Florian Lehwald has been in the affiliate marketing world since the mid-1990s and, like any good entrepreneur, he has changed with the times. His latest project is a company called KissMyAds, which connects mobile marketers. With years of experience under his belt and a company that is growing at an extremely impressive rate, Florian is definitely a guy you should be paying attention to.
Florian and I had a great chat over Skype recently and he filled me in on his extensive marketing background, what’s going on with KissMyAds, and where to get the best beer in the world.
What inspired you to start KissMyAds?
I’m an online marketer. I’ve been doing internet marketing for about fifteen years now. I did a lot of consulting jobs with big German companies. Then I met the guys from Venista Ventures and we became friends from a consulting job. Normally I just did interim benefits: I’d build on the online marketing division and then go on to the next company six or twelve months later. I met the guys from Venista Ventures, set up the online marketing division there. We became friends and then we decided we had to something together, to stay together and since my background is in online marketing and affiliate marketing we decided to bring the old business from the internet to the mobile business.
Can you explain, in laymen’s terms, exactly what KissMyAds does?
KissMyAds is kind of a marketplace. We connect mobile marketers. Some people have mobile traffic in their apps or mobile websites. We’ve got a lot of media buyers who are buying mobile traffic. On the other side we have advertisers who want to sell products on mobile devices; things like subscription services or they want to increase their app downloads or we’ve got some mobile shops already.
We’re a marketplace in between; we connect those parties. The publishers can decide which offer they want to promote and then they get a personalized tracking link installed within their app or their mobile website. Whenever a user clicks on a banner and buys something from the advertiser, the publisher gets a commission from it.
So you started all this with the guys over at Venista Ventures?
Yeah, it’s an incubator for mobile startups.
What did your original team look like?
At the beginning it was just me and the incubator. I could use a lot of the infrastructure at the incubator – such as accounting, communications, graphics and things like that. I started on my own and after two or three months I got my first employee, Marcos, who’s dealing with the advertisers at the moment. After several months we got more employees and more employees and at the moment we’re at eleven people and hiring more and more every day.
Wow, that’s really rapid growth! Can you talk us through that?
The process is huge, at the moment. We’re growing every month at about 100 to 150%. We’re pulling in more profit than I ever thought and the growth is absolutely huge.
What’s your personal background? Have you always been in marketing?
Yes, I started online marketing in mid 1990s, when I went to school. I started some affiliate projects with some friends of mine in 1995, one of the first. We did some affiliate websites and after that I started several companies, like online agencies and smaller projects. Then I did a lot of contracting and did a lot of Germans companies – such as the German version of Facebook – where I built up the international marketing teams.
It sounds like you’re absolutely the right person to be running this company.
Yeah, that’s what I do for a living. I can’t do anything else because this is all I can do!
And what city are you located in?
We’re located in Cologne. The LTD was registered in London, but it was just a company that was in our desk when we started, so we were officially in London. But since the beginning of last month we’ve been officially in Germany, in Cologne.
We’re located in the Venista Ventures office at the moment. We’re looking for a new a office for January.
I live in Munich and I come to Cologne every Monday.
Is there an active tech startup scene in Cologne?
Um, kind of. It’s not that big. The bigger tech startup scenes are in Berlin or in Munich but there are several coworking spaces here in Cologne and some smaller startups. But we’ve got some universities here in Cologne so some students start startups when they leave university, but definitely not as big as Berlin or Munich.
Do you picture staying in Cologne or do you plan on moving to Munich or Berlin when you get bigger?
No, all of my team members are from Cologne so I think we have to stay here. I want to open an office in San Francisco next year and one in Kuala Laumpur, Singapore, but the headquarters will stay in Cologne.
So you’re going international!
We’re doing a lot of business so I think it’s good to have offices there and do business all around the world.
What do you do in your free time, if you have any?
I don’t actually have free time! But when I’m in Cologne, I live in a shared flat with some of my co-founders from Venista Ventures. We have a lot of fun. We party a lot, drink beer. We love German beer, obviously, because we’re from Germany. That’s why we live in Bavaria: for the best beer in the world.