How to grow a subscription app business and its user base globally by Olivier Lemarié (PhotoRoom)

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In this podcast, we interview Olivier Lemarié, VP of Growth at PhotoRoom, a mobile app that offers AI-powered photo editing tools. Olivier shares insights on the differences between growth strategies in the gaming and utilities industry, the challenges of scaling a business across multiple markets, and the importance of experimentation and community-building.

PhotoRoom has over 50 million installs and counting, with a growing number of paying subscribers. Olivier Lemarié has an impressive background in growth, having worked in the French streaming app Molotov prior to PhotoRoom. In this interview, he shares his perspective on

  • The challenges of growing a utility app

  • Growing utility apps vs gaming apps
  • Scaling an app business across multiple markets

  • How PhotoRoom is using community-building and experimentation to fuel its growth.


Growth Strategies in Gaming vs. Utility apps

Olivier highlights that although gaming and utility apps share the ability to explore diverse growth strategies for achieving a global presence, there are notable differences between the two.

In the case of gaming apps, they have long been at the forefront of the non-recurring business model, relying heavily on in-app purchases (one-time purchases) to drive revenue. Consequently, these apps have developed a remarkable level of sophistication in predicting lifetime user value, user acquisition, and all aspects related to predicting user churn.

On the other hand, many utility apps are centered around a subscription-based model, which compels them to focus on enhancing funnel optimization and effectively communicating the subscription's value proposition to users.

Scaling a Business Across Multiple Markets

Olivier's experience at Molotov, a streaming service only available in France, showed him the unique challenges of targeting only one market when trying to grow and test new ideas without negatively impacting the brand.

However, at PhotoRoom, he has the freedom to experiment and test in less strategic markets without compromising their brand. They can pivot their focus to other markets if a specific one doesn't produce the desired results.

For instance, since the UK market is highly competitive for photo and video apps, PhotoRoom used their learnings from the US market and shifted their attention to markets like Japan, Germany, and Taiwan.

Challenges Ahead for PhotoRoom’s Growing Business

As PhotoRoom's team and business continue to grow, Olivier identifies two key challenges: 

  • maintaining a culture of experimentation and speed 

  • optimizing the first few days of the user experience to improve retention

Olivier emphasizes the importance of giving team members strong ownership over their projects and providing them with the right tools to execute experiments quickly.

Leveraging TikTok Content for User Acquisition

PhotoRoom's focus on delivering visually stunning content made it a perfect match for leveraging TikTok as a means of user acquisition. With a vast network of content creators, the community team is consistently sourcing high-quality content from around the world.

Today, the global community of PhotoRoom creators spans across many countries, including the US, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and France.

Growth Advice for Utility Apps

Olivier offers some growth advice for utility apps. He emphasizes the importance of giving team members strong ownership and trust, making experimentation easy, and understanding the culture and needs of different markets. Olivier advises growth professionals not to overlook markets outside the US, as there may be low-hanging fruit in regions such as Japan, Taiwan, Germany, and South America.

Olivier's insights on growing a photo editing app offer valuable lessons for apps in the utility/photo editing category. By leveraging the gaming app industry's expertise in LTV prediction and paid acquisition, building a community of content creators, and staying agile and experimental, PhotoRoom is successfully growing its user base and subscriber base.

Subscription League - Olivier Lemarie

More about Olivier

Currently VP Growth at PhotoRoom, the leading AI photo-editing app for commerce,  Olivier Lemarié has been leading revenue and user base growth since 2020. Recently, PhotoRoom has reached 50 million installs, has millions of active users and several hundred thousand paying subscribers.  

Prior to joining PhotoRoom, Olivier was heading Molotov marketing operations, a TV streaming app used by millions of french households and recently acquired by FuboTV, the leading US sports-first live TV streaming platform.

Episode 20 Sneak Peek

On gaming vs. utility apps

“Gaming app, as they rely a lot on in-app purchase, are much more advanced than utility app in terms of license value prediction and user acquisition and all things related to trending prediction as well because they don't have the choice.”

On growing an app globally

“We need to build an international team out of Europe. English is by default the language and this is kind of what we believe in, but also we think it's successful in our mission.”

On leveraging TikTok for user acquisition

“Some other people started using PhotoRoom and showcasing PhotoRoom on TikTok and we ended up discussing with some of them promoting their content. We built a network of, I would say today, more than 100 content creators who produce content all over the world.”

On international expansion

Think international. As a utility app, it's pretty easy to be available everywhere in the world…But there is a tons of big markets elsewhere that are worth digging into. If you look at Japan, Taiwan, in the top five markets for the App Store, and most of western app developers don't think about them because the cultural barrier may be too high. But having one people or a small team focusing on those markets, understanding the culture, adapting the payroll, adapting the onboarding the App Store, it's an effort, of course, but it's not a huge effort to bring significant growth.

Episode Topics at a Glance

  • What is PhotoRoom

  • Market targeting and business strategies when growing an app internationally

  • TV apps vs. Photo editing and utility apps

  • PhotoRoom’s challenges ahead

  • Leveraging TikTok content for user acquisition

  • Growth tips for utility apps

  • Balancing ownership in a team 

How to listen to Subscription League

Go to or subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast Addict, Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. 



Previous episodes:

#1: Phiture - All about Retention with Andy Carvell

#2: Babbel Live - How to create a success in a crowded market with Belen Caeiro

#3: Mojo - Strategies you should focus on for a successful subscription business with Jean Patry

#4: The Guardian - Growing the user base The Guardian way - with Jesse Wilkins

#5: Blinkist - Using transparency to increase your conversion rate with Eveline Moczko

#6: Rootd - How to bootstrap #1 health and fitness app with Ania Wysocka

#7: Luni - Subscription Marketing 101: tips to drive acquisition and retention with Adrien Miniatti 

#8: Uptime - How to build a successful user-first app strategy with Léa Samrani 

#9: GP Bullhound - What venture investors look for in subscription apps with Eric Crowley

#10: Phiture - How to optimize mobile app subscription with Andy Carvell

#11: Jodel - Shifting from ads to In-App Subscription-led revenue generation with Tim Schmitz

#12: BlueThrone - Product market fit, Subscription, and Other Secrets of Success by Idan Waller

#13: Aperture - Tips for Creating the Right Mindset for Business Growth by Hannah Parvaz

#14: MobileGroove - The Subscription Model - the state, benefits, and success tips by Peggy Anne Salz

#15: Appic - All about subscription app onboarding with Tobias Boerner

#16: Together Labs - Leveraging user research to maximize subscription app monetization with Jenny Pollock

#17: BlueThrone - Product market fit, Subscription, and Other Secrets of Success by Idan Waller

#18: Pollen VC - A guide to financing your user acquisition with Martin Macmillan 

#19: CoinState - Finding the sweet spot with the right subscription app monetization and pricing strategy with Vahe Baghdasaryan 

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