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[Editor’s note: GeekWire is running a series of profiles on the startups participating in this year’s class in the TechStars Seattle incubator program. Check back each day at 1:30 p.m. for a new profile, leading up to Demo Day on Nov. 1]

Ian Sefferman

With hundreds of thousands of apps populating mobile app stores, it can be challenging for developers to get their creations to rise above the clutter. MobileDevHQ believes it can help, offering keyword analysis and other tricks to catapult apps up the charts.

We heard from CEO Ian Sefferman, a former software developer at, for this installment of Startup Spotlight.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We help mobile app developers/marketers get more downloads through organic channels (e.g. App Store Optimization — ranking highly in app store search).”

Inspiration hit us when: “We originally started as a consumer app discovery site, helping users find apps. It took us over two years of developers and marketers continually asking — How do I promote my app? How does the app store work? — before we realized we had some amazing data, could offer them a product, and could charge for that product.”

VC, Angel, or Bootstrap: “Right now we’re cash flow positive, so we don’t need to raise external capital. However, we’d like to grow aggressively and own this big market, so we’re looking for the right partners to make that happen, whomever they may be (VC or angel).”

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We have some amazing algorithms and data that no one else can get. For example, we are the only organization that has a real understanding of search volume in the app stores (i.e. how frequently a particular term is searched for in the app stores).”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Pivoting from a consumer app discovery site into a product that offers tools for app marketers. We went from linear growth with little revenue to explosive growth, real revenue, and the ability to grow aggressively.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Not spending enough time on the story of our business. The sooner you learn that your job as a startup is to be a storyteller (to customers, to investors, to press, etc.), and the sooner you get feedback to refine that story, the better off you become.”

Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, or Bezos in your corner:  “As a former Amazonian, I choose Bezos. What he has built with Amazon is really remarkable, and his consistent focus on the long-term and the customer is something I strive for constantly.”

Our world domination strategy starts when: “Mobile app marketers spend a smaller percentage of their overall marketing budget on paid ads. We believe the best mobile app marketing strategy is a combination of organic and paid, and we want to own the organic side.”

Rivals should fear us because: “Our data and algorithms are unparalleled. We have been collecting data from and understanding the app store ecosystem for over three years. That data, plus our unbelievable and complementary team of engineers and business folks, makes us the best in the world at organic app marketing. Oh, and our ping pong skills are getting quite good.”

We are truly unique because: “We have deep experience in the app ecosystem, a team that gels together amazingly, and a product that can’t be beat.”

The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Turning a product with low-growth, little engagement, and zero revenue into a high-growth product, high engagement, real revenue, and a massive market. It involved adding key players to the team, getting out of the building, and some very dark months.”

What is the most important thing you learned at TechStars: “How to tell our story more powerfully and succinctly. Storytelling is so important, and knowing which story to tell whom, what to say in each story, and how to present those stories is an invaluable skill.”

What was your most memorable moment in TechStars: “For me, there’s no single moment that stands out. Instead, watching each of the 10 teams progress so much in a short amount of time is incredibly inspiring.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Don’t give up. I’ve written before that the value of a startup is in the slog. Your idea might be wrong, but what you learn will lead you to your success. It might take years, so be ready for a long fight, but don’t give up.”

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