Guest Post: How startup app developers can thrive amid competition from big enterprise

Ilya Gelfenbeyn headshotEditor’s note: Ilya Gelfenbeyn is the co-founder and CEO of Speaktoit, which develops talking virtual assistants for Android, iOS and other platforms.

As mobile apps have grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry, large corporations have adopted an increasingly hefty presence within that industry. This fact may worry some independent developers and startups, especially those that find themselves in direct competition with much bigger, better-capitalized, better-established enterprises.

But startup developers shouldn’t necessarily fear competition from their bigger brethren. Being small comes with its own set of advantages, and the presence of big enterprise in a space can often be a help, rather than a hindrance. Here’s some advice for small developers on how to hang with the big boys.

1. Embrace being small. Who says bigger is always better? Large, well-capitalized companies may have more resources, staff members and time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come up with a better app.

  • Take advantage of the lower bar to entry. And thanks to the relatively low bar to entry for creating a mobile app, which tend to be much less sophisticated and much more easily brought to market than, say, computer software, the field is wide open for small startups or single developers. In 2009, Ethan Nicholas developed the game iShoot in his spare time, and the app eventually rocketed to the No. 1 spot on the Apple App Store. Try telling Nichollas (and plenty more examples like him) that a bunch of staffers at a large gaming company could have done better.
  • Take risks. If you’re just starting out as an indie developer, you don’t have shareholders to please, payroll obligations to meet, or a brand to uphold. You may have bills to pay or a family to support, but hopefully you’ll be in a position to experiment. This puts you at an advantage to many corporations, who are often too concerned with making a safe play than to seize the next big opportunity.
  • Leverage your flexibility. Bureaucracy can stifle innovation, and it can also make it tougher for companies to respond to the market. At a large corporation, a new idea might have to go through several layers of approval before developers are even allowed to start working on it. In the time it takes them to get off the ground, you may be able to pre-empt them with a similar offering.
  • Develop partnerships. It tends to take much longer for large companies to agree on partnership terms with other players, whereas you can start working right away with partners who can help advance your progress. Being an indie app developer means that you are a part of a very large community of highly motivated, talented people. Rely on them! (more…)

Guest Post: It’s a mobile first world, here’s what developers need to do to win

Salesforce logoEditor’s note: Today’s guest post comes Quinton Wall, director of platform technical evangelism at Salesforce.

Despite all of the hype around mobile computing, I think too many are underestimating the impact of mobile. That’s right: underestimating the mobile transformation underway. Maybe not in the near term, but definitely over the long run. Think about it. For the first time, high school graduates won’t recall the feeling of working without a fully-powered, always-connected computing device in their pocket. That’s a powerful demographic tailwind behind the sails of mobile, and a big reason why, according to IDC, by 2015, at 1.3 billion people, 37.2 percent of the entire global workforce will be mobile.

How do software companies and independent software developers capitalize on this? It’s certainly on the top of mind of the developers we speak with. In a recent discussion with Athani Krishna, co-founder and vice president of product strategy at field service automation software provider ServiceMax Inc. expressed his excitement around mobile, and the opportunity it presents. Krishna made it clear that success here has little to do with the precise phone or tablet form-factor they’re using. No, what is more important is the context of what the user wants to achieve and where they’re trying to complete that task. It’s about all of the other dimensions mobile computing brings between the app and the user such as their location, connectivity quality, and others in the work or social network that may be nearby. “The idea of mobile first design is something that’s a big force for us, and we’re engineering that into all of our applications,” Krishna said.

Successful software companies must be able to design to mobile and they need to be able to do so swiftly. Here are the handful of must-have capabilities we believe developers need to succeed today: (more…)

Guest Post: What Facebook’s acquisition of Parse means to mobile developers

Ty Amell headshotEditor’s note: On April 25, Facebook announced an agreement to acquire Parse, a cloud-based platform providing tools for mobile app developers. The mobile backend-as-a-service (MBaaS) company could be used by Facebook to make it easy for mobile developers to integrate its SDK and use Facebook login, Open Graph and other components of its platform. And with the recently completed acquisition of advertising platform Atlas, we speculated last week that Parse and Atlas could be made — or some parts of it — free to most advertisers and developers to bring them deeper into Facebook’s ecosystem, ultimately driving ad revenue. Ty Amell, founder and CEO at StackMob, a cloud-based mobile application development platform, explains why Facebook has a big problem on its hands, regarding the steep cost of its platform for developers that’s causing them to leave the platform for mobile. In an effort to stop the exodus, Amell elaborates why Facebook agreed to acquire Parse.

The Facebook acquisition is just the latest move of large public companies taking long hard looks at the MBaaS and API industries. Salesforce recently launched their mobile services platform, Microsoft is in preview with mobile services on Azure and Intel recently bought Mashery for $180 million. Not to mention Layer 7 being acquired by CA Technologies.

