Interview with Inna Ushakova, Co-Founder & CEO, Scalarr

Inna Ushakova
Inna Ushakova

“Location has ceased to play any role for SaaS tools and their clients. If you become the best at what you do, you will succeed in any market.”

Tell us about your role at Scalarr and how you got here? What made you start a company to fight fraud in mobile marketing?   

I am proud to be a founder and CEO of such a great company. Scalarr was started two years ago, in 2016, with the idea to develop the efficient and highly accurate tool to detect the mobile app-install ad fraud. At that very moment, I was running the performance-based advertising agency, which promoted mobile games. One of our clients – a well-known game developer trusted us with the management of their ad campaigns in CIS-countries and Western Europe. One day, the analyst noticed that something was going wrong with the traffic. The deep analysis took a month and the outcome was that 70% of all traffic bought was fraudulent, being marked as smart bots. The user behavior was fully emulated and even payments were made in order to create the image of highly qualitative traffic. The situation was a disaster and the client left. The first intention was to search for a relevant solution on the market to deal with the problem. But after analyzing and testing all of them, including solutions provided by trackers, we’ve decided to go with our own internal solution, as the results were very disappointing.

When the first results came, we were impressed with the accuracy we had got and decided to share the product with the market to make it more transparent and honest.

What’s the most fascinating aspect of leading a marketing technology team in a tech-heavy industry?

Just love it. Being very dynamic, the industry challenges you all the time, so you need to be on the cutting edge of everything – technology, data science, product design, UI/UX standards, marketing and sales, customer service. You set the ambitious goals just because you cannot be successful in other ways and you hire the best team to help you with that. And this team is very diverse, talented in different spheres, challenging you all the time, the same as the industry does. You gather them all in one room and try to combine different experience, views, and approaches. That’s hard. Our main focus is on the technology, how accurate and complete the output is, considering the amount of data and how highly dimensional it is. That requires a very deep approach to engineering and data science. This product will be used by marketers, so everything we do should be usable and applicable, and all of us, engineers, product marketing, and sales managers need to work towards the best solution. When there no solution, all eyes turn to you, as a leader. At this moment, you need to be at your best to help the team find the right direction.

How do you see the American and European marketing tech industry competing against each other in anti-fraud measures?

We differ from each other not by origin, but by technology, focus, and pricing. All existing anti-fraud solutions can be divided into two categories: rules-based engines and machine learning algorithms.

As for pricing, American solutions are more expensive and sales focused in the first instance on “big guys”. But now all these differences are blurred, as all solutions are available online. The location has ceased to play any role for SaaS tools and their clients. If you become the best at what you do, you will succeed in any market.

How could B2B companies better leverage Scalarr?

The idea behind Scalarr is to make mobile ecosystem a safe place, which is free from any type of fraud, which are depleting the marketing budgets at a frightening rate. The best result you get with Scalarr is the confidence of running any marketing campaign on any ad network without being afraid of losing money.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? Which new geographies are you currently targeting?

Our current customer segments comprise mobile only and mobile-first companies, working on mobile games, as well as E-commerce, Dating and Travel apps in the US, Canada, Western Europe, China, and Japan.

We see our “Ideal Customer” as an expert, who is looking for the technology and data-driven solution that will cover all their mobile app-install ad fraud detection needs.

How do you leverage AI/ML and Data Science at Scalarr to scale your anti-fraud solution?

For the past few years, rules-based and pattern-based detection solutions have been ruling the market. However, since the efficiency of such technologies in dealing with the fraud problem were a question for us, we have started the implementation of ML and Big Data technologies from the beginning.

