Dec 15, 2017 Arttu Närhi
Since founding Truecaller in 2009, reaching 250 million users worldwide, and surpassing Facebook as the fourth most downloaded app in India, Alan is aware of the opportunity that has been presented to him and his company. His success has shown others too, that there are important lessons to be learned from Truecaller.
“Across specialties, sectors and international borders, many people have the same questions about how to scale their business or maintain growth in developing markets,” Alan says, talking about meeting countless entrepreneurs, investors and engineers. To answer these questions, he has five main tips for startups to keep in mind.
“At first some common knowledge: don’t stand still,” Alan says, while clarifying that believing this and putting it into practice are two different things. “At Truecaller, part of our ethos is that we don’t spend too much time over-engineering. It’s better to get the product out, understand and reiterate. In the end, it’s your customer who will be the judge. We’ve seen a lot of success just by listening to our gut.”
Part of this is having a lot of varied in-house talent. Alan cites his PR-team as one example: “We have a very effective communication team that has forged important relationships with media and bloggers since day one. This means that even without a PR agency, we would still be able to reach out to press whenever we have something to announce.”
Find Your Balance
Alan’s second tip involved finding the right balance between human and machine learning. “We live in a big data world. Many important decisions are driven by numbers, and rightly so,” Alan begins telling about decision making at Truecaller. “For us, it was important to develop an expected hit-rate, and understand how an identity score affected the user experience.”
After arriving in the Middle East, Truecaller’s first big break was in Lebanon. “The app became an overnight sensation in the country,” Alan recalls. “We discovered that the tipping point for people to actually have a good experience with the app was when we delivered a 30% hit-rate. Being aware of these growth patterns made us better at communicating internally and externally to drive new customers, adoption and engagement.”
Be a Tourist in the Market
Becoming too familiar can be every bit as damaging as being completely unfamiliar with your market. Alan of course has several international locations, most notably India, where he needs to know what’s going on and how to react to changes. However, he doesn’t spend all his time studying new places, but finds the most use in being a “tourist”. So how does that work out?
“Living in Stockholm, I’ve become acclimated to my environment through constant exposure and begun to ignore my surroundings,” Alan says. “On the flipside, when I travel to India, I become a behavioral tourist, observing how people use their phones. This exposure to novelty sparks new ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of had I not stepped out of my comfort zone.”
iPhone vs. Android
Alan is often asked to describe what it is that makes Truecaller stand out in a crowded market. While describing the big picture might be tough, he does have two clear examples in mind: low iPhone penetration and word-of-mouth.
“There are real benefits to markets with low iPhone penetration,” Alan says, referring to developing markets specifically where Android phones are more common. He also describes Truecaller’s user base favoring Android heavily. “For one, competition on the app store is fairly low, and many iPhone users are likely very influential people. That is a big opportunity.”
Amazingly enough, word-of-mouth proved useful when with Android users turning iPhone owners into brand ambassadors. “Looking at Algeria as one of our recent top markets, our growth strategy relied on pushing Android users to invite their iPhone friends. This rise gave an automatic bump on the Google Play Store too.”
Listen To Your Clients!
Alan’s final tip could be considered common knowledge too, namely bracing and planning for growth. However, reminding us what it truly means to be a customer oriented business, he is firm about planning on the end users’ terms: “Talk to your users, listen to them, understand where there’s friction… For Truecaller, an early indicator of growth was organic word of mouth taking us forward. Conversely, slow organic growth likely means that there’s some other product issue you’re not addressing.”
Beyond planning, being customer oriented is also a good strategy when paid marketing might not be financially viable. “Focus on where your users are, then utilize your own channels to communicate with them and empower them with tools to help spread the word for you!” Alan advises for budgetary binds.
This December, with Atomico and Orrick, Slush will once again publish the annual State of European Tech report. It is the most comprehensive deep-dive into the European ecosystem. Coming out for the fourth time, this year’s report will bring diversity and inclusion into focus, to highlight the importance of the issue at hand. Take the survey […]
One of the Slush core missions now and forever is the advancement of entrepreneurs’ and investors’ abilities to navigate the tech ecosystem and invest with impact. Yesterday, we took yet another leap towards attaining this goal with the release of The State of South Asian Tech (SEA) report in Singapore, yesterday. Like the State of […]
Happeo, a digital workplace platform focusing on smoothening the collaboration between employees of large companies, recently raised $8M for their seed round, having names such as Gapps, Vendep, DN Capital and Maki.vc amongst their investors. We had a chat with Happeo CEO Perttu Ojansuu in order to learn a bit more about the journey behind […]
Slush talks a lot about the different phases of founding a startup. We talk about building, scaling, growing, recruiting, funding and everything in between. All of these things are essential, but to understand the relevance of everything we do, we should also look into the very DNA of what a startup is and where they […]
Helsinki-based Yousician, the world’s leading music education company, has been on an almost decade long journey of learning about gamifying, community building, and of course, learning new instruments. CEO and co-founder Chris Thür has been leading the charge towards the company’s goal of making musicality as common as literacy, and overseen lots of change in […]
Last week, a new era for Slush Global Impact Accelerator kicked off. Slush hosted a workshop for startup hub managers – coming from five different countries – in Botswana. For the past three years, the GIA team has been running the program all the way from Finland. However, now we’ve decided to take off from […]
Day 2 at Slush Tokyo 2018 started with a bang, as IDEO Partner Tom Kelley walked into the Dome to have a Fireside Chat with Slush Tokyo CEO Antti Sonninen. The two discussed Slush and design thinking, and Tom took further questions from the audience during his Q&A session at the Slush Cafe. IDEO Partner […]
After Al Gore’s phenomenal Opening Keynote Speech, Founder Stage was taken over by some of the leading names of European tech. Niklas Zennström, Brent Hoberman, David Thevenon and Sophie Bendz came together to talk about the European entrepreneurial ecosystem and the importance of daring to address the biggest problems in the world. What do the […]
The second day of Slush Music has passed bringing the entire event closer to its end – only the party remains. During this second day, we’ve had the chance to focus more on data and blockchain, future visions for the music industry and artists. Wednesday morning began with a great talk by Scott Cohen on […]
Make sure to secure yours now.
We collect cookies to make your experience here smoother.