With Facebook’s most recent acquisition, does this mean Facebook is moving into the MBaaS space? The short answer: not necessarily. Facebook has a big problem — many of the game publishers that made money for Facebook are starting to leave the platform. While Apple can still get away with charging a 30 percent commission to app developers, Facebook is having a hard time justifying those types of commissions. Apple’s App Store is on rocket ship growth trajectory while Facebook’s platform growth may have plateaued. Without that growth, publishers are having a hard time justifying the steep cost of Facebook’s platform. Public companies like Zynga are having a hard time reaching earnings projections as more and more users move away from Facebook in preference of mobile. (more…)

AppGlu platform aims to help mobile app developers and business people with speeding up development time and post-launch operations

AppGlu logoAppGlu today released its new mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) that aims to help mobile app developers and business people with speeding up development time and post-launch operations. AppGlu is a San Francisco-based company, which spun out from ArcTouch, a mobile app developer that makes apps for other companies like the Chatter app for Salesforce, the Star Trek PADD app for CBS and the native mobile app for Walmart.

To help steer an app to success post-launch, the company developed a dashboard for its AppGlu product dubbed Control Center, which has three components to it. First, is the Control Center’s content component, allowing anyone, such as business people who work on a mobile app, to update and publish new content for an app without going through mobile app developers. Content is updated dynamically, meaning the mobile app doesn’t have to be updated in the app store and re-downloaded by consumers in order to make changes. Second, is the engagement component, where business people can see their user engagement metrics via graphs, reports and more to understand how content is performing. For example, in ArcTouch’s Star Trek PADD app, business people can see which captain from each of the Star Trek series is most popular among users. Lastly, the insights component allows business people to segment their app’s user base, so they can target and then send personalized content or push notifications to customers to improve things such as engagement and retention.

“What we found in our experience at ArcTouch is that companies spend a lot of time thinking about the development and the launch phases of their app’s lifecycle, but they don’t spend much time thinking about what happens after they launch it,” says Adam Fingerman, co-founder and CEO of AppGlu. “The post-launch management and maintenance is where apps truly succeed or fail.”

For developers in particular, AppGlu’s Content Sync Engine feature, which is patent-pending, allows developers to speed up development time by creating what AppGlu calls a “connected app.” Basically, developers can sync and integrate their app’s locally stored data — from either Core Data for iOS apps or SQLite for Android apps — to a managed backend database in the cloud run by AppGlu, creating a connected app in the same way a developer would create a non-connected local app.

“The real magic and the heavily lifting is done through the Sync Engine,” Fingerman says. “When you’re building an app, you have a local data model. We’ve mirrored the cloud data model to your local model using the Sync Engine.”

There are competitors to AppGlu that provide the same solutions for mobile app development on an individual basis. Competitors like Flurry, Google Analytics and Mixpanel provide business insights for mobile apps.

“The difference between us and traditional analytics is that we’re not capturing taps and page views,” says Eric Shapiro, co-founder and chief technology officer of AppGlu. “Instead, we are capturing how users are using the content. We call that content analytics. It’s automatic and it’s based on the actual content that’s being delivered through the dynamic content aspect.”

Shapiro says he doesn’t suggest that mobile app developers replace their existing analytics with AppGlu. He adds that AppGlu is a complimentary solution that gives people different and useful information. There’s also competitors to AppGlu in the user engagement space such as Xtify and Urban Airship, which handle push notifications for mobile apps. AppGlu’s differentiator with push notifications is its ability to analyze a particular push notification that’s driving a user to a specific piece of content, and how that all directly relates to the ROI of the push notification. Lastly, there are many cloud-based CMS companies for mobile apps, but none of those companies allow its customers to modify content without the help of a developer, Fingerman says.

Fingerman says AppGlu is meant specifically for content-centric apps — such as product catalog, sales brochure, marketing, HR, event apps and more — for the B2E, B2B or B2C space. Apps already using AppGlu include the previously mentioned Star Trek PADD app.

Developers interested in the service can go here to learn about the service’s cost and to download its lightweight, open-source (under the Apache license) SDKs for iOS, Android or HTML5 apps or pre-written sample apps with full source code.

WebEx co-founder launches Moxtra app to organize your multimedia, foster collaboration

Moxtra, the new organizational app from the team behind WebEx, wants to classify your media and help you collaborate better.  What’s most interesting is how well the iPhone/iPad app plays well with other software.Moxtra250

The free app allows you to add virtually any type of multimedia, including documents, photos, web pages and videos. The multimedia can then be shared with specific individuals or groups, posted on social networks or even to create a presentation on the spot within the app itself. Text or audio notes and additional material can be linked to any item, too.

In a nod to WebEx, users can do live video conferences calls within the app. The other media can still be accessed while it’s happening. The app can be reached on the phone, the tablet or the desktop.

Moxtra seems to embrace other companies, allowing users to quickly shift material from Box and Dropbox. The two leading cloud storage brands aren’t direct competitors to Moxtra, as the new app is closer to Evernote than, say, iCloud, but we could definitely see Moxtra being used as a cloud backup alternative for companies with strong organizational needs.

Moxtra launches this week for the iPhone/iPad and was created by a team led by WebEx co-founder Subrah Iyar. It is currently free to all users, but we suspect its plan is to make money by providing a premium service to its high-end customers a la Dropbox.

