Jan 7, 2020
Founder of Phiture Andy Carvell joins us to muse on his early career in mobile gaming development, his pivot toward marketing tech, and what it takes to consult on tech stacks, app store optimization and growth-minded strategy. *Hosted by Dave Goldstein and PJ Bruno LIVE at LTR 2019*
PJ Bruno: Welcome back to Braze for Impact, your Martech industry discuss digest, and we're back again with another episode from our humanity series. Today we got with us one of our very good friends, close partner, Andy Carvell, partner and co-founder at Phiture. Andy, thanks for being here.
Andy Carvell: Thanks for having me.
PJ Bruno: Absolutely man. And also to my right. Dave, the golden boy, Goldstein, head of Global Solutions Alliances. Dave, this has been a long time coming,
Dave Goldstein: Long-time coming, so happy to be here.
PJ Bruno: Andy, for those people out there who don't know what Phiture is, why don't you just give us a little summation there.
Andy Carvell: Yeah, sure. We're a mobile growth consultancy based out of Berlin. We're a team of 30 mobile growth experts, and we help companies with mobile apps to get a grip on some of their mobile growth challenges. Quite specifically, that would be things like app store optimization and data-driven experimentation. With CRM.
PJ Bruno: It sounds like the need there is probably just growing bigger and bigger every year. Right?
Andy Carvell: There's plenty of demand. Yeah, it's pretty healthy.
Dave Goldstein: I'm actually just curious Andy, cause obviously it's incredible what you've done building out Mobilegrowthstack.com you're clearly like an incredible industry leader and the thought leadership that you guys put out is unparalleled, and it's free for everybody. Even your competition can go and read all that content, which is just unbelievable that you actually put all that-
PJ Bruno: That's confidence right there.
Dave Goldstein: That is confidence. That's exactly what that is, and it's fantastic. But, can you tell us a little bit about your journey? Your background, how did you get to start this consultancy and develop all of this thought leadership? Where'd you start, and how'd you get to kind of where you are today?
Andy Carvell: Yeah, sure. And thanks for the kind words, Dave. When I was growing up, all I wanted to do was make games. My father brought a home computer for me and my brother when we were pretty young. I was like five years old or something. And he taught us how to program it. My father was like one of the first generation of computer programmers, so I was kind of fortunate enough that I got taught how to code, long time ago, and all I wanted to do was make games. Just was really into computers, really into games. Went to university, did a bachelor's degree in computer science, and after I graduated, I just fully expected to go into the console games industry and make PlayStation games, and I've done a PlayStation game for my final year project. It was straight forward career path as far as I was concerned, but actually ended up working for Nokia who were hiring for games programmers to make games on mobile phones, which were kind of a new thing at that point. I didn't have a mobile phone when I joined Nokia.
Dave Goldstein: Wow. Do you remember what year that was?
Andy Carvell: Oh, that was 1999.
Dave Goldstein: Oh wow. Okay. I probably had the StarTAC, the Motorola StarTAC flip phone at that point.
PJ Bruno: The project, the PS game that you created, what was it? What was the concept of that?
Andy Carvell: I made a puzzle game. So it was something... There was a TV show in the UK called Blockbusters, which kind of gave me the idea of... You have to basically create a path like a cross, not exactly a chessboard, but something similar. And the idea was... With this puzzle game, you kind of had this character, and you would run around a board flipping over tiles, and they would flip over in different colors. You had to build a path of the same color from one end to the other.
PJ Bruno: Very cool.
Andy Carvell: Yeah. Yeah. So anyway, I joined Nokia back in 1999, making embedded games. I made a game called Space Impact, which is one of the first like side-scrolling shoot'em up arcade games for a mobile phone. And I just really fell in love with mobile and the technology, the disruptivity of it. And also actually for making games on really resource constrained devices. It was an interesting optimization challenge, and I stayed in mobile games for about 10 years, eventually kind of decided to go do something new, so I went to business school, got my MBA and there is where I kind of specialized in marketing and marketing strategy and it was kind of after that when I came to Berlin and joined SoundCloud, I was kind of able to marry those kind of two disciplines of sort of technical background and all the sort of new marketing stuff I'd learned and apply that at SoundCloud, helping them to kind of transition from being a web-first company to a mobile-first company and that's kind of where these two things kind of came together.
