Two creators of Zynga's social gaming hit FarmVille are launching a new app-marketing product today called Toro. Amitt Mahajan and Joel Poloney were co-founders at MyMiniLife, the Zynga-acquired startup that was instrumental in creating FarmVille. Last year, Mahajan and Poloney raised $1.5 million from an impressive of list of investors (including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, and General Catalyst) for a new startup, Red Hot Labs, and now they're launching the company's first product. Mahajan told me that acquiring users through advertising, and doing it affordably, has become the "hair on fire problem" for many mobile developers. To solve it, he and Poloney are trying to make launching and optimizing an app install ad campaign on Facebook as easy as possible. He compared Toro to payments company Stripe, which he said "simplified something that was a necessary part of running a business." Mahajan also gave me a quick tour of the product. Based on information and assets entered by the developer, Toro can automatically generate what Mahajan says are "hundreds of variants" of a given campaign, split test all of them to find what works best, and adjust budgets on-the-fly. For the developer, that means they get a smarter ad campaign that only requires them to "check on it every couple of days," he said. One of the themes that Mahajan kept returning to was that Toro is a real, self-serve tech product, not an agency or service business. That's a refrain I hear from a lot of startups, but Mahajan said that in this case it's true. It wouldn't be possible for human account managers to generate and test all the variants that Toro does. As for why Toro is focused on Facebook in particular, Mahajan said Facebook ads deliver high-quality users "if you target them properly." Facebook has been expanding beyond app install ads with new ad types that help developers and publishers keep users engaged after the initial install, and Mahajan said that user reengagement ads would be "a very obvious next step for us." The company says it's already working with customers like gaming companies Bee Cave and Betable, social discovery service Sosh, mobile search engine Quixey, and on-demand phone number service Burner. Oh, and even though the startup is still technically called Red Hot Labs, Mahajan said they'll be phasing the name out: "We're 100 percent focused on Toro." Toro Intro from Toro on Vimeo.
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