The app economy is very, very real. For better or worse, our digital world has been consumed by mobile connectivity and what we can do with it. But for all the inherent ease and accessibility of these new tools, the job of app developer is hardly a simple one. And with the state of the App Store being what it currently is, a broken, flawed launch can mean death for an app developer’s baby.
And CloudMine knows that, which is why it pivoted from an app itself into a platform that takes the pain out of the developing process. CEO and founder Brendan McCorkle tells me that originally, he and the early team pitched an idea of a smartphone data sync and storage app — mind you, this was pre-iCloud. “The idea was ‘hey I have all this content on my phone, what happens if I lose it?,’” McCorkle tells me. “You can get a new phone, but we thought it’d be really cool if you could get your phone back. There were a few backup apps doing this, but nothing very sophisticated.”
As the team talked to mobile developers about the prototype, the platform itself is what caught their interest. After about a dozen developers had the same reaction, McCorkle says they had to ask themselves, “Has anyone gotten this excited about our actual product? And the answer was ‘no.’”
“We realized this was what the market was telling us to do,” he tells me. “The reactions were unanimous; developers were so excited to not have to do all the scaffolding all over again.”
From there, the CloudMine product became the team’s core focus. As developers, they’d felt the pain of mobile development before, and it’s been something of a labor of love. CloudMine wants to take the back-end focus away from engineers so they can focus on the part users actually interact with. To be specific, tasks like data storage, user account management, password encryption, any sort of permissioning, dealing with public and private data, and scaling. McCorkle explains that while some similar services give developers the hammers and nails to build their apps, CloudMine will put it all together.
As a bonus, using the CloudMine service helps apps scale from the beginning. Developers often have to the make the decision early on how successful they believe their apps will be — and those that are bullish, could end up paying far too much money for hosting service. And those that don’t, only to see it featured in the App Store and seeing hundreds of thousands of downloads within the first week? Well, slow load times and constant crashing will translate to an early demise and a mountain of bad reviews.
“We can provide that scale in advance — that preemptive scale,” says McCorkle. “But we’re charging for usage. You don’t have to worry about scaling, you can pay for it as you need it.”
Part of CloudMine’s beta period was about finding the pricing sweet spot. Originally, the service charged for pay-as-you-go API usage. But while a perfectly rational solution, CloudMine found that this didn’t quite gel with the emotional mindset of its clients. “Here’s the problem: all of our early users took it to the extreme and said ‘we’re building the next Angry Birds, I’m going to have 400,000 users and if I get there and I’m making 20 API calls, then you’ll be charging me $20,000 a month,’” says McCorkle. “And that made them say, ‘you guys are crazy.’”
As a developer-facing company made of developers, this was a problem CloudMine intended to solve. It’s decided that clients can pay by user ($0.05 per active user) or find a custom pricing plan that works better for their needs.
CloudMine is a product of Startup Weekend (which it’s now a global sponsor of), and though it’s in its infancy, it’s already home to about 1,500 clients who have made about 1,500 apps with its service. They range in shape, size, and form — from college kids building weekend projects to creative agencies working as third party builders-for-hire to Fortune 500 companies.
The startup, which is now home to 10 people, is content to stay in what McCorkle describes as the “scrappy” Philadelphia venture scene. CloudMine recently raised $100k from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, part of which he says will go to hiring an enterprise sales lead.