Deep-Linking Outfit Branch Snags $3 Million In VC Cash

branchdeeplinkA chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Put another way, mobile links that don’t link directly to specific in-app content are pretty weak.

Deep-linking tech provider Branch Metrics revealed it’s received $3 million in seed funding Tuesday led by New Enterprise Associates, the majority of which it plans to use to build out its engineering team and in “market expansion,” said company founder and CEO Alex Austin. 

He noted that though the company just launched in June, its SDK is already live or pending within 50 apps – including AlltheCooks, Gogobot and Personal Capital – which translates to roughly 25 million devices.

While deep-linking lets developers configure their apps to enable links – known as URIs, or unique resource identifiers, in mobile parlance – to act like HTML links, Austin insists not all deep-linking technology is the same. He and his team have figured out a way to deal with certain issues related to what he called “traditional deep-linking technology” provided by deep-link juggernaut URX.

The problem with so-called traditional deep-linking, according to Austin, is that it only works if a user shares an in-app link with a friend who already has the app in question installed. But if the intended recipient hasn’t yet downloaded the app, the shared link either results in an error page or redirects the user to the app store to download the app, giving users what Austin referred to as a “generic install experience” that ultimately dumps them onto the app home page post-install.

“Branch deep links work no matter if the app is installed or not,” Austin said. “So, if the app is installed, we can show the content right away. If the app isn’t installed, the user will have to install it, but then they will see the content right away.”

Traditional deep-linking also comes built in with an inherent attribution issue. Having booted a user to the app store, it can be difficult for developers to tell what drove that person to download in the first place. Part of Branch’s value proposition is an analytics function that aims to tie actions back to their original source.

Most of Branch’s clients tap their tech for content sharing and new user onboarding. Several clients, including art curation app Vango, have also used its service to create mobile referral programs that don’t rely on coupon codes. Person A shares a link with person B. When person B clicks and takes action, Branch can link that back to the original source, giving the appropriate credit to both parties.

“The core technology that allows us to do this has been around in the advertising space for a while, and companies like Tune [formerly HasOffers] and Kochava have been using it just for advertising purposes,” Austin said. “We’ve taken what people use for mobile app install attribution and built an underlying linking service on top of it for developers.”

In addition to marketing and getting its SDK into more apps – Branch is looking to reach about 100 million devices by the end of the year.

Austin also has a somewhat loftier goal in mind for the Branch road map. While lots of developers out there are looking to make websites act more like apps, Austin would rather that people engage with apps as if they were websites. The “install barrier” created by app stores just gets in the way, Austin said.

“Consumers don’t need to know how many apps they have installed, rather they should be able to access the functionality of their apps like how they use browsers,” Austin said. “I liken it to browsing the web by only using the bookmarks on your toolbar – that’s basically what we’re limited to in the app world right now.”

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