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Interview: LeWeb Startup Competition Winner, Beintoo CEO

 

LeWeb Startup Competition Winner, Beintoo CEO, Antonio Tomarchio talks with mobiSights about startup growth, the competition, China plans and even, incompetent Italian politicians.

Apparently, I’m not the only one that thinks Beintoo is innovative. If you saw my post a few days ago on the most innovative mobile apps and services, you might have noticed that I put this relatively unknown Italian company on the list.  Yesterday, that same company just won the startup competition at LeWeb. Guess they’re not so unknown anymore.

A few weeks ago, the CEO of Beintoo, Antonio Tomarchio along with Rosella Dacoma and Shirley Lin dropped by The Great Wall Club and we spent some time chewing the fat and brainstorming about Beintoo’s current and future business in China. Though it took a few minutes to fully understand their model, by the end of our meeting I was convinced that Beintoo’s unique gamification platform improves both the user’s experience and the developer’s monetization ability.

To clearly explain why I (and now the rest of the world) think Beintoo is so innovative, check out the below interview that I did with Antonio last week.

 

What is Beintoo?

Beintoo is the first do-it-yourself mobile gamification and rewards technology that creates a true gamification layer. Developers can use a set of SDKs or our APIs to easily introduce cross-platform game mechanics such as leaderboards, social graph and social network elements, contests, challenges among users, achievements and cross-apps missions, location-based features, and more. Beintoo’s technology also enables users to compete for in-app rank and reputation. Beintoo provides all the SDKs for free and offer to developers innovative “monetization game mechanics” to monetize the engagement of their users. Gamification becomes a new revenue channel. Developers can deliver sponsored rewards, such as real mobile coupons or branded virtual items, to users who achieve goals in the gamified experience, enabling developers to introduce a new, innovative monetization channel that is fully integrated in the app user experience.

Beintoo just started in January 2011 and already has over 20 million users. How are you growing so fast?

Our fast growth is due to the fact that our product is attractive for everyone: developers, consumers and brands. In the Beintoo apps-economy, you have advantages whatever your point of view. Beintoo reaches the needs of promotion and monetization of game-studios increasing engagement and loyalty, creates an innovative, very effective brand promotion and the end-users finally have a real reply to virtual successes, they get benefits and opportunities in the real word according to their virtual achievements and apps loyalty.

What is the “Apps-economy”?

Real offers and branded virtual items from brands, local retailers and other developers are distributed as rewards for virtual achievements in the gamified apps. This creates a network where developers can promote apps and monetize, brands become users-friendly and they reach customers in a playful way and players get real economic opportunities by having fun and by using their favorite apps. This is a true apps economy that creates value for the three actors: developers, advertisers and end users.

There seems to be a growing number of gaming platforms such as Openfeint (Gree) and Kiip. How does Beintoo differentiate?

We think that our approach is strongly innovative. First of all, we are a true cloud gamification service: it means that developers can use our SDKs and APIs in a completely white label way, fully integrated into their user experience, without exposing any external brand. This allows us to support the needs not only of mobile games but of all mobile apps where it is essential to integrate the game mechanics inside the app graphics and in white label. That’s a major difference with products such as Openfeint.

Another differentiation is in the technology: the background of founders is in performance advertising and real time bidding marketplaces and we brought this experience to Beintoo.  Beintoo monetization platform is able to aggregate several providers of rewards and engagement ads and make them compete with a real time auction mechanics. We are aiming at building a true exchange marketplace of promotion offers. This allowed us to offer monetization already now in more than 20 countries.

Developers implement a single SDK and they get dozens of monetization providers and we take care to optimize them and to put them in competition. KIIP, for example, could even be interested in working with us to become a demand partner on our inventory. So we are not in direct competition with them.

Beintoo was founded and is still headquartered in Italy. Do you feel disadvantaged as a tech startup in Italy? What are the advantages of being based in Italy? Do you feel a push to move major operations to Silicon Valley or elsewhere? 

Italy is actually a country with lot of talented human resources, who often unfortunately decide to move abroad to have better opportunities. The country has lot of positive forces in technology but it does not have yet a startup ecosystem able to give support to entrepreneurs and innovating companies. This is mostly due to the high level of incompetency of our political class that ignores completely the digital economy even if it is growing at a pace of 10% per year while the rest of the economy is nearly in recession. But things are changing and a new generation of startuppers is contributing to create an international credibility for our tech industry and a positive ecosystem.

There are several advantages of being based in Italy. In particular, you can recruit very talented people at much better conditions than in Silicon Valley, and the turnover is really much lower. You can also enjoy a very good quality of life in our cities.  Our plan is to move major business operations in a bigger hub in Europe, such as London or Berlin, but to keep engineering operations in Italy. We already established business operations in Silicon Valley and they will be expanded too.

You recently took a trip to China to explore opportunities. What are the 3 main things you learned?

The trip to China was very useful and let us discover many things about China and Chinese people. First of all we learnt the significance of human relationship in business, quite different from the meetings in companies in Sillicon Valley and even in Italy. It’s important to remember, especially in business, that you are interacting with a human being, not only a business partner. By this way, really conversing with the other, we discovered how key is a focused localization, concerning not only the language translations but a true adapting to cultural context. Moreover, we have been able to find out and meet lots of game-studios really high-talented and skilled, successful not only in China but worldwide but unknown in the western world.

Why did you decide to begin to explore China and take this trip?

The idea to come and explore China came early, when we built the company, because we immediately realized the potential of Chinese market. For our business, it’s important to reach the highest number of players using smart phones and skilled with mobiles apps and games. It was also important for us to meet China and Chinese people, and understand how to enter in the Chinese market.

What are the next steps for your growth into China?

The first goals we want to reach for our growth in China are to open a technical office there in order to support all the developers based in China in a very localized way. That’s possible thanks to expansion of our developers-base and advertisers-base in China; we aim a setting of operation base in Shanghai in 2012.

What is your message to developers in China?

Our message for the developers based in China is to take part on the App-ecosystem we are building because it’s a good opportunity for their apps promotion and monetization not only in China but all over the world.

Thanks and congrats to Antonio and the Beintoo team!

If you are an innovative mobile startup like Beintoo, you should apply to compete at our Global Mobile Internet Conference G-Startup Competition in Beijing in May. It’s the best platform to launch your startup in Asia. Applications will open soon.  

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