In 2008, Daniel R. Odio, Sean Shadmand, and Isaac Mosquera founded a mobile app development startup called PointAbout. The team had their first big success with AppMakr, a service that makes it easy to generate your own custom, native iPhone apps. The company started building custom apps for brands like Disney, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and Politico, bootstrapping until they raised $1 million last year from Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus), Bill Lee, Rich Chen, Charles River Ventures, and others. In May, Three Pillar Global acquired the professional services — or consulting branch — of PointAbout.
Since then, the startup has rebranded as Socialize, grown to a team of sixteen, and has been using the infusion of capital to build a new product to expand the use case and value proposition of AppMakr. Today, the startup is announcing the public launch of a software development kit (SDK) that will allow mobile app developers to add an in-app social networking layer to both new and existing mobile apps. The do-it-yourself SDK is open source and can be implemented in a number of different ways, according to the needs of the developer.
For app users, this means that all Socialize-layered apps will enable social discovery and connection, and all in-app content can be easily shared via Facebook, Twitter, and email — connecting the in-app experience to a user’s social graph.
On the flip side, Socialize’s SDK offers developers turnkey mobile social networking features that allow app developers to track a user’s “likes”, shares, and comments and authenticate over Facebook and Twitter. But the real selling point is Socialize’s “activity pane”, which prioritizes user-generated content, listing what other users of the app have shared, liked, and commented on.
The SDK also allows users to create profiles, a space intended to let an app’s user share personal information and make them feel more connected with the experience of the app and its other users.
Socialize is currently using AppMakr as its sandbox to test the functionality within apps that have already been buit on the platform. So far, 1 million active users are using the 7,811 apps that have been created on iOS, Android, and Windows Phones using AppMakr, 1,461 of which are already running Socialize’s features.
And, in case it hasn’t come across yet, while Socialize is offering a lot of low-hanging social features to app developers and users, the real goal here is to tackle the much-talked about “Interest Graph” — on mobile. While the average iPhone user has 40 apps on their phone and the average Android user has 25, the biggest obstacle for app developers today is engagement. An app may see 1,000 downloads in the first day it’s live, but often those downloads only produce a small number of active users.
It’s a problem of engagement, so Socialize intends to give developers the tools to bring users back to the app by “unleashing the community of users that have been hiding in the app”, says Socialize Co-founder and CEO Daniel R. Odio. Sure, it’s great to have social functionality, and when you download an app, 90 percent of those who download the app may be on Facebook, but how many of them are your friends? Everyone is connecting via social graph, but the process is still largely anonymous — it’s all about connecting users with shared passions and similar interests. Hence, the appeal of the interest graph.
“If a million people download your mobile app, they will never all be friends on Facebook”, Odio said via a recent blog post. “But they all care about your brand, because they downloaded the app. How do they talk to each other today?” The CEO said that, in most cases, they can’t, and this is a huge missed opportunity for brands.
That’s why Socialize built a cloud-based API service — to connect users with shared interests. When a user is in a mobile app, they should be able to share their opinions about the content of that app with everyone else who has also downloaded the app. This can happen through comments, sharing and likes, with every other user who has that app getting the ability to read and respond to that comment, “regardless of their Facebook status”, he said.
The long term goal? If the startup can get enough users running Socialize-powered apps on their phones, it can form a robust profile of a user’s interests, what co-founder and president Sean Shadmand equates to a person’s “mobile DNA”. Obviously, with this level of personal information at hand, Socialize has to provide a thorough security and opt-in functionality, which the team says that it’s made a top priority.
It’s a valuable concept, and it will be interesting to see where Socialize goes from here in terms of in-app engagement — discoverability and recommendations are next up no doubt.