PJ Bruno: Is that when you moved to Berlin, or you were already there?
Andy Carvell: Yeah, actually, I moved to Berlin to do a 10-week project to finish my MBA. I had to write a dissertation based on some research that I'd done in industry, and I did that with an ad tech company called the SponsorPay now called Fyber. So I wrote my dissertation at Fyber but decided, actually, I wasn't super keen on staying in ad tech, so I looked around what else was happening in Berlin and yeah, SoundCloud were hiring for somebody with a... With mobile experience. So it was kind of like perfect fit really.
Dave Goldstein: It's amazing. And when I think about some of the savviest digital marketers out there, what comes to mind is folks in gaming. I mean, it's unbelievable how tight they are around marketing processes and conversions, right? It seems like that industry was the first to lock it down, and it's like if you knew that industry you, would do well anywhere, right? You could take that to Legacy Enterprise and blow people's minds.
Andy Carvell: The games folks are always kind of ahead of the game I'd say like a couple of years ahead. In terms of a lot of the best practice, you see usually happening first in games. Yeah.
PJ Bruno: Do you miss gaming?
Andy Carvell: I don't miss it as much as I thought I would when I kind of like made the switch. Actually, I really thought that I was going to go back into gaming industry after business school, but just didn't... It didn't turn out that way.
PJ Bruno: That's life, isn't it?
Dave Goldstein: Truly. And so as you kind of made this transition from your SoundCloud days to starting this consultancy, I imagine folks are trying to kind of capitalize on this incredible knowledge base that you've developed over the years. What are some of the challenges that, common, maybe uncommon these days, as it relates to enterprises that are in businesses of all types that are trying to figure out how to do growth cause you clearly understand it intimately?
Andy Carvell: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of challenges. It's hard to generalize, I think, to a huge extent. But we definitely see a few kind of common themes with the kind of companies that are coming to Phiture and asking for our help. We see a lot of companies just sort of struggling to navigate the vendor space and the tool space and just sort of understand what is the right kind of tech stack that's going to work for them and what exactly will that enable for them and what are their options there. We see that a lot, and we also see companies, particularly on the app store optimization side, just companies either don't realize quite how complex an operation they need to really operationalize ASO at scale across like multiple geographies. And we can sort of help them first of all to understand that and help them to either build out that process in-house or we give them an outsource solution for it.
PJ Bruno: So Phiture can do things like what you're just talking about at a very macro level, but you guys also can do the very tactical HTML design as well when it comes to in-app and other things. Is that right?
Andy Carvell: Yeah, that's right. We've built out actually a bunch of cool stuff on top of the Braze platform. For example, you have the in-app template technology that we've built. Yeah, we're doing some pretty cool stuff there. I think it's really important for me personally that our company is not just telling people like, "Oh, you can do this or you know, this, this, this would be a good way to do, you know, do something and," and building out a strategy with them. We definitely do the strategic work, but I think it's really important to me that we stay really current, and we stay at the cutting edge of what we're doing, and we really want to be like leading the way with the implementation side of things as well. I think it's important that... Otherwise, we get stale.
PJ Bruno: Right. And it's all conjecture until you actually put something together and have something to show. Right?
Andy Carvell: Yeah. Right. And be able to drive measurable impact with it. We're all about measuring things and real impact.
Dave Goldstein: It's incredible the level of sophistication and complexity, right? When you think about... To your point, right? People are trying to choose the right technology to do the job. That in itself, I mean, seems like a full-time job. Just to evaluate all the technologies out there and align it with what it is that you're trying to do as a business. On top of that, you've got organizational structure challenges, right? Where people are just... They're not organized. You could give them the best toolset in the world. You could put in the best plumbing, and they're just not organized to use it effectively. Right?
Andy Carvell: I'd say that's a really big one actually. In fact, that's probably the most common thing that we're helping companies with. It's not really the tool setup. It's more about building good processes around whatever tool stack they're using. We can work with companies with very varied tool stacks. But typically their biggest challenge is operationalizing the actual kind of growth process, and that's really comes down to having a really strong experimental process kind of rigid instrumentation and sort of dedication to actually measuring impact properly and then getting into a good strong experimental cadence. And that's the kind of stuff that actually is our bread and butter that we help companies with.
