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Trend Watch 2016: Mobile Apps

By Rob DeFrancesco on December 21, 2015

Mobile apps are primed for continued strong growth in the year ahead. That’s because mobile is now the leading digital platform for media and communications. Smartphone penetration in the U.S. has reached 80%, while nearly 90% of all Millennials have their smartphones with them at all times.

Total activity on smartphones and tablets accounts for 62% of time spent on digital media, with mobile apps alone representing 54%. Fully 86% of smartphone users spend time on apps, vs. just 14% for mobile Web browsers, according to research firm Flurry. Mobile apps offer users a better overall experience than the mobile Web, particularly when it comes to video. WhatsApp, the mobile messaging service owned by Facebook (FB), handles roughly 40 billion messages daily, nearly twice as many messages as the whole global SMS system.

Mobile apps these days are not limited just to the consumer segment. Many new business-focused apps work in conjunction with enterprise software, with a focus on customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and content management. The partnership between Apple (AAPL) and IBM (IBM) has developed more than 100 business apps covering 60 professional tasks across 14 industries—including healthcare, telecom, transportation, financial services and government.

New Relic (NEWR), a holding in the Next Wave Portfolio, is one way to play the mobile app megatrend. In order to make sure apps are working properly, they need to be monitored on a constant basis. The company’s cloud-based software analytics platform collects real-time data associated with the performance and user experience of mobile apps. With New Relic, customers are able to measure the health of their software from the server level all the way down to the end user. Granular-level analytics enable mobile app providers to quickly troubleshoot and fix any problems, ensuring that the end-user experience stays excellent.

Mobile apps throw off an enormous amount of data. New Relic provides users with detailed analytics tied to business outcomes, and at a fraction of the cost of on-premise solutions. The company’s Software Analytics Cloud collects data from millions of software events every second and enables organizations to run queries against the giant data sets to uncover new insights about their apps, users and overall business. For example, the company’s software lets users see how many people are using an app at any given time, what users are browsing/buying via an app, where the choke points are within an app, as well as who’s coming back on a regular basis to use the app.

After adding 400 paid business accounts in the latest quarter, New Relic now has roughly 12,840 customers. About two thirds of the customer base is made up of small organizations, accounting for a third of total revenue. Another third of revenue is provided by mid-market accounts. At the higher end, New Relic has between 1,200 and 1,300 enterprise accounts providing the final third of revenue.

Under the sales leadership of president Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, who joined New Relic two years ago after running global sales for cloud-software leader Salesforce (CRM), the company recently shifted focus a bit to concentrate more on enterprise accounts because that’s where it’s seeing the most growth. Enterprise customers on average spend $50,000 annually with New Relic, double what they did a year ago. Multiple customers now spend more than $1 million annually on New Relic subscriptions. While New Relic markets to smaller businesses via an inside sales team, sales reps in the field work on larger accounts.

For fiscal 2016 (ending March), the consensus revenue estimate of $175.4 million indicates growth of nearly 59%. At a recent market cap of $1.77 billion, New Relic shares trade at 7.5 times the fiscal 2017 consensus of $234 million, a reasonable valuation when compared to the expected growth rate of 33.4%.

In addition to being monitored for performance issues, mobile apps need to be secured from cybercriminals. Many apps have been shown to continuously mine private data and then send the information to unauthorized servers worldwide. It’s estimated that 30% of all Android apps are capable of leaking private data.

With employees increasingly accessing corporate data (including SharePoint and various file shares) from their mobile devices, hackers are now specifically targeting Android and iOS smartphones. That type of activity exposes organizations to data loss, compliance violations and future targeted attacks.

Proofpoint (PFPT), a leading provider of cloud-based software used for email security and malware detection, last summer rolled out Targeted Attack Protection (TAP) Mobile Defense, a security service that has the ability to stop malicious Android and iOS mobile apps before they are able to compromise sensitive data. TAP Mobile Defense combines correlated threat intelligence from multiple data sources with an adaptive engine to assess mobile app risk within the world’s most popular app stores.

Malicious mobile apps are the latest threat vector for targeted attacks historically conducted over email and social media. In mobile app attacks, consumers are tricked into downloading malicious apps, enabling hackers to siphon off private data—everything from contacts and email content to personal information. Tight integration with the leading enterprise mobility management platforms (from MobileIron and VMware) allows the solution to proactively remove malicious apps.

A newer offering, Proofpoint SocialPatrol, is the industry’s first security solution for Instagram, the photo-sharing app owned by Facebook. About 85% of top brands use Instagram to connect with consumers, so it’s important to make sure overall engagement is kept safe from non-compliant, inappropriate and malicious images and comments. SocialPatrol automatically identifies Instagram security threats, compliance violations and inappropriate content for removal. The solution performs advanced analysis of images, text and text embedded with images (comparing them to more than 100 algorithmic classifiers) in order to enable brands to monitor and (where necessary) eliminate harmful posts/comments.

Analysts on average expect Proofpoint this year to deliver revenue of $263.9 million, representing growth of just under 35%. In October, the company issued its preliminary outlook for 2016, calling for top-line growth of 29% to 30%, above the consensus growth estimate of 27% at the time.

Given the recent positive momentum in the business (both revenue and billings in the third quarter advanced 37%) and the fact that Intel Security named Proofpoint the preferred security vendor for customers transitioning over from its McAfee email solution (it enters End of Life status in January 2016), guidance for next year looks conservative. At a recent market cap of $2.63 billion, Proofpoint shares trade at 7.7 times the 2016 consensus revenue estimate of $342.7 million (growth of 29.9%).

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