SaaS: With $117m Raised, Google Tried to Kill Him But He’s Winning App Deeplinking Wars

Alex Austin

In Episode #795, Nathan interviews Alex Austin. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Branch, a leading mobile deep linking platform with solutions that unify mobile user experience and measurement across devices, platforms and channels. He founded Branch back in 2014 while attending Stanford Graduate School of Business. Before founding Branch, Ale founded Kindred Prints, had engineering roles at NASA and holds many research papers under his name.

Famous Five:

  • Favorite Book? – The Mistborn Trilogy
  • What CEO do you follow? – Jeff Bezos
  • Favorite online tool? — JMP Statistical Analysis
  • How many hours of sleep do you get?— 7
  • If you could let your 20-year old self, know one thing, what would it be? – You have to start your own company, don’t wait. There is never the right time.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

  • 02:04 – Nathan introduces Alex to the show
  • 02:46 – Alex shares how he moved from NASA to a deep linking platform
    • 03:33 – Alex realized that he hated school and loves building instead
    • 03:57 – Alex still does building projects on his free time
  • 04:33 – Alex started Branch when they were building the Kindred app
    • 04:46 – The problem they faced was discovery as it was hard for people to find the app
    • 05:36 – The only way people find Kindred is through the app store
    • 05:48 – Alex created an ability to link to their photobooks with the ideal model
    • 06:00 – They were able to do deep linking which is the ability to link to a page inside an app and have people discover the app for the content inside
    • 06:12 – Branch was then able to solve a general problem
    • 06:28 – Alex then decided to sell Kindred
    • 07:34 – They didn’t see Kindred as a billion dollar company
    • 07:47 – When they started Branch, people were already asking them about the technology
  • 08:30 – Currently, 40% of the app ecosystem is using Branch today
    • 08:42 – Airbnb is one of the apps that uses Branch—if you use it to find a property, then send a link to a friend, that link would be a branch link
  • 09:05 – The goal is to get 90% of the app ecosystem to use Branch
  • 09:26 – Google will allow you to search data on the web and Branch will search through all the pages
  • 09:37 – Branch charges through the usage of the link
  • 09:41 – The ultimate goal is to build a discovery platform
  • 09:47 – Branch is a SaaS business
  • 10:19 – For big companies, the charge is actually by tier
  • 10:47 – Average deal size for enterprise client is $55-60K annually
  • 10:57 – Branch just started selling to enterprise
  • 11:03 – Branch was launched in 2014
  • 11:09 – The platform was initially being given away
    • 11:33 – They only turned on their paywall more than 7 months ago
  • 11:39 – Branch raised $117M
    • 11:57 – It was a priced seed round and a carryover from Kindred
  • 12:38 – Team size is around 120 with 65 engineers
  • 13:40 – The weirdest marketing tactic they did was they went to Stack Overflow and answered questions back linking to their product
  • 14:38 – Branch just started a meetup group where people can talk about mobile growth
  • 15:22 – Over 26K developers are using the SDKs
  • 15:33 – When they first started, they’ve worked on different series of ideas that failed to work
    • 15:51 – It took a couple of months for them to gain momentum
  • 16:40 – Number of paying customers
    • 17:18 – 99% of the revenue comes from enterprise customers
  • 18:35 – The app ecosystem is like Yahoo, in 1995
    • 18:53 – Google allowed the access to the information on the web
  • 19:19 – Branch is built as SaaS because it keeps the lifeline long
  • 19:55 – How Alex delivers his pitch
  • 20:18 – Alex doesn’t want to have competition and they always make sure to kill off those who start to compete
    • 20:57 – The platform is designed to have a network effect
    • 21:36 – EOCO is the company that closed after competing with Branch
  • 22:20 – Alex’s wife is a VC but she’s not invested in Branch
  • 24:28 – Alex isn’t really doing Branch for the money alone
  • 24:58 – Alex sees Branch as his contribution to make a great impact
  • 26:00 – “There’s always a big company to go after”
    • 26:13 – Google launched a product last year which is a direct replica of Branch
  • 29:00 – The Famous Five

3 Key Points:

  1. Develop a solution to a problem and customers will flock to you.
  2. As shady as your tactic may be, organic traffic is still the best source of traffic.
  3. There will always be bigger companies than yours; don’t let it stop you from improving and growing.

Resources Mentioned:

  • Simplero – The easiest way to launch your own membership course like the big influencers do but at 1/10th the cost.
  • The Top Inbox – The site Nathan uses to schedule emails to be sent later, set reminders in inbox, track opens, and follow-up with email sequences
  • GetLatka – Database of all B2B SaaS companies who have been on my show including their revenue, CAC, churn, ARPU and more
  • Klipfolio – Track your business performance across all departments for FREE
  • Hotjar – Nathan uses Hotjar to track what you’re doing on this site. He gets a video of each user visit like where they clicked and scrolled to make the site a better experience
  • Acuity Scheduling – Nathan uses Acuity to schedule his podcast interviews and appointments
  • Host Gator– The site Nathan uses to buy his domain names and hosting for the cheapest price possible
  • Audible– Nathan uses Audible when he’s driving from Austin to San Antonio (1.5-hour drive) to listen to audio books
  • Show Notes provided by Mallard Creatives