Dave Goldstein: We're always talking about nailing the fundamentals and ensuring that... I mean, you've got to get those down first, right? Because so many people get caught up in the hype of new technologies. Speaking of which, there is a lot of kind of quote cool technology out there, voice AI, bots. I'm trying to think of all the different things that I've seen and heard as of late. Right? And there have been some, what I consider to be pretty interesting implementations of them. Is there anything in particular that you're really excited about to see the evolution of and can actually envision how it might fit into the future of growth for some of the organizations that you help?
Andy Carvell: So, I mean, I think the technologies that I'm super excited about... I'm a bit of a sci-fi nerd, so I tend to look a little bit further ahead. I'm excited for quantum computing kind of brain-computer interfaces. This kind of stuff, which will for sure have implications for growth, but it's probably a little further out. So if I would kind of bring it back a few years, I think I'm kind of interested to see how mobile evolves as... I think the screen will kind of eventually disappear and we'll just get like retina projection and things like that. I think that the device will kind of evaporate, but the mobile computing capability will definitely stay with us. I think wearable devices, conversational interfaces, I think we're seeing the kind of early stage of that with devices like Alexa and Google Home and Chatbots and things like that. But I think conversational interfaces will... You'll have a way to go as well. And that, of course, then merges with AI and yeah, a bunch of fun stuff.
PJ Bruno: Retinal interference.
Dave Goldstein: It's not long until we're living in the world of Minority Report.
PJ Bruno: Have you seen these tech tattoos yet? Have you seen these?
Andy Carvell: I haven't seen the tech tattoos.
PJ Bruno: It's basically an ink that is a conductor with some sort of circuit in there, and basically, I guess the thinking is, in the future, instead of getting your regular physical checkup, this is some sort of circuit that actually can check your vitals regularly and keep you kind of not just doing it annually, but day to day, kind of know where you're at with physical health.
Dave Goldstein: Wow. Where do I sign up?
Andy Carvell: I think personalization in the healthcare sphere is also super interesting. Especially when you get into gene editing and-
PJ Bruno: Oh, man. Yeah. I mean not just wearables, but I mean, where does it end, right? I mean robotics in general, adding to your body. When does it, when is it no longer you?
Dave Goldstein: Well, technically, it is no longer you, right? We are bionic. We carry around this supercomputer in our pocket, and many people have it attached to their wrist. Right? In essence, we've got the knowledge of all mankind right here with us.
PJ Bruno: I'm a little bit of a sci-fi nerd as well, and I had the conversation with my roommate about where does humanity end if like Oh like years from now, great, you got a bionic arm, you had an accident. Like you know what? I want to add some stuff as well, and I just kept pushing the limit. I was like, all right, if everything's a robot, but your head is human, are you still human? So yeah, yeah, yeah. I think I'm still me, and I just kind of kept pushing it like, all right, your consciousness is downloaded into a hard drive. It's replicated. Is that still you? No. I don't think that's me anymore. I love pondering those things.
Dave Goldstein: I've long thought we're just the caterpillar waiting for our robot overlords to blossom into the beautiful butterflies-
PJ Bruno: Does that scare you at all? AI at all?
Andy Carvell: Yeah, it does actually. One of my favorite books is Neuromancer by William Gibson, which is really all about a rogue AI, which is trying to kind of augment itself and join with it's other... It has like...But there are basically two AIs based in different places in the world, and they're trying to kind of connect a network together because then they'll basically become this like super-entity-
PJ Bruno: Disguised, as an ecosystem, takes over the world.
Andy Carvell: Yeah, I mean, it's a great story. It's a great book, but it's... I think we've seen many times over the last like kind of 10, 20 years that technology takes on interesting... Has interesting effects on the world, which are not entirely predictable. I don't think anyone would have necessarily predicted Cambridge Analytica or the Facebook stuff. And the ways that social media is being kind of subverted. And I think things like AI will be no different. And it's also already being heavily kind of weaponized and invested in, as the new frontier in warfare. So yeah, I think it's going to be pretty scary. But also there'll be some really cool applications for it. So...
PJ Bruno: Yes. Well, I also... I got to get around to promoting your podcast, Andy, as a fellow podcaster. It's very clear that you have a passion for what you do. And I fully believe that those who have a strong passion for their careers are the ones that are going to succeed the most. And so from all the great stuff that you guys are doing outcomes, Mobile Growth Nightmares and I just love to hear about what brought that about. And I mean, clearly, it's something that you care about, and Dave mentioned you guys give away a lot of your content for free. That feels like a cause that feels like a mission. That's something that can actually kind of stand the test of time. So I'd love to hear about it.
