February 25, 2019

MarTech Interview with Clement Cao, Co-Founder, Executive Director and President, Mobvista

“It has been predicted that the value of the programmatic advertising market will increase to $69 billion by 2022.”

Tell us about your role and journey into technology. What galvanized you to co-start Mobvista?

I’m the Co-Founder and President of Mobvista, an advertising and analytics platform I helped to launch in 2013.

I hold a degree in Electronic Engineering from the University of Zhejiang, with my first role focusing on early-stage venture capital investment. I then proceeded to work for CSV Capital Partners and then Oriza Seed Capital — all with a focus on telecom media technology.

It was important for me to gain ground-up experience by working across different segments within the tech space. In China at that time, there was a consensus that a venture capitalist without entrepreneurial passion was not enough. This led to myself and other students from my college establishing Mobvista in order to build entrepreneur skills and, at the same time, gain relevant experience within the technology industry.

How do you prepare for the highly disruptive Mobile Marketing technology ecosystem?

The global Mobile Advertising industry continues to grow rapidly, but as well as overall growth, there is a particular demand for highly automated and more targeted advertising services. It has been predicted that the value of the Programmatic Advertising market will increase to $69 billion by 2022.

I think that if we want to be seen as one of the leaders in Mobile Programmatic, we need to hire and retain the right pool of talent that will help us accelerate the development of AI and big datatechnologies.  So far, we have brought on board a chief architect of engineering from Amazon China and VP of data science from Alibaba.

Although China’s mobile market is rapidly growing and has a healthy domestic market for mobile and PC games — some Chinese gaming giants such as Tencent and IGG are already increasing their focus towards overseas opportunities.

Interestingly enough, our founding team members are mainly from the International Department of UC Web (acquired by Alibaba in 2013), which was one of the first successful Chinese developers who realized app globalization and accumulated rich experience in overseas markets, especially the experience of globalization in emerging markets of Asia.

This goes back to what we call our “global” strategy, which is all about growing our global footprint and at the same time enhancing our local services and expertise. In essence, local knowledge and experience are critical to our continuing growth.

For me, it’s vital that we continue to look for strategic investments and acquisitions that expand Mobvista’s ecosystem and, in turn, deliver benefits for our customers, just as our acquisitions of NativeX and GameAnalytics have done so far.

At the moment we reach more than a billion unique mobile devices per day, mainly in Asia. And although we have a good app promotion budget in Asia, we are not directly servicing the brand owners, but we indirectly obtained the brand budget through our advertising trading market. This is because we have always positioned our customers as app developers to help them achieve user growth and commercialize through MarTech.

What is the current state of Mobile Advertising and how does Mobvista fit into the ecosystem?

I believe two key trends will have an impact on the market penetration of the Global Mobile Advertising Industry. Firstly, greater regulation towards media giants such as Amazon owning their own ad platforms, and secondly, the importance of brands safeguarding the personal data of consumers as their mobile activity creates more and more data.

What this means for third-party Mobile Advertising technology — and particularly those platforms that focus on in-app inventory — is that they will be able to be more competitive due to their unique selling proposition, as they are not tied to one major platform.

We’ve seen a lot more focus on privacy and data, as well as the continuing threat of ad fraud. So again, this is an opportunity for platforms that offer transparency and can gain the trust of companies. There is always a fine balance between using data to deliver better ads and services and using data in a way that isn’t in the best interests of consumers.

As a Chinese company with global ambitions, we also have a key stake in the growth of the AdTech market in Asia. I think APAC is becoming the fastest-growing market largely due to to the acceleration of investment in infrastructure, which has boosted e-commercesocial media and mobile services. I want Mobvista to be a bridge between this market and the West.

Tell us more about your recent IPO. How do you plan to extend the benefits to your customers and technology partners?

We completed our IPO on the Hong Stock Exchange on 12 December, 2018.

Although the decision to IPO was somewhat against the current market trends, when you are building an international business there’s a fundamental difference whether a Chinese brand in an overseas market is a listed company or not.

Listed companies are required to be transparent, and work to build investors’ confidence. We all know about the many preconceptions about Chinese companies, so we decided to go public no matter how bad the market condition was.

