As Deal Radar draws to a close for 2010, it’s fitting that one of final companies to be covered has its finger on the pulse of many of the decade’s important tech trends. AppMakr.com is a “no coding” platform that enables non-developers to create iPhone (and soon Android and Windows) mobile apps for their brands, large or small.
AppMakr was created by PointAbout, Inc., an app development consulting company based in Washington, DC, that focuses on mobile app strategy and development in the Fortune 1000 enterprise space. Clients include Disney, Cars.com, the Army, GM, OnStar, and many others. San Francisco–based AppMakr was founded in 2010 by PointAbout CEO Scott Suhy, CSO Sean Shadmand, CTO Isaac Mosquera, and COO Daniel Odio.
The four founders believe that this is only the “first half of the first inning” in mobile; the age of the mobile supercomputer is just beginning. They want to position PointAbout to serve existing needs with the company’s professional services division in Washington and give brands the ability to tap into a deep mobile distribution channel that’s opening up through the AppMakr platform.
PointAbout focuses on custom development projects of at least $50,000. Many apps cost $100,000 to $500,000. If a high level of data extraction and structuring work or mobile strategy work is required, this number can be much higher. With the introduction of tablets such as Apple’s iPad and BlackBerry’s Playbook, as well as forthcoming Android tablets, the company expects to see the average price point rise because the larger form factor of tablets requires more design and engineering to be done properly.
AppMakr, on the other hand, is free to use. Making and testing apps are free. To publish an app, users must pay Apple $99 to become a certified Apple developer. AppMakr says that over time it will introduce revenue and monetization models but that making an app through AppMakr will always be free. The platform also offers tools for analytics, image galleries, HTML, monetizing apps through advertising, and more. It can consume many types of content, including RSS feeds, Flickr feeds, YouTube channels, HTML, podcasts, Facebook group feeds, Twitter feeds and search results, Google News feeds, and others.
AppMakr has been used by both large and small brands to create over 1% of all apps in the iTunes App Store, including apps by PBS, Newsweek, MacLife, Macworld, PGA TOUR, Manchester United, the U.S. Congress, the Army, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, National Geographic, Harvard Business Review, and thousands of others.
There are over 100 million iOS devices worldwide, and the United States has more than 120 million 3G-connected users. Mary Meeker, an influential tech analyst who recently left Morgan Stanley to join VC firm Kleiner Perkins, sees mobile advertising as a $50 billion opportunity, and 23% of mobile users have a smartphone, up from 16% in 2009. But more important than the numbers, say AppMakr’s creators, is the sea change they foresee in the next 24 months. They envision consumers moving from a “pull” to a “push” experience with data on mobile devices. Right now, users “pull” data by opening apps or mobile websites and looking up data. But as these devices get smarter and more aware, AppMakr believes they will begin to mash up data in ways that, right now, people can hardly imagine and “push” information to us in bite-sized, easily consumable and timely ways in what Google CEO Eric Schmidt calls this the age of “augmented humanity.” AppMakr’s founders believe this mashing up of data in intimate, ego-centric ways will change everything and herald an era of personalization.
The next wave, says the company, in mobile is social-based collaborative mobile applications that enable people to focus on their interests, friend groups, work peers, and others by cloistering the “noise overload” that is constantly bombarding us all, and shutting it out when irrelevant. AppMakr’s creators claim that such an approach to computing helps people forge stronger relationships in the real world, and make better decisions in their lives. It’s a big claim, and one that must be considered carefully. In a 2008 Computerworld article on mobile tech, Mike Elgan argues that “social networks, for example, are actually pretty anti-social. Their main benefit is to control and limit interactions.” Too much personalization and making it easy for people to have exposure only to things that interest them and affect them directly and interact only with their friends or people like them is not necessarily good for society and, as a recent Kaiser Foundation study showed, may cause people to lack empathy and be unable to put events in a realistic perspective.
The founders started PointAbout using their own funds and revenues from the company’s inception through 2009. In the fall of 2010, they moved AppMakr to San Francisco and raised $1 million from Silicon Valley investors. PointAbout’s revenue grew 500% in 2010 to pass $1 million, and the company projects the same or greater growth for 2011. Management is working on identifying banking partners that can help to manage this growth with A/R lines and similar financial instruments. They will also likely raise a Series A round to continue capitalizing on the popularity of the AppMakr platform. But to do so, they need a freemium revenue model for the platform.
There are a number of competitors in mobile custom app development, such as Zumobi and Nellymoser. PointAbout’s positioning is to focus on enterprise Fortune 1000 clients. Often, these are large brands with sizable budgets that want guidance and direction on mobile strategy. On the product side, notable competitors are Appcelerator and AppFlight. While the tendency is to build platforms for developers, AppMakr aims to distinguish itself by allowing anyone to create a mobile application.
Apps made by the AppMakr platform are now being opened by the public over 6,500 times every hour. App traffic has been doubling every 45 days. On the product side, AppMakr will be going mulit-platform in 2011, with the addition of Android and Windows Phone support, and the company will be addressing the need for social interaction, discoverability, and app recommendation engines. It has several announcements planned. On the consulting side, the founders expect to see a lot of activity in mobile within their Fortune 1000 target market. There is big interest in B2B mobile consulting projects to enable the workforce and vendors work more efficiently and effectively.
As for an exit, the founders say, “We are in the mobile space to effect change on the space. We see an opportunity to build a very valuable company that capitalizes on emerging trends in the convergence of social and mobile needs, and help make people’s lives better.” While they are not seeking an exit, they expect consolidation as the mobile space grows and matures.
AppMakr Transforms App Store Landscape, Enables Anyone To Make Their Own iPhone App (a TechCrunch post with a good discussion following the article)
Deal Radar 2010: Antenna Software