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Mixpanel CEO Amir Movafaghi on his plan to take on Google and Adobe



Mixpanel CEO Amir Movafaghi
Mixpanel CEO Amir


  • In April, Mixpanel cofounder Suhail Doshi relinquished
    his CEO title to Amir Movafaghi. 

    is an app analytics company, last valued at $865 million in
  • Movafaghi says that the game plan for Mixpanel is to
    take on Google and Adobe by creating an ecosystem of partners —
    it believes it can establish its niche while the market is
    still relatively new.
  • To that end, Mixpanel is announcing a partnership with
    Zendesk, allowing customer service agents to see exactly what’s
    going wrong when an app user calls in for help. 
  • Movafaghi says that Mixpanel doesn’t need to raise
    funding, and isn’t necessarily in the market for an IPO. At the
    same time, though, he says he admires the financial discipline
    of public companies, where it’s obvious if a business is doing
    well or not.

In April, Suhail Doshi dropped a bomb on his employees: He was
stepping down as CEO of Mixpanel, the company that he had
cofounded, and handing over the reins to Amir Movafaghi, who had
been chief operating officer.

Doshi told CNBC at the time
, he was exhausted. He had founded
Mixpanel in 2009, at 20 years old, and led it to an $865 million
valuation. Over time, though, the waters got a little murky, and
by 2016 Mixpanel experienced layoffs amid a strategy shift, even
as it
brought on new executive talent
to try to bring the company
back on track for an IPO.

At that meeting, the incoming CEO received a compliment from
Doshi that he’s come to cherish, Movafaghi tells Business

“The truth about Amir is, he gets me more excited about
Mixpanel,” Doshi told employees, as Movafaghi now
recalls. Movafaghi calls Doshi’s comments “humbling” — while
Doshi is staying on as chairman of the board (after
some time off
), he was basically saying that it was up to
Movafaghi to take his vision for Mixpanel to the next level.

Now, Movafaghi says that things are moving in the right
direction. The company will come close to $100 million in annual
revenue this year, Movafaghi says, even as Mixpanel has
blown away its own internal financial targets for three quarters

Mixpanel’s investors include well-known Silicon Valley firms
Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, with $77 million in
funding so far — most recently, a $65 million round in 2014.
Movafaghi says the company is “really well-capitalized,” and
doesn’t have to raise money any time soon, though it still could.

“Our velocity is very encouraging for where we’re heading,”
says Movafaghi. 

And where Mixpanel is heading could well involve an IPO — but not
for the reasons you might think.

Mixpanel helps companies track

The whole idea behind Mixpanel is that it helps companies track
the way that customers use their websites and apps. That data can
be used to squash bugs, guide customers toward new features, or
eliminate common frustrations. 

“What your customers do on the website, how they navigate,
matters greatly,” says Movafaghi. He says that the company’s
business is split pretty evenly between smaller developers and
large customers like Ticketmaster and Intel Security. 

There are no shortage of competitors in that space, including
Google and Adobe. What sets Mixpanel apart, says Movafaghi,
is a focus on individual customers. Most other app analytics
software takes a bunch of data and presents it in aggregate, says

Mixpanel gives more visibility into demographics and user habits,
says Movafaghi. Everything is viewed through the lens of the
user, including how many times a user accesses certain features,
or how often they click on ads that are presented in certain

mixpanel analytics

The next big thing for Mixpanel, says Movafaghi, is putting
that data to new uses by partnering up with other companies. For
instance, Mixpanel is today announcing a partnership with help
desk company Zendesk to combine their powers.

If a customer uses Zendesk to get in touch with customer support,
the agent can use Mixpanel to see exactly what they were doing in
the app that led to the problem. By that same token, if a lot of
customers are reporting the same problem, it can be escalated
back to the app developers for a potential fix.

“There’s an evolution of how you maniacally focus on your
customer,” says Movafaghi. 

With Google and Adobe nipping at Mixpanel’s heels, Movafaghi
believes that rallying allies like Zendesk is the key to the
company’s continued viability. Mixpanel doesn’t need to totally
vanquish Google, Movafaghi says — it just needs to establish
its niche right now, today, before the market settles out and
it’s too late. 

“If you invest, build the right ecosystem, you’ll have a
competitive advantage,” says Movafaghi. “When the dust settles,
there are going to be standards.” 

That push will include signing more partners, expanding further
into the European and Asia Pacific regions, and hiring beyond its
current 300 employees, says Movafaghi.

A nontraditional reason to IPO

Notably, Movafaghi hadn’t been with Mixpanel for very long before
being named CEO, having joined in 2017. Before
that, Movafaghi was at IT management software company
Spiceworks as chief financial officer. 

But Movafaghi is best known for his 5 years at Twitter,
where he ultimately served as VP of global business operations.
Following the Twitter IPO in 2013, Movafaghi was tasked by
former CEO Dick Costolo to come up with a way to pay down the
operating debt incurred by its years of “fast and furious”
growth, he says. 

Now, Movafaghi tells Business Insider that while Mixpanel
isn’t necessarily looking for the kind of money you’d get from an
IPO — he says he’s “philosophically opposed” to the idea of
raising money for the sake of raising money — he does miss some
aspects of being at a publicly-traded company. 

Mixpanel CEO Suhail Doshi
Mixpanel cofounder Suhail


Mostly, being a public company requires you to have “discipline,”
says Movafaghi. Startups often prioritize Twitter-like
growth over any kind of financial game plan — behavior that’s
incentivized by the fact that venture capitalists are willing to
overlook a lot if a startup is growing like crazy. 

“You become pretty loose,” Movafaghi says. 

As a public company, however, Movafaghi says that the proof
is in the pudding. If your financials aren’t good, there’s no
hiding it. Mixpanel may or may not IPO in the foreseeable
future, Movafaghi says, but it’s that kind of discipline
that he’d like the company to continue adopting. 

“If you can’t demonstrate that the foundation is strong,”
says Movafaghi, “you’re building a very fragile business.”

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