The primary focus for app developers, aside from making kick ass apps, is finding truly effective ways to monetize those apps, whether it be through targeted, location-enabled ad solutions, in-game purchases, or incentivized downloads. As freemium models proliferate, this stuff becomes increasingly important. The other piece of the puzzle is helping app creators manage and understand their user base, because with a more granular picture of who is using the app, where they are, how they’re using the app, and so on, developers can design better user experiences, and in turn, open up new monetization opportunities.
Appboy, a startup offering a free mobile software development toolkit (SDK) for developers, is trying to do just that. AppBoy, simply put, wants to enable app developers to expand, engage, and better understand their user base. And to help with that mission, the startup is today announcing that it has raised $1 million in seed funding. The investment was led by Blumberg Capital, with participation from Metamorphic Ventures, Accelerator Ventures, Bullpen Capital and T5 Capital.
Up until recently, the AppBoy team consisted of founder and CEO Mark Ghermezian, but with this new round of funding in tow, the team has expanded to seven, including two new technical co-founders, Bill Magnuson and Jon Hyman, who joined AppBoy shortly after winning the top prize at the 2011 NYC Disrupt Hackathon for Gilt-ii, a browser bookmarklet that lets users create auctions around Gilt sales. With funding secured, the startup is now taking its solution into beta. Right now, it’s purely iOS, but Ghermezian said that Android integration is on its way.
Of course, that’s all well and good, but how exactly is AppBoy looking to improve the discovery of apps, up intelligence on users, and encourage engagement? In practice, AppBoy is overlaid on developers’ apps so that they don’t have to leave their app to access its features. From there, the solution lets developers create profiles for their individual apps, cross-promote their apps, and update users through news and alerts, and enable game mechanics to enable status levels and badges that boost engagement and reward usage.
AppBoy then allows app users to create profiles themselves, along with the ability to get badges and checkin to the app, all of which developers can easily track from the app or from AppBoy’s developer dashboard. From there, developers can control news and recommended apps, and at some point in the near future, will be able to use the web-based backend to view analytics and communicate with their users, receiving feedback and more through CRM tools.
For app discovery, there are plenty of ways for consumers to finds new apps, from Chomp to newcomers like Stamped, but most current solution focused on providing users with recommendations based on their download history. AppBoy is looking to provide developers with a solution that bases recommendations on actual usage — by making it easy for users to build rich profiles within apps. And AppBoy wants to partner with developers first, create a strong ecosystem among the app makers first, before targeting the end user and simply becoming another app search engine.
The idea is to be able to segment users down to specific niches, to see that a 21-year-old male from Alberta is using the app and is spending 20 minutes a day on the app and has 5 badges. With AppBoy those badges become URLs and can then be tracked, so through a simple overlay and checkin system, the startup is trying to build a solution that makes tracking usage a breeze. If users are sharing apps over social networks, AppBoy has a unique URL for those shares, too, again aimed at making tracking easier.
For readers looking to get early access to AppBoy to test it out and provide feedback, the startup is providing 50 free invites. To take advantage, simply head over to AppBoy’s homepage here and use “techcrunch” in the “invite code” box. Then chime in here and let us know what you think.