Customer Q&A: Cotap's CEO Jim Patterson on Being Metrics-Informed

We love our customers here at Localytics, so we’re going to start featuring interviews with the mobile experts we’re lucky enough to work with every day.

The first interview is with Jim Patterson, CEO and Founder of Cotap. Most recently he was the CPO of Yammer, which was acquired by Microsoft. Prior to that, he was the founder of AudioCaseFiles (acquired by Courtroom Connect) and the Director of Professional Services at Rapid 7.

James Patterson Cotap

He has a ton of product management and entrepreneurial experience to share with you today:

Tell me about Cotap.

With Cotap we’re giving people the ability to text message their co-workers without needing to swap mobile phone numbers. We do this by automatically putting everyone in the same company into a shared directory based on their email domain.

At Yammer what we saw by working with large enterprise companies was that they have a lot of internal communication problems. I feel pretty strongly that a lot of that is because the tools people are given aren’t very good.

A lot of these companies are organized in a hierarchical way. There are marketing, sales and product buckets. It’s very hard for people in those buckets to communicate outside of those buckets because the communication tools they are forced to use reinforce the structure. Take most file sharing systems as an example. You put all of your marketing files in the marketing folder. But then only the marketing people have permission to access that folder. If I’m in HR or sales, I have to request permission to go to the folder to see marketing files. It becomes this really complicated thing.

I was seeing that same thing happen again with mobile. We have these devices, but it’s not actually easy to communicate with one another on them because all those devices go by phone numbers. It’s tough to trade phone numbers outside of a very small group. With the BYOD (bring your own device) movement, oftentimes that device is not only the person's work phone number but also his or her personal phone number too. It’s a complicated situation because some people aren’t comfortable giving out their phone number.

With Cotap we wanted to build this cross-platform communication system that would allow someone to easily send a message to any other co-worker and not have to worry about having someone’s mobile phone number. You just need to know their name, then Cotap will pull up their email address so you can send a message to their mobile device and then it comes up as a push notification.

cotap iphone app

What’s your approach to app analytics?

I think a lot of people say they are metrics-driven. I would describe my style as metrics-informed. You have to have a vision and a strategy and then use data to course-correct along the way. You can’t be locked in and say “I know exactly what I want to do!” and plow ahead two years and not even look at how people are using your app. But you also don’t want to be so deep in the data trying to optimize minute things.

Something to remember with analytics is the concept of the local maximum. Here’s an analogy: Imagine you’re a blind person and you want to climb a mountain. You start down a path where each step brings you a little higher, but then you eventually reach that point where a step in any direction no longer brings you any higher. You might say, in your blind state, that you’re at the top of the mountain. But you’re actually not; you’re at the top of a small hill next to the mountain.

It works that way with analytics. If you just keep A/B testing, you may end up fully optimizing the thing you’re testing, but there could have been some other thing that was completely different that was way better. But you were so blinded by climbing your little mountain that you missed it.

How do you use Localytics?

The first thing we want from Localytics at a very high level is a dashboard to monitor engagement.

Let’s say I am looking at our overall engagement dashboard. I notice that all of a sudden, user engagement is down for the day. The graph tells me that users are using the app less, but that doesn’t tell me “why”. Maybe it was a new feature that we just rolled out, or maybe it was a bug that is preventing people from signing up or from logging in. More often than not, it’s actually something more benign, like a holiday in Asia. If a lot of your user base is international you need to consider such things and split reports by region. It’s like you’re peeling away an onion… constantly pulling back the layers to learn more.

Why did you choose Localytics?

We evaluated a lot of other options available in the market, including several free options, and we chose to invest in Localytics for several reasons.

First, we could have built our own solution internally, but we didn’t want to focus engineering resources on that when we could focus them on building our own product instead.

Secondly, we also liked how lightweight and stable the Localytics SDK was. We didn’t want something that would slow down or crash the app.

Next, when it comes to the product itself, the ability to tie right into the client with events was key. When we see dips in engagement, it’s great to be able to drill down and attribute these dips by event. All of these events map to user actions, so from a product perspective I can really wrap my head around what is happening. It's easier to quickly see what might be broken, or on the flip side, I can see what might be helping.

Finally, we also wanted to track our acquisition campaigns. Localytics Marketing helps us do that really effectively by tracking our campaigns by user growth and retention. If you just use Facebook's ad tracking tools you can see how many app installs you get, but you don’t have insight into anything longer-term. Localytics lets us track those campaign cohorts over time so we can optimize for engagement and retention rather than just pure installs.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

You have to have this view of the future state of the world and see what’s missing today that gets us there. At Cotap, we believe that in the future employees will primarily communicate with each other throughout the day via text messages. We are building a product that enables that world and a company around that product. You have to identify some hole in the world, and then as an entrepreneur, fill that hole. It takes years and years to build a company and if you don’t have the passion and if you are not driven to fix some problem you see, and fill a hole and stay the course… it won’t work.

Also, look at the data but don’t worship it. Data is important but don’t be a slave to it. You can’t build a big business by A/B testing random things until you get somewhere. You have to a vision.


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