2020: An exercise in mastering change

By Oren Kaniel
mastering change 2020 - Square

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking

2020 gave us the opportunity to practice one of the most important lessons in life and in business – mastering change. Individually, as an organization, and as a society. 

To master anything you must practice it. And boy have we been practicing change for the last decade. AppsFlyer started as a result of a significant market shift – The introduction of smartphones, App Stores, and the app ecosystem. When we first started out, we used our key advantage as an early-stage startup – the ability to adapt quickly. We changed our plans, products, and even our mission constantly. This is what allowed us to build something that large software companies couldn’t. 

Mastering change made 2020 one of our best years to date. We kicked it off by raising a $210 million series D round led by General Atlantic, followed by the recent late stage addition by Salesforce Ventures. Mastering change enabled us to grow the AppsFlyer marketplace to 8,000 partners, support more than 10,000 app developers, reach 1,000 employees across 19 offices, and exceed $200 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR). 

Working in one of the fastest-paced industries in history, we know that we must always improve our ability to adapt to change. Throughout the years, we’ve created models that allow us to constantly improve our agility and resilience. We have built innovative frameworks to master change as a growing enterprise software company, as well as to leverage our massive scale, influence, and market reputation for the greater good of our ecosystem. 

One of the models we created is our invariants framework. This model assumes that everything is going to change, besides the things that are never going to change – the invariants. We focus on the invariants while iterating and experimenting on the variants – the changeable future. This is the source of our culture of learning and innovation. 

Our invariants are our four pillars: 

  1. Customer obsession
  2. Security and privacy
  3. Enabling innovation
  4. Data accuracy

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

Once COVID-19 hit, we quickly adapted to the new reality, and it was clear that our strong culture made this transition easier than expected. I am proud to say that according to an internal WFH survey we held earlier this year, 96% of AppsFlyer employees feel very proud to be part of the company. This smooth transition allowed us to keep on focusing on our customers and partners, who were also adapting to a changing reality and remote work. To do that we launched a suite of COVID-19/WFH products, to allow our customers to work remotely with comfort and ease. In addition, as some of our customers had to quickly adapt their advertising spend, we launched our Zero Budget Marketing plan, offering free engagement software tools and APIs to empower brands’ growth and leverage their owned media strategies. 

Later in 2020, we felt another tectonic shift which impacted the entire app ecosystem, when Apple announced its iOS 14 privacy guidelines updates in June. As the trusted industry leader,  thousands of worried app developers who now had to decipher what the changes meant for their business reached out to us for guidance and support. At times it seemed like AppsFlyer had become an Apple support center. While challenging, we welcomed the opportunity to assist the industry in its time of need and work with our customers and partners to build solutions. 

“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Spiderman

Given our leadership in the market, we felt the huge responsibility we have for our customers, partners, the end users, and the ecosystem as a whole. 2020 allowed us to connect everything we do into our overarching mission: putting end-users and the ecosystem at the center of everything we do. This also gave a new meaning to our unbiased position. AppsFlyer allows creators to leverage the ecosystem and platforms regardless of device, channel, app store, media or technology, for the ultimate benefit of their end users, while maximizing their privacy. A mission that every one of our 1,000 employees relates to, acts on, and is inspired by. 

Privacy has been a long term core pillar and area of expertise for us. Our agility and strong relationships within the app economy have allowed us to come up with innovative solutions to allow the ecosystem to comply with Apple’s new guidelines: Privacy-centric attribution for iOS 14 that leverages differential privacy, web campaign-to-app, and SKAdnetwork innovation. We also decided to expedite the release of two brand new products to better handle aggregated data: Xpend – an ad spend aggregation solution, and Incrementality – which helps brands test and prove incremental lift of their marketing campaigns. 

“No room for small dreams.” – Shimon Peres 

shimon peres dreams

I’d like to thank our investors for their support throughout this year. It allowed us to truly feel that there is no room for small dreams, and take on the wildest, long term mission we could possibly think of. Thank you for supporting our “revenue is secondary” mindset. It allowed us to invest in products that do not necessarily yield immediate returns, and focus on building the best software to allow the ecosystem to deliver great products and services to end-users while protecting and improving their privacy.  

In order for us to truly be customer-obsessed, we must first be obsessed with our own people. 2020 gave us a unique opportunity to walk the talk, and go all-in towards supporting our people during the pandemic and remote work. We also quadrupled our community support via AppsFlyer Cares and its dedicated COVID-19 fund. Hundreds of AppsFlyer employees globally have been involved in helping communities at need. We have no doubt that giving to others, especially in times of great uncertainty, is not only beneficial for our communities, but also encourages creativity and innovation within our own people. The best way to be fearless, is to be thankful. 

Thank you, the fearless AppsFlyer team and your families. I feel fortunate to be working with an amazing group of people who take our responsibility towards the entire ecosystem very seriously. Your resilience, agility, commitment to thinking like founders, and dedication to our mission are a constant source of inspiration to me. I am proud of each and every one of you individually and as a team.  

Thank you to our 8,000 industry partners. In our constantly changing industry, people deserve clarity, education, and choices – not uncertainty and confusion. In 2021, we look forward to continuously unifying the ecosystem collaboration across all partners, including the major platforms, for the benefit of the ecosystem and ultimately the end-users. There are solutions that can maximize users’ privacy while providing value and a superb user experience. Some of them were introduced in 2020, and some will be introduced in the coming weeks and months.

And finally, I’d like to thank our customers for their trust. We take this responsibility extremely seriously. We are committed to supporting you and your needs through current and future changes as our industry evolves.

2020 was one of the most challenging years the world has seen in decades. But it was also one of the most enlightening. Overnight we all had to change and adapt. Experiencing change, means that you are blessed to be alive. The human spirit is resilient and 2020 proved that. I have no doubt that 2021 will introduce additional challenges, and I am more confident than ever that we, and you, are better prepared for another year of challenges, learnings, and innovation.

No changes, no opportunities. So bring it on 2021. We are, as always, 1% done.

Oren Kaniel signature

Oren Kaniel

Oren Kaniel is co-founder and CEO of AppsFlyer. He loves everything mobile and is a creative thinker, listener, talker, and is trying to be a blogger. Oren holds a BA in Computer Science, Cum Laude, from the Technion, and an MBA from IDC, as part of an exchange with the Wharton Business School.

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