Back in 2007, we covered AdPinion, a Y Combinator startup that allowed you to vote on ads you wanted to see on the web. In 2008, we covered the launch of Appalanche, a web-based app recommendation engine. Then in 2009, we covered Appsaurus, a native iPhone app recommendation engine that was aiming out “outsmart Apple’s App Store genius”. What do all of these startups have in common? They’re all actually the same startup. And today, the company behind them, Hello, Chair, is combining what they’ve learned over the years into one new startup: Explor.
The truth is that Explor is going after the same problem that both Appalanche and Appsaurus did: app discovery on the iPhone. But they recognize that no one (including them) has nailed it just yet, so they’re going for a new approach this time. Instead of being about search and categories, Explor focuses on a touch-based experience to navigate through the app store. It’s simple: you find an app you like and you touch it to see more apps like it. It’s seamless and a really nice way to browse.
“We found a signal in the community of the app store: the people who review tons of apps. And we designed an interface that lets you effortlessly ‘pivot’ around the store — each time you tap on an app you like, we recalculate our recommendations and show you a new batch of things you’ll likely love,” Hello Chair co-founder Luke Iannini says. “We use a PageRank-like ‘quality’ metric to also make sure we’re only showing you the cream of the crop,” he continues.
Each Explor user also has a profile both in the app and on the web, so app recommendations are easily shareable.
Clearly, there are a number of other players in this space, such as Chomp and AppsFire. But each is coming at the problem from a different way (Chomp is now mainly about search, for example). And there is room right now for multiple players in the space as no one has completely nailed the discovery issue, and the number of apps keeps rising quickly (which is pushing us towards an App Wall)
“There’s this massive tidal wave of apps that’s an awesome signifier that they’ve gone beyond ‘tools’ and entered the realm of ‘culture’. But right now the primary source of finding these new experiences is the App Store itself, which only covers the very crest of that wave. So most people are missing out on this wide sea of incredible and creative apps,” Iannini says.
And Explor has one more element of their service. I noted above that their roots are in an ad voting system: Explor sort of brings that back into play. The service is launching with a “dev promoted” app promotion program that allows developers to bid against one another to get their app in front of all of Explor’s users as they browse. It’s sort of like the Google AdWords model, but for app ads. And the ads are smart — users will only see relevant apps based on what they’re browsing in Explor. Right now, Dropbox, Simplenote, Aweditorium, Justin.tv, DrChrono, Eliss, and Carcassone are testing out the system.
Hello, Chair raised $850,000 last may from Mitch Kapor, Chris Sacca, and others. They’re based in San Francisco.
You can find Explor here in the App Store, it’s a free download.