Square Registers for sale at Starbucks, pushing virtual sales to physical stores

Starbucks announced that Square Register devices will be on sale at 7,000 coffee locations. Starbucks is the latest place where the e-commerce gadget is available alongside Walgreens, Target and other stores.

 

Like the other locations, Square is actually charging $9.99 for the device with the list price credited to the user’s Square account. In other words, it is free as long as the user follows through with the purchase and follows through with Square. Users have been able to order Square devices for free online since the startup’s launch.

It is a great move for Square as Starbucks is the first natural brick-and-mortar fit for small, mobile purchases. Other retail outfits are either all-purpose big box stores, like the aforementioned Target, or tech-focused chains like Radio Shack and Best Buy.

To Starbucks advantage, any business deals are made over coffee, so entrepreneurs will have an easier time joining Square for an unexpected sale. More broadly, if a person is buying coffee for a group of people, he or she could get paid back via the device.

This will probably be the first of many physical space moves Square will make in 2013. Just last month it launched a gift card program for users to send or to redeem within Square.

DoubleDutch raises $4M Series B round to deconstruct CRM for mobile

Mobile CRM company DoubleDutch announced today it has raised a $4 million round of Series B funding.

Raised entirely from existing investors, Floodgate Fund lead the round with participation from Bullpen Capital and Lightbank. Floodgate’s managing partner Mike Maples Jr. will join DoubleDutch’s board of directors as part of the deal.

Originally developed for desktop computers, CRM software tends to be heavy on features and difficult to use — a combination that has typically made for an unintuitive mobile experience, according Lawrence Coburn, DoubleDutch’s founder and CEO.

“We are going to try and reinvent CRM for a mobile-first world,” he says.

DoubleDutch’s three apps, Hive, Pride and Flock are each designed to replicate a single aspect of a more traditional desktop CRM suite, covering lead generation, salesforce updates and customer relationship management. The goal is to deconstruct the software as several dedicated mobile apps that are specifically designed to work together.

“Salesforce, Oracle, Sugar and Microsoft all have very powerful CRM systems that have been built up over years. If you look at the desktop philosophy that makes total sense, but the mobile and cloud trend has sort of turned that on its head,” says Coburn.  “It’s very hard for a mobile application to compete with a desktop CRM but, the way we look at it is that mobile can be an extension of that desktop CRM and then you can have multiple applications that work together to start to recreate the entire functionality of a desktop CRM package.”

Founded in 2011, DoubleDutch currently has more than 238,000 people using its apps and counts the likes of Cisco, Lowe’s, Nationwide and Wells Fargo among its clients. “Accidentally profitable” in the words of Coburn, the company’s bookings currently run between $5 and $10 million a year. Today’s round will be used to expand the DoubleDutch headcount from 22 to more than 50 by the end of 2013, part of which will include opening a European office.  In total the company has raised more than $7.4 million in venture capital.

“We think that every CRM system is at risk to cloud and mobile and we’re playing right in the middle of those two macro trends,” says Coburn. “We’ve seen that there’s already massive demand for our products, and we just need to scale up the company to meet that demand.”

Localytics secures $5.5M Series B from Polaris Venture Partners and others

Mobile app analytics provider Localytics has raised $5.5 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Polaris Venture Partners with participation from existing investors New York Angels, Launchad Venture Group, and Hub Angels Investment Group also participated.  Localytics has now raised a total of $8.75 million to date.Localytics App Analytics

Launched in 2009, the Cambridge, Mass.-based analytics company helps app developers track how their apps are used, providing real-time insights that can be used to increase engagement and spending. Localytics says its analytics platform is used by more than 10,000 apps, with more than 350 million devices in its network.

Localytics plans to use the funding to launch its new app marketing platform that allows publishers to send in-app messages to customers, encouraging them to take a certain action or make a purchase. The funds will also go toward improving its existing app analytics software platform.

MobileSpaces nets $3M from Accel to improve BYOD security

Mobile security startup MobileSpaces announced today it has received $3 million in Series A funding from Accel Partners.

Headquartered in Washington D.C., MobileSpaces creates enterprise security solutions for businesses with bring your own device (BYOD) smartphone policies. Although the growing practice has proven popular with employees and accountants, IT professionals have been less impressed. Aside from the risk of a personal smartphone with sensitive information ending up lost or stolen, IT staff need to make sure company data isn’t sent out over unsecure networks and that other apps a user could have installed aren’t able to access enterprise data — all while respecting the privacy of the person who actually owns the device.

MobileSpaces solves these problems by creating enterprise apps that run natively on a user’s device. This allows the company to isolate its data securely within its own app.  The apps run while they’re offline, can be set up to require passcodes and IT managers can restrict how information is shared. In case of a lost device, the app can be wiped remotely as well. Currently MobileSpaces only works on Android device, but the company is working on bringing its technology to iOS and Windows Mobile.

As part of today’s deal, Rich Wong of Accel Partners joins the MobileSpaces board. MobileSpaces isn’t the first mobile or enterprise security provider Accel has invested in — Accel has previously funded risk management software maker Imperva, Australian enterprise software solutions provider Atlassian, online and mobile privacy certification provider TRUSTe and mobile antivirus and security company Lookout.

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