Countly is a product analytics company that has competed with a ton of companies over the past few years but successfully managed to grow rapidly. Prioritizing the needs of its well-defined target customer segment, Countly stood out from the competition with its remote team, open-source strategy and bootstrapping.
Onur Alp, co-founder and CEO, was my guest in the 7th episode of Glocal Podcast and we discussed Countly’s differentiation strategies in a very red ocean market.
Analytical tool designed to your exact needs
Countly’s easy to customize, plugin-based architecture gave extensive capabilities to satisfy specific needs; while its competitors, like Mixpanel (raised $77M), Localytics (raised $70M) and Flurry (raised $75M), offered limited solutions that cannot be customized. Countly’s flexible and plugin-based architecture responded well to the demands of large corporations and Countly moved away from the crowd as the gross margins in analytics shrank due to fierce competition from a number of well-funded players.
As mobile devices have become an integral part of our lives, the need for granular user data and analytics also increased exponentially for large corporations. Countly’s initial positioning enabled it to compete with crappy in-house solutions and focused on complex problems with a clear vision: product analytics, done right.
Full control and ownership of data
All of Countly’s competitors provide analytics as a service on the cloud, hosted somewhere around the globe. Countly was smart enough to know that large enterprises are reluctant to give full control of their data to another company. The rise of data privacy and security concerns paved the way for Countly, whose mission was to give full control and ownership of data to its rightful owner, with an analytics service that can be deployed anywhere, both cloud and on-prem.
A market segment that is out of reach for competitors
Countly’s special focus on flexibility and security resonated well with enterprise customers who have been pouring resources to build internal tools for a while. Countly tested waters to find the most suitable market for its product and then decided to double down on 3 industries that deal with sensitive data: finance, telco, and healthcare. Strong validation from the open-source community played an essential role while creating the first contact with large enterprises.
US is the natural market to go after in analytics when considering enterprise budgets and acquisitions, but the competition is fierce. However, Europe stood out in recent years for Countly thanks to strict regulations for data privacy, like GDPR (protecting the rights of individuals), and almost no competition. Countly continues to grow fast in Europe, launched its Turkey operations last year after gaining international validation, and tried China but failed due to local competition.
Turkey was never a small market. But we wanted to show international presence and validation, before launching sales operations here. - Onur Alp
Open-source and strong community validation
Open source has been at the heart of Countly's strategy since day one. Unlike typical open-source companies, Countly focused not only on selling support and professional services but rather on making money from a commercial product that has extensive capabilities and extra features.
The free Community Edition product was great to create word of mouth and reach organic growth, with its content, documentation, online discussions and even 4,000 stars on Github!
Open source was not something we decided on afterward. To solve complex analytical needs at scale, we had to be open-source from the start. - Onur Alp
Business to developer strategy with white label tools
The extensive editing capabilities and the flexible platform allowed Countly to support white-label offerings. Countly built advanced developer tools to enable other products to embed Countly’s analytics offering and save development time and budget.
The open integration capabilities, API documentation, and open-source strategy motivated developers to use Countly instead of building their own solutions and they became natural resellers of the product.
The vision is to become the Wordpress of analytics with the best plugins and a highly flexible and advanced platform. - Onur Alp
Strongly incentivized partner network
Not structured as a traditional cloud-based SaaS product, it was easy for Countly to incentivize partners who would build special features for the customer’s needs and also generate revenue through onboarding and maintenance. Countly’s strong partner network has the freedom to build on the flexible platform and resell the product to end-users.
While other SaaS competitors, like Mixpanel, also have partners; not being able to sell bundled services along with the product leaves minimal margins. Countly partners can even host on behalf of their clients or develop extra plugins that can be resold.
Flexible organizational structure and remotely distributed team
The open-source strategy became a magnet to pull passionate developers as a contributor to the project from around the world, who would later join the Countly team full-time.
Countly built a remote and flexible organizational structure to find the best-suited candidates from around the globe to cater to different operating systems, products, device types, etc.
We can find and hire the best talent. It doesn't matter where they live. - Onur Alp
Well-defined fundraising and exit strategy all along
Countly’s competitors raised large sums of funding and are in a market penetration race while the margins are also shrinking considerably. Bootstrapping for a long time gave the ability to fully validate the business dynamics, pivot endlessly and keep things under control before fueling growth.
Countly is growing fast at a very hot space as access to data becomes more important than ever, even more so with AI. Large software companies are eager for acquisitions to own the flow of data and Google’s $2.6B Looker and Salesforce’s $15.7 Tableau acquisitions are good examples of that.
The diversity of data on Countly makes it a potential acquisition target thanks to its strong and flexible product, the open-source community and the focus on user behavior analysis.
A lot of big and small players will make purchases in this area. But we want to be the Wordpress of this world. - Onur Alp