8 July 2021|Brand Story, Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Inna Ushakova, CEO & Co-Founder of Scalarr, is a seasoned entrepreneur and expert in mobile marketing. Prior to founding her current venture, Inna co-founded Zenna, a mobile games user acquisition marketing company. When Zenna fell target to fraudsters, Inna kept her cool. Rather than admitting defeat, she rose from the ashes in a stance against ad fraud by developing her own AI-driven ad fraud prevention firm, Scalarr, headquartered in the US. Inna oversees implementing innovation and advanced technology to solve the mobile app install ad fraud issue, on her mission to strengthen the entire mobile ecosystem. At the beginning of this year, Scalarr was listed in Forbes Top 30 Ukranian Startups, and now in May, Inna has been shortlisted again in Forbes Best Women in Tech, Ukraine. We were delighted to catch up with Inna to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I graduated from Kharkiv Politech Institute, Ukraine, where I studied computer science and management, so tech has always been my interest. Scalarr is an AI-driven anti-fraud prevention firm for app developers and marketing teams. Online fraud has accelerated throughout the pandemic as companies have progressively digitalised. Our machine learning based solution analyses millions of datapoints to detect even the slightest anomalies, constantly protecting ad spend through analysing impressions, clicks, install and post-install data. Scalarr can predict upcoming fraud patterns to prevent marketing losses.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Before Scalarr was conceived, I co-founded Zenna, a marketing agency which promoted mobile games. One of our clients entrusted us with the management of their ad campaigns in Western Europe and CIS-countries. One day we hit turbulence as the analyst monitoring the campaign spotted there was something off about the traffic. Over a month we conducted a deep analysis and the results concluded an alarming 78% of all the traffic bought on this campaign was fraudulent due to smart bots. The fraudsters were clever; perfectly emulating traditional user behaviour, even making payments to give the impression of highly qualitative traffic on the website. The whole saga was disastrous and caused huge financial losses, and inevitably the loss of our client.
After searching for relevant ad-fraud solutions on the market, none of them were quite suitable. So, in 2016 I decided to create my own in-house anti-fraud solution to tackle the problem. I knew the accuracy of our product set it apart from other competitors and realised there was a gap in the market.
How did you achieve awareness?
Due to Zenna we were already in the market – we understood it well, and the mobile-ad sphere were familiar with us. The task at hand was to introduce a new product, deliver great results and gain a trusted reputation to drive interest. Luckily, our outstanding results spoke for themselves, saving thousands of marketing spend for our clients with our new ML powered product.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
After launch back in September of 2017, we started working with companies such as Aviasales, Pixonic and Goodgame Studios. We made sure we had a clear strategy development strategy in place, showcasing our operational excellence to our investors. By May of 2018, Speedinvest led our Seed investment round. In February this year we raised $7.5 million Series A round led by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, Speedinvest and TNT Investments.
What are the key successes?
Between 2019-2020, Scalarr negotiated more than $22 million in ad fraud refunds for enterprise clients – so our solution not only helps to identify fraud, but also supports customers rake back any losses suffered in the process, which is something we are very proud of. Especially now, these services are indispensable.
So the key success is seeing Scalarr providing a positive, impactful solution that protects businesses from experiencing unfortunate losses and having world leading companies as loyal customers, this is a testament to our hard work – reputation and trust are not built in a day.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
When we were testing for solutions we found companies attempted to detect fraud using a “rules based approach”, creating a list of behaviours that suggested fraudulent activity. The challenge was that no matter how fast these rules were created, fraudsters were already onto the next method, making it impossible to keep up with them. So, we created a solution that’s one step ahead of the game, equipped with tools that can detect abnormalities that haven’t already been classified as potentially fraudulent, as well as the ability to predict upcoming fraud patterns.
What are your plans now/for the future?
During the pandemic, we received Series A funding. It will be used to develop new products to target markets beyond mobile ad fraud, so we can expand our scope more within the cybersecurity sphere. We also intend to target new geographies like Asia, so despite the challenges of the past year it’s an exciting time for Scalarr.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Above all I’d say do not let the fear of failure deter you from pursuing a potential venture. Similarly to myself and Scalarr’s founding story, any pitfall can serve as the most valuable lesson, pivoting you in the right direction. As an entrepreneur there is no set blueprint to go off, but the more experience you have the better equipped you are for future opportunities as you learn from your errors and successes.
Can you share your top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Behind the scenes, running your own company takes a lot of grit, determination, and sacrifice. I’d advise that no matter what you’re pursuing, you’ve got to truly believe in what you do and the problem you’re trying to solve. You’ve got to have a passion for problem solving and willingness to take on any role, whether that be technology, product design, UI/UX standards, marketing, sales and customer service.
With that said, by setting ambitious goals to cover all these areas it can be hard to loosen your grip on the reins. Surround yourself with a trusted founding team to take on tasks beyond your capacity and skillset. You can’t be good at everything, and it’s even more important to hire people that challenge you in the same way the industry does.
Who are the people who inspire you the most?
My partner and co-founder of the company Yuriy Yashunin – he’s someone I trust, who has himself been tested throughout all these years of our joint entrepreneurial ups and downs.
My husband, who has been my best friend, supports my entrepreneurial spirit and believes in me.
My colleagues – a close knit team of professionals striving to reach the stars.
My parents who’ve always been by my side with their unconditional love and unlimited care
What is favourite inspirational /motivational quote?
I like this one from Winston Churchill; “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?