S'pore startup aims to be 'Robin Hood' to app developers

MobileApps.com touts "cross-platform app wholesale market" to benefit mainly developers and end-users, says CEO who adds its offering would "disrupt" app market model.

Singapore startup MobileApps.com is eyeing a share of the apps marketplace pie by positioning itself as a multi-platform app wholesale market, allowing developers to take home 95 percent of each app sold and promising to improve the app discovery process, according to the company's co-founder.

Alvin Koay, co-founder and CEO of MobileApps.com, said that there are app marketplaces "popping up all over the place" today trying to make money off the ongoing app craze. To differentiate its Web site, which is named after the company, it is looking to become the "Robin Hood" for app developers, he told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview.

MobileApps.com was incorporated in Singapore in December 2010, although its office is currently based in Malaysia to "lower operating costs".

To live up to its "Robin Hood" tag, Koay identified two main thrusts to its marketing strategy: Increasing developers' share of the revenue as well as improving the app discovery process, which would aid the download process for users. The app marketplace would also be platform-agnostic and bring together apps that run on various operating systems such as Apple's iOS, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, for example, he said.

Developers earn more
According to Koay, developers who publish their apps on MobileApps.com would receive 95 percent cut of the revenue. This compares favorably with other notable app stores such as Apple's App Store, Google's Android Market and Research In Motion's BlackBerry App World, all of which allocate only 70 percent of proceeds to developers, he noted.

He explained that the 5 percent MobileApps.com pockets from each app sale is used primarily to cover administrative and credit card processing costs.

To monetize the business, MobileApps.com will be relying on its proprietary algorithm, Koay said. The algorithm will be able to recommend apps that are specific to, for example, industries, country and audience.

In turn, the algorithm is incorporated into a "smart widget" that will be made available for free to all Web publishers, which will subsequently get a cut of the advertising fees generated from app developers who publish their apps within the widget, he added.

Elaborating, he said that the advertising model will be CPM-based (cost per thousand impressions) although developers currently do not need to pay for page views (PVs). Revenue will be generated when developers "jostle for positions" on the widget, which is paginated. Developers who pay more will be placed prominently on the front page of the widget, he explained.

"We believe that the market will correct itself and developers will see the value in paying for better placement in our widget, thus increasing our advertising revenue," said Koay.

Web publishers will get 60 percent to 70 percent of the advertising fees paid by developers while MobileApps.com will take the remaining 30 percent to 40 percent, the CEO said.

To encourage take-up and build awareness of its brand among prominent Web sites and bloggers, Web publishers that place the widget on their sites will receive 100 percent of the advertising fees collected for the first three months, he added.

Solving app discovery challenge
MobileApps.com is also starting to talk to Android and iPhone blog sites and online communities about its widget, and Koay expressed confidence that the company's offering will take off.

"We will be providing free, targeted content for Web publishers to put up on their site and they will be paid for it--it's a win-win situation for site operators and bloggers," he said.

The entrepreneur also hopes the advertising of apps via the widget on various online communities, will solve the app discovery problem that persists in many existing app markets today.

Furthermore, MobileApps.com is looking to localized content to grow its presence within selected markets. Koay said it has partners in Japan and Jordan to "replicate" its app marketplace, and is in the midst of looking for partners in South Korea and China.

In Jordan, for instance, he said its partner is translating existing apps into Arabic and is actively fostering an active developer community there, too.

Both the widget and app marketplace are not yet available but Koay is expecting the widget to be launched in a month's time. MobileApps.com is still looking to populate the marketplace and once there is a critical mass of apps available for consumers, it will be made public too, he added.

"We know that we have to create something special in order to stand out from the rest of our competitors and we believe that with our business strategy of giving developers a bigger cut of the revenue and improving app discovery, we will disrupt the current app market model and make our mark," said Koay.

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