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Social Media Portal interview with Ilja Laurs at GetJar

Staff (Social Media Portal) - 16 October 2009

Profiled - GetJar - The mobile application distribution and developer community, with over 200,000 developer and beta-tester accounts


An interview with Ilja Laurs, Founder at GetJar



The Social Media Portal talks to Ilja Laurs at GetJar about mobile apps, developer communities; including the impact of social media and networks


GetJar logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your role at GetJar?

Ilja Laurs (IL): I’m the founder and CEO at GetJar (http://www.getjar.com) which means I’m ultimately responsible for the entire business.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about GetJar, what is it and what does it do?

IL: GetJar is the world’s most popular cross platform mobile application distribution and developer community, with over 300,000 developer and beta-tester accounts. GetJar connects mobile consumers, developers, publishers, and advertisers in an interactive environment, and gives users a unique and active role in product development. Photograph Ilja Laurs, Founder at GetJar

SMP: What makes mobile developers tick and how does your site assist them?

IL: Any mobile app developer has a desire to change the world, yet over 80% of developers are a one man show. With an ambitious and driven mentality, determined for recognition, apps developers look for a way to achieve mass exposure. This is where GetJar comes in.

We simplify the process of distributing apps across thousands of different devices, providing the distribution platform, measuring how the app performs and collating feedback on any bugs. This means developers can focus more on the product and not worry about testing/quality assurance.

SMP: The Sony Ericsson Xperia (X1) for example has so little apps for it, why do you think this is?


IL: It is true that there are few apps that have been specifically developed for X1 – but there are thousands of Java apps that can be used on the X1 as it runs generic Java apps very well.

One reason is scale – if you are a developer you need to achieve high numbers of downloads (at least 10,000 paid downloads or 1 million free downloads). If a platform is not guaranteed to achieve high numbers of downloads developers are less keen to invest a lot of time developing apps for that particular platform.

SMP: What made you start GetJar?

IL: As a team we started working with mobile games but we soon began to realise the huge frustration many developers were experiencing with the app landscape – the operator walled garden was still very much present and this was often  the only way for consumers to download apps. This spurred us to create a community that would open up the apps market for all, rather than keep the walled garden in place.

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building the service?

IL: One of the biggest challenges was the popularity of GetJar, and the subsequently huge growth rate of the service. As a small company we had to optimise and run the entire GetJar system on an extremely low budget, with limited resources to start with.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

IL: We have a number of target audiences:

  • Mobile consumers – we want to offer a “one stop shop” for mobile apps, offering apps for everyone, rather than restricting apps by handset manufacturer or mobile operator
  • Developers & publishers – we want to attract the best developers and publishers to offer their apps via GetJar
  • Advertisers – mobile apps are an increasingly important part of brand campaigns and its important that advertisers begin to understand the importance of the mobile app phenomenon

SMP: How did you initially attract users to your site / service, and how do you do it now?

IL
: We’ve not really changed the way we attract users to the site.  Initially GetJar was all about giving small, independent developers a real way to get their apps onto consumer’s phones and this is still one of our core values now. In terms of building up a user base, this was primarily done through our Beta testers and word of mouth – in fact a community of 100 beta testers has now exploded into a community of 20million users and 55million downloads a month – all through word of mouth.

Mobile apps are extremely viral and the power of word of mouth is particularly important in the apps industry. However we have now also started to work with partners such as Facebook to create an easy publishing option for partners to expand brand presence on consumer handsets via the App Download Driver. This essentially makes it possible for consumers to download services such as the Facebook mobile app on their phone quickly and easily, without fiddly forms or questions to complete.

SMP: What are the low moments of what you have been doing so far?

IL: The only significant “low moments” have been technical outages, where our systems have gone down for a variety of reasons.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

IL: GetJar started in Lithuania and it wasn’t initially a commercial project – originally the service was designed to provide platform for testing apps. As a small company in Lithuania we didn’t have big global ambitions, but in 2007 we started to get a few VC calls and our subsequent funding from Accel Partners has really allowed us to expand onto the world’s mobile app stage.

SMP: Now that you are established, what do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities?

IL: Our biggest challenge is also our biggest opportunity – other targeted app stores such as App World and Ovi have enormous marketing budgets – but because they only focus on one platform that is also where the opportunity lies.

As GetJar is a cross platform app store we can capitalise on demand for apps for a variety of handsets and look to grow our user base. Our download numbers show that we can reach a long way to a massive user base – we hit 500,000,000 downloads in July 2009.  

SMP: What are the next moves for GetJar?

IL: From a consumer perspective, we want to continue to grow to offer every app for every phone. For developers –we want to become the default publishing solution, taking any complexity away.

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks and what role does mobile have to play in this?

IL: We recently ran a poll among 13,000 of our users. One of the most interesting findings was that 72% of consumers claimed that they are now using mobile Internet more than PC-based Internet. As mobile internet becomes more prolific it is likely that we will see a continued migration away from desk-based web surfing as mobile becomes the primary tool for web surfing. This will increase flexibility and spontaneity even more.

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology throughout the rest of 2009 and into 2010?

IL: The biggest thing is the continued shift to mobile – and it will no longer be possible to ignore the mobile as an integral social media and web channel.

SMP: Now it is reported that we may be moving out of the global recession what do what impact do you think social media may have upon a business such as yours?

IL: The recession has increased the period of time that people keep mobile handsets. Slower growth. Now we are moving out of recession, there is more opportunity as more people upgrade their handsets to smartphones with new features. This means they will undoubtedly want new apps for their new handset, which is where we come in...

SMP: How does this fit into plans at GetJar?

IL: We want to become the app service of choice for consumers – and as more and more people start to become involved in the app phenomenon this will spur our continued growth plans.  

SMP: Best way to contact you?

IL: ilja @ getjar.com


Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

IL: Cereal with milk and a Blackberry

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

IL: I recently attended Seedcamp in London and spent my time mentoring and sharing experiences with Seedcamp attendees. One of the favourite aspects of my job is to coach and help the future leaders of business, as well as the developer community.

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

IL: It’s difficult to say – work and play blur into one

SMP: If you weren’t running GetJar what would you be doing?

IL: I’d be a scientist – it’s an area that has always fascinated me

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

IL: Nice, France

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?


IL: Watching squirrels – both of our offices are close to trees and parks

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

IL: X ray vision for bugs – I’m a perfectionist by nature so it would be great to be able to see through things and see what the problem is.

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