AmpMe accused of boosting app sales with fake reviews from reputable App Store reviewer

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Montreal-based AmpMe has found itself in the crosshairs of the App Store’s “One-man Bunco Squad.”

Kosta Eleftheriou, an American entrepreneur, claims that AmpMe bought thousands of fake reviews in order to increase the popularity of his music app on the Apple App Store.

In one Twitter feed on January 10, titled “How to Earn $13,000,000 on the App Store,” Eleftheriou called AmpMe, alleging the app maker made it easy to sign up for an auto-renewing subscription that was “much harder to cancel “.

“By accumulating thousands of fake reviews over the years, you’ve managed to drown out the real ones.”

Eleftheriou said the app was priced at an “absurd” $10 a week, or nearly $520 a year. He claimed that 90% of AmpMe app reviews were fake.

AmpMe’s music sync app allows users to create their own audio system by allowing the same song to be played on an unlimited number of devices.

Eleftheriou is not the average Apple App Store consumer. He is a self-proclaimed “professional” App Store reviewer and the founder of FlickType, an iPhone keyboard app turned Apple Watch for blind users.

A serial entrepreneur, Eleftheriou sold three of his previous businesses to Google, Pinterest and the Formax Group. The Verge describes Eleftheriou as “a one-man Bunco crew”.

In his Twitter feed, Eleftheriou alleges that fake reviews helped AmpMe become the 135th highest-grossing app on the AppStore, grossing over $13 million since 2018.

“By racking up 10,000 fake reviews over the years, you’ve managed to snuff out the real ones,” he wrote.

An unidentified spokesperson for the AmpMe company disputed most of Elefheriou’s complaints. In an email to BetaKit, AmpMe said the claim that most of their users pay $520 per year “does not reflect reality.”

The app maker wrote, “For example, in 2021 the average user who subscribed and took advantage of our free trial paid an average of $17. If you only take paid users, the average annual revenue from subscriptions is around $75. Internally, this reinforced our belief that AmpMe’s pricing is transparent with clear and easy opt-out procedures.

AmpMe claimed that the free version of its app is the most popular, with the “vast majority” of users not paying. “Given its reception and popularity, AmpMe is a beloved app and works as advertised,” the startup wrote.

However, when it comes to the issue of reviews, AmpMe admitted that reviews could be a problem.

“When it comes to reviews, we hear the comments loud and clear,” the app producer wrote. “Over the years, like most startups, we’ve hired outside consultants to help us with app store marketing and optimization. Greater oversight is needed and that is what we are currently working on.

AmpMe CEO Martin-Luc Archambault did not respond to BetaKit’s requests for comment.

In 2016, AmpMe raised C$10 million in Series A funding. Relay Ventures led the round, with participation from Investissement Québec, Slaight Music, OMERS Ventures, Townsgate Media and Real Ventures.

This isn’t the first time AmpMe CEO and former Dragon Martin-Luc Archambault has been accused of bad business practices.

A spokesperson for Real Ventures told BetaKit that the VC is no longer involved with the venture.

“AmpMe restructured in 2019, where our ownership effectively became void,” Lisa Séguin, director of marketing and human resources at Real Ventures, wrote in an email. “Since then, we have not contacted the company again. We made a small pre-seed investment in 2016 and have not invested any more capital since.

Neither OMERS Ventures nor Relay Ventures responded to a request for comment by the deadline.

This isn’t the first time the AmpMe CEO and former Dragon Archambault has been accused of poor business practices.

Archambault previously worked as CEO of Montreal-based startup Wajam from 2009 to 2015. Wajam’s core product was a social search engine that allowed users to search through the content of their social media contacts and generated revenue through search engines. display of contextual advertising.

In a blog post titled “Wajam: From Startup to Massive Adware,” WeLiveSecurity by ESET Research wrote about Wajam in 2019. In its post, WeLiveSecurity noted that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner Privacy Canada (OFC) said the startup used more than 50 Pay-Per-Install providers between 2011 and 2016.

“This model has been repeatedly criticized for using fake Adobe Flash Player, antivirus and many other popular software installers to trick the user, and for the heavy presence of adware and malware in the bundled installers,” WeLiveSecurity noted.

In 2017, the OFC published a report identifying several breaches of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), including liability, consent, storage limitation, security and transparency measures – and made 12 recommendations to help the respondent comply with the law. .

At that time, WaJam indicated that it was selling its assets, including software, to a Hong Kong-based company, and that its software would no longer be distributed in Canada.

The OFC then said that since the assets had been transferred to Hong Kong and WaJam was unable to implement OFC’s recommendations, “we conclude that the concerns relating to liability, consent, retention limitation, security measures and transparency discussed in the context of our investigation are well founded.

Nor were these the only Wajam woes that Archambault faced at the time. In 2015, Olivier Cabanes, then vice-president of Wajam, sued Archambault, alleging that the latter was trying to claim more substantial compensation than he would reasonably have been entitled to, according to a 2018 article in La Presse.

Cabanes also commissioned KPMG to review the company’s books. According to La Presse: “In its preliminary conclusions, made public in March 2015, the firm estimated that Mr. Archambault had actually accumulated more than $800,000 in ‘risky expenses'”.

La Presse noted that Archambault’s expenses included “the bachelor party of a friend of Mr. Archambault in Ibiza ($23,000); that of his brother in New York ($14,700); a painting, a ping-pong robot and an aromatherapy steam bath (total of $19,800); trips to Guadeloupe, the Maldives and elsewhere.”

Archambault and Cabanes ended up settling amicably.

Back in Montreal at AmpMe, the startup informed BetaKit that it had submitted a new version of the app with a lower price to the App Store for review.

“We always adhere to Apple’s subscription guidelines and continually work to ensure their high standards are met,” AmpMe wrote. “We also respect and appreciate community feedback.”

With files by Joshua Scott.


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