owners. The views expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of Twitter, Inc. or its affiliates.

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