Meet Chen Levanon, CEO of ClicksMob, which Forbes has called one of the “most promising” companies of 2015
Startup CEOs are a special breed of person. The best ones combine tech know-how with a strong business instinct and single-minded focus on their goal.
What strikes you about Chen Levanon, CEO of ClicksMob, is that she has an added quality: charisma. The San Francisco-based Israeli CEO, who just gave birth to her second child in two years, laughs easily, answers questions with care, and makes remarks like, “I hadn’t thought of that,” or “Excuse me, I interrupted you.”
In fact, the glamorous Levanon would be right at home on the set of the television show Mad Men, even though the advertising world she inhabits is a completely different place.
ClicksMob is “a performance platform dedicated to making mobile advertising better,” Levanon tells Geektime. Put simply, ClicksMob brokers between apps and publishers to increase an app developer’s number of downloads and publishers’ mobile traffic. They display an app’s advertisement on targeted sites, which their technology chooses among its 4,000 different mobile traffic sources depending on the app client’s needs and budget. Because ClicksMob works on a cost per install (CPI) basis, they don’t get paid anything until someone downloads the client’s app.
For those familiar with affiliate ad networks, such as Israel’s Matomy, ClicksMob runs on the same model – it is an affiliate, or third party broker, between advertisers and a larger network of publishers. ClicksMob’s sweet spot is that it happens to be an affiliate mobile ad platform, and mobile ad tech is booming: Gartner estimates that revenue from mobile app downloads will triple by 2017.
Here’s how it works
Let’s say you’re an app developer who just launched an app that helps new mothers plan their day, and let’s say your goal is to achieve 5,000 downloads per day for Android in the United States.
You would approach ClicksMob and tell them your KPI.
“I would then go to my traffic sources,” says Levanon. “One of these might be a media buyer, say PLYmedia.”
Her traffic sources would then buy spots in the Huffington Post’s parents section, on blogs that talk about mothers, and in pregnancy apps.
The traffic source would insert ClicksMob’s banner and links into these sources, allowing ClicksMob to track and analyze how many clicks and downloads occurred.
“Sometimes the conversion rate is 5 percent and sometimes it’s 1 percent. It depends on where the traffic source places the banner and it also depends on the attractiveness of your product. If you promote [a game like] Candy Crush and everyone wants to play it, the conversion rate will be high.”
And yes, King, the company that made Candy Crush, is one of their clients.
In the end, says Levanon, “the advertisers get the downloads they want, I get paid for the download and I pay my traffic source for the download. Let’s say my advertiser pays me $4 and I pay $3 to my traffic source and keep $1 to myself.”
It’s attractive because, “It’s a risk-free model for the advertisers. They pay only for the downloads. So if we didn’t deliver downloads and we delivered a lot of clicks, they don’t pay us.”
But why does the industry need a middleman?
“It’s not [advertisers’] core business,” says Levanon. “Even if they want direct traffic, they can go ahead and approach one, two, ten traffic sources, but I give them 4,000.”
Still, what if someone downloads an app and never uses it?
“It’s a very good question,” says Lebanon. “It means the quality of this specific user is not that good.”
Sometimes an app developer cares about downloads and not quality users, says Levanon, to raise their ranking in an app store, for instance.
Levanon says her company’s competitive advantage is two-fold. First, the fact that they pay per install rather than click and own their own technology makes them more cost effective than other competitors.
“We developed our technology from scratch. There are a lot of companies that are similar to us but they actually take white label technology that looks the same and can be very flexible and they pay per click. I don’t pay for my technology. So I don’t mind delivering as many clicks as I can, because I care about the downloads and I want them to be super high-quality for the advertisers.”
Levanon says her other competitive advantage is her employees.
“Our service is amazing. A year ago we were six employees. Now we are 40. A lot of people say ‘Chen, what did you do?’ And I say, ‘we have the best employees ever.’”
Whatever Levanon is doing, it seems to be working. Forbes named ClicksMob as one of its “most promising” companies of 2015. The self-funded company, founded less than two years ago, grew its annual revenue from $1 million in 2013 to $10 million in 2014.
A female-dominated company
More than 50 percent of ClicksMob’s employees are female, including more than half of management.
“It wasn’t on purpose. I just like to hire women.”
Levanon says that is unique in the male-dominated mobile industry.
Levanon herself started her career as an analyst at Lehman Brothers in 2007, just before the firm went bust. She later served as a top executive for other hi-tech companies.
ClicksMob hired her as its COO in 2013 and she became CEO in April.
Her eldest son is a year old and her baby is a month old. Being a mother and CEO, she says, is challenging, but manageable.
“I think women, uniquely, are good at multitasking.”
In any case, she laughs, “it’s still not as hard as investment banking.”
Edited by Laura Rosbrow