The market for mobile apps is booming — but not, it seems, for MobileApps.com, one of the many app aggregating marketplaces that have been set up in the last several years to ride that wave. The Singapore-based site that used to sit at that address has closed down after “failing to find traction,” according to a Facebook announcement from its CEO and founder Alvin Koay (via Tech In Asia). And the domain MobileApps.com is now up for sale starting at $1 million. Koay tells TechCrunch that a big company (and I mean big) is currently negotiating with his brokers on a deal. (We can’t report the name, lest it impact the negotiations if it really is true. If it is, it’s a big coup and has some interesting implications.)
Koay says he is selling the domain because the business is pivoting from a consumer concern to one focused on a B2B offering — specifically around rich media ads, which it will sell under the similarly literally-named RichMediaAds.com, due to launch in a few weeks. “With the shift of focus from B2C to B2B, the consumer-centric domain name does not serve its purpose any more and will be sold,” the company said in a statement.
“We are talking to a few parties and they have expressed interest but we need to keep it under wraps because it might kill the deal,” Koay tells me. “We have a handful of domain name brokers working on this before the PR.”
“One broker is speaking to [redacted] and they have expressed interest despite us telling them it is a 7-figure offer that we are looking for,” he continues.
The B2B pivot is not entirely out of the blue, as this was always a part of the company’s business model: When Singapore-based MobileApps first launched a year ago with 500,000 apps in its catalog, TechCrunch noted that the company wanted to become the “AdSense for mobile apps,” placing advertising within the apps delivered over its network, which covered apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and other platforms.
That didn’t quite work out the way the company had intended, with Koay and co. arriving late to the app party by launching an aggregation site only in July 2011 — years after Google, Apple and well-funded latecomers like Amazon would have been putting their houses in order.
Now the hope is to jump into rich media advertising a little more ahead of the curve.
With the bulk of online and mobile advertising still coming in the form of search ads, rich media is only getting started, driven in part by two trends. First, consumers are engaging less with more low-tech ad formats. Second, the rise of touch-friendly devices like tablets with bigger screens and better connectivity are encouraging more dynamic video and other features in the ads. The tablet influence on the growth of rich media ads was something also highlighted recently by Opera, and it’s something that companies like Yahoo have been banking on for years as a way to counterbalance the force of competitors like Google in search ads.
Koay tells me that RichMediaAds.com will launch in two to three weeks “but the site is open for beta testers” already. “We are signing some deals with a few large ad networks in Japan,” he says, with more news on this apparently coming soon. Japan is home to one of Koay’s strategic investors, i-Freek, which put $400,000 in a seed round and owns a 16.38% stake in the company.
“After a year building out the solutions, the company realised that the market for developers is just too small for it to grow into a sizeable company,” the company noted this weekend. Development on the site had already come to a halt three months ago — seemingly unnoticed by the rest of the world.
“We have a great technology and it does not do justice to it by just focusing on a small market. Instead, if we were to re-purpose our solutions for a much bigger industry, it makes more sense. The app discovery niche is only a small subset of the online advertising market. Therefore it is a much bigger opportunity to deploy our technologies in somewhere larger,” said Koay in a statement.