AppGratis CEO Simon Dawlat has been through the storm of his entrepreneurial life in the last two weeks.
Shortly after he raised $13.5 million in venture capital to grow his mobile app discovery business, Apple yanked his app from the iOS App Store, citing several app guideline violations. Since then, his business is in jeopardy, and his integrity has been questioned by those who accused AppGratis of using bots to inflate download numbers for the apps AppGratis featured.
Still, he says, he needs to “keep calm and carry on doing what we’re doing, because it’s right.”
Today Dawlat put up a petition at save.appgratis.com, asking users and concerned members of the public to express their support. The petition quickly gained over half a million signatures in the first few hours and now has over 600,000.
But it’s not about pressuring Apple, Dawlat says:
“I don’t believe anyone can put any kind of pressure on Apple, so really, we’re not trying. This online petition serves the simple purpose of creating an irrefutable proof that AppGratis is first and foremost a community and a product loved by millions, filling a real need. It’s a statement we needed to put out there because there has been so much written already and this is our way to let people know the truth on AppGratis.”
Truth, of course, is the first casualty of war, and it’s very much in question right now.
Conor O’Connor, CEO of discount hotel app Hot.co.uk, said today that AppGratis artificially inflated the download numbers of apps it featured by using bots — fake iOS users. AppGratis, of course, makes money by charging developers to get their app featured in AppGratis’ app, website, and emails. Getting your app featured by AppGratis can result in huge download traffic for your app — many campaigns have driven more than 500,000 installs of an app in a single day, and recent campaigns have resulted in over a million downloads.
O’Connor’s statement is confusing to me, because when I talked to Apple about AppGratis, I specifically asked whether AppGratis had been engaging in any shady behavior regarding download bots. Apple said no, that it was about app store submission guidelines 2.5 and 5.6.
And a source very close to AppGratis told me today that O’Connor is “lying and delusional” and that AppGratis is scrambling to have its lawyers both get evidence of that fact and potentially take legal action.
Meanwhile, Dawlat is reaching out to the AppGratis user community via the online petition for support.
“We’ve always had users in mind first,” Dawlat says. “Millions of them have signed up to our service. We owe them to continue. So we have started reaching out to them yesterday and received over half a million support emails in less than 24 hours. And it’s adding up at an amazing rate right now.”
It’s a strong vote of confidence, Dawlat says. And, he adds, it’s “the ‘YES’ that says we need to keep calm and carry on what we’re doing, because it’s right.”