Andy Carvell: Sure. Yeah. So Mobile Growth Nightmares... We'll also to say for the record; it's not a feature production. I do it with Jessica from Blinkist, which was also kind of very deliberate that... We didn't want to just do another corporate kind of podcast-
PJ Bruno: Not selling something here.
Andy Carvell: Exactly. It was just kind of a bit of fun. We're both kind of working in the industry. We have a pretty good network of people that we can kind of just invite on the show. We record it when we have time, which is why there's not many episodes out. It'd be like... It's kind of like best efforts kind of thing. So it's all kind of quite informal, quite casual and it's kind of a fun project, but it's a great way to connect with people in the industry and just have a chat like we're doing now. And yeah, the kind of general concept is that we talk about growth fuck-ups basically like times when people have done something which they've learned from. Which that they've made some kind of mistake and yeah. What they've learned from it, which we find is just a fun angle to take.
Dave Goldstein: Do you have a favorite nightmare that you've heard or perhaps even experienced yourself? Like something in particular like, "Oh man, I clicked send to 10 million people," an oops campaign. Anything to that effect that you would share?
Andy Carvell: So we actually... We had a guy called George from [Glovo 00:15:31]. We did an onstage kind of a variant of the Mobile Growth Nightmare show. It wasn't actually with me and Jessica, but we did it at our ASL conference in New York lately. And yeah, I mean basically his... I won't give too much away because it's a really fun story and I guess we might get him on the podcast at some point, but it ended up with, I think the police being involved and yeah, his boss... Emails from the boss at nine o'clock in the morning. So yeah, I think those kinds of nightmares are the best ones where he... As he pointed out after, it's like, look; this is a real nightmare. This is not the not, not an [AP] test that's gone wrong.
PJ Bruno: This is a real nightmare. This is not just a growth nightmare.
Andy Carvell: I think when law enforcement got involved. That's a good mobile growth nightmare.
PJ Bruno: Jeez loueez. Can't imagine.
Dave Goldstein: Unbelievable. So I suppose one of the questions I had, right? Is as folks who are looking to level up their growth game. They look to experts like you. If you can give away one actionable tidbit, one massive takeaway that someone who would be listening to this would be able to take back and ponder over and apply to perhaps level up their growth engine and their growth strategy. Anything, in particular, come to mind?
Andy Carvell: So yeah, I'm not a big fan in general of sort of growth hacks or sort of specific tactics that you could apply it across the board. Because I think you want to look at sort of things specifically in terms of your situation. However, I'm going to now contradict myself and say one thing which I would pretty much always recommend, which we also don't see very often, even in pretty sophisticated setups. Often this is missing. And it'll really help any growth marketer. And that's to have a global holdout group. It's actually pretty simple, but keep a group of users back and have that holdout group kind of refreshing with new users as you get new cohorts in and basically just keep back, whether it's 1% or 5%, whatever you need to get a significant... Statistically significant result in a meaningful amount of time and have those not exposed to whatever growth experiments you're doing. And [I see this work 00:00:17:42] particularly for CRM and for folks using Braze this is really valid, but if you're doing growth work and you don't this global holdout that's just not exposed to any of the experiments that you're running, you won't be able to prove the ROI and the overall impact of your initiatives. So you'd think as any growth marketer or growth professional in the industry, I'd really recommend you do this because it's really going to help you when you're going for promotion next year to be able to actually demonstrate the value that you've actually delivered for the business and the only way you can really do that, particularly with something like CRM, where you have loads of different campaigns going on with the different touchpoints, is to look at the aggregate impact by having a holdout group.
PJ Bruno: And I guess the whole point of that is complete randomness. Just take a bunch or-
Andy Carvell: Yeah, absolutely. It should be just a random sample. Yep.
PJ Bruno: There you go. Holdout groups, control groups, do it.
Dave Goldstein: As always, an open book sharing of information. It's just incredible. Thank you so much for all you do for our industry.
Andy Carvell: Thanks for having me on the podcast, and thanks for your kind words.
PJ Bruno: Yeah. Thanks, Andy, and thanks Dave, for joining us and thank you all at home. Take care.