Startups often take shots at big established players to position themselves as competition. It’s a way to get noticed. Analytics startup Mixpanel has taken a similar tact since launching in 2009 with backing from high-profile startup incubator/accelerator Y Combinator. The company has been promoting itself as an alternative to giants like Adobe-owned Omniture.
That strategy paid off most recently in May with a $10.25 million funding round led by top VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, whose portfolio includes Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Pinterest. Even Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff bought into the round. So is 16-person Mixpanel really packing the goods to compete?
The problem with establish analytics players is they don’t focus on metrics that matter, said Mixpanel co-founder and CEO Suhail Doshi, whose company analyzes 6.2 billion actions per month for 580 customers, including mobile hardware company Jawbone and crowdsourced lodging service Airbnb. “Omniture can track whether a user opened an app or bought something, but what doesn’t exist is the ability to track engagement,” he said. To fill the void Doshi sees, Mixpanel is launching a new platform called Engage.
Engagement has become a jargon word that can mean anything or nothing, but Doshi breaks it down like this. Mobile and online game Cut the Rope (a Mixpanel customer) could see that players are having a hard time advancing from level four to five. To avoid turning off those players, Cut the Rope might rejigger level four to make it easier to level up, but then it would need to give players a heads up that the level’s been updated. Mixpanel’s Engaged technology can pick out those players who were struggling to advance and send them a notification or email to tell them to try it again.
Mixpanel’s platform covers online and mobile, but Doshi said there’s a heavy emphasis on mobile and helping developers make their apps better and more lucrative. Ads are a part of that monetization strategy, but Mixpanel says its data can help bolster purchases of virtual goods.