At the moment, we’re working hard to develop a long-term incentive plan for our global team, because without our employees we wouldn’t be where we are today.

I also think it is vital for us to continue our investment in underlying technologies such as Data Management, Machine Learning, Interactive Creative and Hybrid Cloud Computing. This will help us provide better services to global developers and, in turn, better position our offering in key territories. I believe the investment we have raised through the IPO will help us to develop those technologies.

As I mentioned earlier, it is also essential for us to further implement the “global” strategy, while also continuing to look for strategic investments and acquisitions to complement our existing product and technology mix.

To what extent can Mobile Marketing and advertising be automated? How does Mobvista help CMOs to achieve the highest level of automation?

It may sound simplistic, but this can be automated through the collection and analytics of data along the users’ journey while programmatically building and optimizing ad creative based on basic elements and style arts, the process of media buying, customer/user interaction management and monetization management.

At Mobvista, we are constantly working to improve our product portfolio along the Mobile Marketing Value Chain, with the goal of making CMOs and the marketing team focus more on the refinement of the product itself rather than on marketing workflow.

How do you see the North American marketing and Sales Tech industry growing compared to European and ANZ markets?

US companies have certainly led much of the innovation and evolution across what has become a global industry. However, progress in the US has slowed, and instead much of the growth is now coming from the mobile industry in emerging Asian markets.

How much have Business Operations changed since the arrival of Mobile Marketing Automation and BI/Analytics tools? How do you leverage these tools in your work?

Over the past few years, I think this has greatly improved the efficiency of business operations, especially in managing multinational operations and global customer relationships.

Mobvista currently serves customers in more than 60 countries around the world. We are combining the benefits of self-built tools and third-party management tools, which gradually enables comprehensive management of customer relationships and sales processes.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

We use Salesforce to automate our marketing process. Within the organization, we use DingDing, one of Alibaba’s products, to assist with internal management processes.

What are the core tenets of your business development model? How does Mobvista add value to digital transformation journeys for businesses?

The core tenets of our business are data, visualization and real-time. Without wanting to sound too presumptuous, I believe there is a natural advantage here for us, being focused primarily on Mobile Digital Marketing technology.

How often do you measure the performance of your Marketing Analytics and Sales Reporting?

For me, it’s important that this gets done every day.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in Marketing Operations for 2018-2020?

I predict that there will be a need for more transparency and automation of the current marketing process. This will have a significant impact on companies that were previously not as transparent and driven by a manual process; as a result, I expect that many companies will leave the industry entirely.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

I am keeping an eye out on AI-fueled technology along the value chain of Mobile Marketing Automation.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

I’d say that businesses need to integrate Machine Learning to all aspects of their marketing automation, which allows machines rather than humans to optimize things. That’s why we decoupled and stripped all the algorithms of all our products to build a one-stop full-link Machine Learning platform.

We recently launched a platform we’ve named MindAlpha, which I’d call the brain of our future Marketing Automation. I wanted to deploy an independent Machine Learning platform to improve the efficiency of our server and storage resources, while at the same time giving us a new resource to help grow the business.

I think we are not far off having AI-as-a-Service, which will allow businesses of all sizes to use AI for a whole range of differentiated and personalized tasks.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign?

We recently did a user acquisition campaign for e-commerce company Lazada. This was actually during its 6th-anniversary sales event. We helped acquire 2 million new users and topped several Android ranking charts in Lazada’s home market of Southeast Asia.

At the heart of the campaign was our AI platform, which helped us to utilize multiple ad formats including native videos, rewarded videos, interstitial videos, native banners and interstitial banners. We then precisely targeted difference audience groups of some of the top publishers in Southeast Asia, such as  Operamini, UC and SHAREit.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

I believe the best way to inspire your employees is to show them the end result.

One word that best describes how you work.


What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

As far as I know, it would always have to be WeChatDingTalk and our BI system.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

I believe in face-to-face communication rather than sending endless emails.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen. I have always believed that deliberate practice is the best way to consume information.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Always be customer-centric.

Something you do better than others — the secret of your success?

Using differential marketing strategy

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Jeff Bezos.

Thank you, Clement! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.