The app market has become a very important one, and it comes down to numbers: As of May, 50.4 percent of Americans used smartphones, according to a Nielson report; we’re seeing new statistics on how they invade our personal lives; both the Google Play Marketplace and iOS App Store are well beyond the 20 billion download mark at this point; and, perhaps most telling, using a smartphone to make a call comes in as the fifth most popular function — most of it is spent using apps.
Suffice it to say that apps are big business.
Singular app developers aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed the trend, and a new wave of app creation and management platforms are hitting the scene to help with monetization as well. And that includes newly launched Canadian import, Ooomf, which has also just announced an impressive $500k round of seed funding led by Real Ventures with help from BDC Venture Culture and a handful of other angel investors as well.
The Montreal-based Ooomf began as a Startup Weekend pitch that pivoted during the team’s time in an accelerator program. “We had two major evolutions,” founder Mikael Cho tells me. “The first idea was to help people market their products online with influencers, and we saw that what we were doing with that was incremental, and not a big change. We had feedback from our users and we started thinking about our backgrounds in user experience and design and marketing, and thinking about the problems we could really solve there. So we started thinking about mobile and we saw that our expertise really aligned with mobile.”
The other piece of Ooomf’s evolution was nailing down the specifics of how it would help app developers. So for starters, the service creates a Website for its users. “One of the things they had to do in getting their app out there was make a site, because Apple requires it,” says Cho. “And we were like “oh, okay, right away, we’ll do that for you.’” He describes the process as incredibly simple — we’re talking Tumblr simple, people — and says it takes less than a minute to have your app’s Web landing page up and running. Sure, it’s a little thing, but it’s an effective one; the caliber of an app’s proprietary page is sort of like a book cover — we’re not supposed to judge it, but lots of us most certainly do.
As the team has refined the product, it’s added a community element to Ooomf. “We allow people to participate in the creation of an app,” says Cho. “So if you have an idea or a prototype or a design, you can put it on Ooomf and let the community vote on features and participate in it.” Crowdsourcing leaves no stone untouched, and that’s quickly including app creation. There are a handful of companies pre and post-launch who are doing this exact thing, though using a variety of mechanisms to encourage audience participation. But the idea remains the same: Everyone has an app idea, and this is a place to put them.
The other beast of a problem Ooomf is tackling is app discovery. If you haven’t noticed, the consumer and developer world largely hates the App Store’s feeble attempts at showcasing apps and helping us find new ones. In addition to supporting and participating in app creation, users can also make their own curated app catalogs. “You identify as a creative, or a traveling nomad, or a hustling innovator, and we have different apps in each category,” Cho tells me. “But the entire idea is to be a part of the whole life cycle of an app, from idea to creation.” Ooomf also offers a “Coming Soon” category to help with discovery of upcoming apps — something that developers fear in the App Store: If you don’t crack the top on your debut day, you can sink fast and furiously.
Apple’s lack of App Store discovery upgrades has been a boon to teams like Ooomf: It’s basically ceded an entire platform to outsiders. Of course, we now have word that Apple is about to flip a switch and turn Genius on for the App Store, and that some of that Chomp acquisition will finally be making its debut. I asked Cho if there’s any fear on Ooomf’s part about this, and he seems to feel the way that I do about it: Too little, too late. He also mentions that Apple’s App Store algorithms still allow the Ooomf team to offer something useful.
At the moment, everything on Ooomf is free, and will remain so for pure users. Cho says that within the year, paid-for features will be introduced on the developer-side and it will either be based on the number of apps someone is making or the numbers of things they use Ooomf to help them do. He also talks about working with developers on incentivizing user participation — like offering people early beta testing or future discounts on in-app purchases if they were there from day one.
Clearly, Ooomf’s strategy is to give developers a stage — which is surprisingly becoming tricky territory these days. “I definitely think it’s important to really cater to developers. You’ve seen with Twitter the massive growth that occurred because, yes, there were users, but because every developer was building a Twitter client or something for the application,” Cho says. “There was so much open data and Twitter was able to grow massively because of that.”
“Eventually, we’ll have our own data and open our own API, and we’ll use the App.net approach.”
Today, Ooomf is available via Web and also has optimized its site for mobile. The iOS app will launch this November.