As native mobile applications continue to surge in popularity across multiple, incompatible operating systems, the demand for powerful developer tools that can simultaneously deploy across all of these platforms (and the web) is stronger than ever.
So it’s not a big surprise when a hot startup in the space gets snapped up. Which is exactly what just happened this morning: Particle Code, a company that lets developers build games and apps for multiple platforms at once, has been acquired by direct competitor Appcelerator, the makers of the popular tool Titianium. The acquisition price isn’t being disclosed.
The deal is the result of the Particle Code’s hardcore development chops, and a smart bet made by the company’s founders Galia Benartzi, Yotam Shacham, and Yudi Levi sixteen months ago.
Back in June 2010, the trio were founders at a social gaming startup called Mytopia, which was acquired by online gambling company 888 (Mytopia had launched at TechCrunch 50 in 2008). The acquisition included twelve of the games that Mytopia had developed, with an acquisition price as high as $48 million, depending on how those games performed.
But there was something that Mytopia didn’t sell: the development platform it had built to help it produce those games — which they realized could potentially be more valuable than the games themselves. So they sold the games, licensed the development platform to 888, and then spun off the developer facing platform as its own bootstrapped independent company, Particle Code. The company launched at (and won) Demo Fall 2010.
Which brings us to today. There are several solutions on the market for distributing native applications to mobile platforms (namely iOS and Android, and sometimes Windows and Blackberry). And it’s a space that’s seen a lot of consolidation recently — Adobe recently acquired Nitobi, the developer behind PhoneGap, which can turn web apps into native apps. Today’s news continues this recent trend.
Benartzi says that Appcelerator was interested in Particle Code for a few key reasons. The biggest is that the company has a heavy focus on developers — 12 of its 14 employees are engineers. And their experience has revolved around making games compatible across multiple platforms.
Benartzi explains that historically Appcelerator’s Titanium product has done quite well at generating buzz and major clients (who include NBC, ZipCar, eBay, and others). But few of the apps built using its tools have been games, in part because games have such low tolerance for performance issues (you can afford to have a slowdown when you’re browsing text-based lists or static images, but jittery graphics in games can be deal-breakers). Appcelerator is planning to use Particle Code’s expertise on this front to make Titanium more game-friendly.
It’s a smart move by Appcelerator: games have proven to be the most popular applications across all the popular smartphone platforms, and could prove very lucrative, particularly if it decides to start offering subscription plans that revolve around in-app payments (right now Appcelerator Titanium offers enterprise-focused subscription plans, but this seems like a next logical step). These apps work both across iOS and Android, and on the web (which means you could also deploy on Facebook or Google+).
This is Appcelerator’s second acquisition this year, after it acquired web IDE Aptana in January. The company has seen some huge growth over the last year — it’s up to 1.6 million total developers (it was at 100,000 12 months ago), and 30,000 applications have been made for iOS and Android so far (up from 5,000 in the same time span).