We now see the significant advantages of these technologies in terms of accuracy and completeness of fraud detection. Machine learning is self-learning and can consider the individual parameters of each app. In our solution, for the most accurate results, we use both unsupervised (UML) and semi-supervised (SSML) machine learning algorithms. These two algorithms are differently applicable but perfectly fit each other: UML algorithm showing good results in detecting new evolving types of fraud, while SSML interprets outcomes, coming from UML, explaining also the causes of fraud. By using different machine learning algorithms at once, Scalarr able to give a direct evaluation of traffic with accuracy up to 97%. And now we are constantly working on data science part of our solution for getting even better results in fraud detection.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in adtech industry, especially mobile?

I think that 2018 will change the market dramatically. One of the biggest problems of mobile ad tech industry is fraud. App install ad fraud could lead to losses of $4.6 Billion in the $16.8 Billion advertising market, by the end of the year.

The companies which do not implement advanced fraud detection measures and tools will fail, as fraud exists in almost every ad network and DSP. Moreover, fraudsters are hi-tech companies right now, being able to invest in better algorithms.  Ad fraud becomes ‘smarter’ each day, and we see a lot of mimicry in their patterns. Setting strict KPIs to manage the quality of traffic would not work as fraudsters immediately start to emulate them. We would definitely see the changes in the list of ‘top’ ad tech companies.

I also believe that we will see new names rise, with the innovative technologies behind them, such as AI, deep-linking (especially needed for continuously growing e-commerce and mobile games), ‘smart’ performance-based programmatic, VR and playable ads in advertising. A lot of people are talking about blockchain, but I see that there still a low level of understanding of the overall technology and lack of resources to build it on the market. So I think that blockchain would play a key role in 2019-2020.

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

I am following the news about Ukrainian tech startups, as GitLab, Grammarly, Readdle, people.ai, Competerra, and many others. I also admire what SpaceX and DeepMind do. I am very happy that we have Flo, which uses AI to help improve the women health care in their own way. Many thanks to the developers.

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

The list of solutions we use not so long, among our favorites are Hubspot, which we use for the sales and marketing automation, MailChimp, Gainsight, and some other tools developed internally.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign? 

At Scalarr, our product is already our strategy and our main promotion tool. We focus on technological advancements and accuracy of our solution and put maximum efforts into its development and improvement.

Today our key clients are mobile games/apps developers. This type of clients is usually exacting and savvy in everything connected to user acquisition, marketing growth, and user behavior. That is why we mainly use content marketing and attend all major conferences on mobile marketing as tools for promotion. Our success at this stage is measured in the number of signed contracts and the number of recommendations, that we then receive from satisfied clients.

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

We are already neck deep in machine learning, using it to build our solution as this is the best method to process unstructured highly dimensional data in meaningful ways, something that until recently was the domain of humans alone. But there are other enterprise fields where it can be implemented e.g. aiming to optimize the business processes.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

We are the team of geeks. Actually, the technology unites us.

One word that best describes how you work.

Workaholic.

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

Oh, I have very long list. I cannot imagine my life without Trello, Slack, Gitlab, Hubspot, different booking apps, especially skyscanner, LinkedIn, google calendar, and many-many others.

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

I am thinking about crucial things-to-do and plan everything at the night before going sleep. In this way already in the morning I am ready to start working at once. You need always to keep focus.

What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

I am reading a lot of business literature, still when I have free time or just want to relax I read science and fiction books. Right now I am re-reading “Game Theory” and “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin.

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

It’s not a sprint, but a marathon.

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

My work is my religion, I truly believe in what I do.

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

Mark Ellis, Founder and CEO, Liftoff

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

Inna is the Co-Founder & CEO at Scalarr, the anti-fraud solution for mobile, which uses ML and Big Data.  Previously, Inna co-founded and ran ZENNA, a mobile ad agency.

Scalarr logo

Scalarr is an innovative, ML-based antifraud solution that detects all types of mobile app-install fraud with dramatically improved accuracy by applying to both unsupervised and semi-supervised machine learning algorithms which is continuously learning. Scalarr helps mobile advertisers to stay ahead of fraudsters without any need to update constantly the rules and be sure in their decisions with the most accurate technology on their side.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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