Appi Camper is an interview series that shines a spotlight on today's mobile elite, showcasing their expertise and knowledge. Growth leaders share trends, strategies to navigate the current market, tips to overcome present challenges, and how they approach these impacts to successfully emerge as an Appi Camper.

Spotlight with Keith Pichelman

Before founding one of the first mobile game companies in 2003, Keith Pichelman worked at IBM and Digital River. At Digital River, Keith worked on a B2B system to buy and sell apps for early mobile phones. This experience, along with seeing that people were carrying around these mini-computers in their pockets spurred the idea to start Concrete Software. For 19 years Keith has led Concrete Software as their CEO working on such titles as Tetris, UNO, PBA Bowling, PGA TOUR Golf Shootout, and many more. 

What positive trends have evolved in the industry over the past 6-12 months?

Like many industries, we run into our challenges. The biggest challenge over the last 12 months and perhaps even longer has been the post-IDFA world and all the new privacy rules. Many saw this as the sky was falling, though when forced to change we did and we found ways to move forward. For us, our focus has really moved to creatives for advertising. I think there is still more room to think outside the box when it comes to these features. For example, we work very closely with brands to bring their followers into our games, such as the PBA and PGA TOUR.

What dictates budget allocation? What metrics are the main focus in order for you to remain with a partner? What does that relationship look like?

We are always looking for ways to bring in new fans to our games that are ROI positive. As long as we see that we will grow that budget as large as possible, I think you can always find and adjust budgets. To sum it up, it's not reasonable to wait to adjust budgets until you see ROI positive campaigns so we watch early ROI percentages at day 1, day 7, etc. 

What type of A/B testing and audience segmentation have you been working on? Any major insights on user behavior?

We do a lot of A/B testing from storefront testing to game play testing to ad creative testing. I'm a big fan of having a "win", when you can walk away from a test having learned something it will make us that much better of a company in the future. We basically always have many tests running at once.  

Audience segmentation is a very interesting area in games. We do quite a bit of that type of segmenting as well, though each game can be quite unique. Easy segmentation tends to be around the level of progression - so if you are early in the game, you don't get offers that don't make sense for you or gameplay where we expect you to have expert knowledge.  Though I find the more interesting segments to come around how people engage in our games - are they working with others as a part of a clan? Are they playing all solo challenges? Are they collecting everything or are they just trying to be an expert with specific things? It’s all about understanding the user. 

An example of an insight that has worked well for us is when people are joining a clan and working together allowing those players to work together as a group to accomplish goals works very well. This makes a lot of sense since they are joining a group and really becoming a part of that group, so working together is natural.

What do you think is the key to making a brand successful throughout the many changes ongoing in the mobile industry?

We work with a lot of big brands for our games which works really well for us and the brand itself. On our side, we really want to work with a partner that has a large following for their brand, so a good example is the PGA TOUR. Since UA costs are so expensive, it works really well to have the PGA TOUR introduce all their fans to our game. For the brand side, their fans get to see their brand name daily on their devices. Hopefully we make an experience that is very fun for the fan so that we help make the fan enjoy and become that much more loyal to that brand. 

How important do you think events are for the success and growth of your business? Do you think there is a major difference between in-person and virtual events?

Over the 19 years that Concrete Software has been around we have heavily relied on in-person events. The biggest benefit has always been meeting all kinds of people in person and getting to know them. I really appreciate meeting our current partners and potential future partners but maybe even more important has always been meeting other companies similar to us in the industry. Getting different perspectives, finding out what works for them, or even just inspiring us with success stories!

Virtual events are not a bad thing, I just don't think they should replace in-person events. I think conference presentations work fine virtually, though the in-person meetings don't work nearly as well. You also miss out on the impromptu meet-ups and/or side conversations that are so valuable.

What advice would you give to work best with other cultures and time zone challenges?

Communication and always striving to be better helps us a lot. We are working as a hybrid company now with not that many people working out of our offices so it's important to make sure communication is good. People can easily misunderstand something that is written out, so we try to make sure people have the tools they need to communicate well and have standards. So we use Slack for most of our messaging and many of our meetings, we also use Google Meet for larger get togethers and Jira for tracking our work. Slack has been great to show when people are and are not available.

We are also always checking in on everyone and trying to make Concrete a better place to work. We do that by having anonymous feedback always available, we also send out regular polls that are anonymous to everyone. Finally we have quarterly meetings where we present all areas of our company to everyone in the company in a setting that is open for any and all comments and feedback.

What is your current office set up? What is the culture at your company surrounding “unplugging” from a WFH environment?

We are currently set up as a hybrid company with our main offices in Minneapolis. It's been working pretty well so far, we currently think of our office as a "tool" – no one has to come into it, and anyone can use it however they see fit to help them. I think of it like everyone's computers, monitors, etc. The office is just one more thing you can use.  

I think our WFH situation has worked pretty well. We don't push people to work outside core hours, there are some more rare times that this changes - say when we need a hotfix for an issue or something like that, though that is not very often. We also have a great support team where they do check periodically including the weekends to make sure there are no bigger issues.