MobileDevHQ, a Seattle-based startup providing tools for App Store Optimization (ASO) and additional insights for mobile developers, has raised a $650,000 round of funding following its participation in the TechStars Seattle incubator. Investors in the round include Founder’s Co-op (Chris DeVore), Social Leverage (Tom Peterson), as well as other, primarily Seattle-based angel investors.
We first covered MobileDevHQ’s ASO toolset at the beginning of the year, which was spun out from the company’s earlier efforts known as AppStoreHQ, a search engine and discovery platform for mobile apps. AppStoreHQ was deprecated around five months ago, so the company could fully focus on its ASO offerings.
ASO, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a new breed of optimization – something which is basically like SEO for mobile apps. ASO tools, like those MobileDevHQ provides, help developers analyze the metadata associated with mobile applications in the various app stores, and then make recommendations as to which keywords developers should use to maximize discoverability. It also focuses on what an app’s competitors are doing, in terms of keywords used, titles or description updates, and other things that impact their rankings in both app store search results and the app store charts.
The space is starting to heat up, too. Just yesterday, for example, we reported on another ASO-focused startup called Appnique, which just launched its own developer-facing services for app store optimization into public beta. 500 Startups-backed SearchMan is also competing in this space.
But at MobileDevHQ, the company has already begun to move beyond simply offering ASO tools. It has also been actively building several things for its enterprise customer base, which it now plans to introduce to its other paying developers. While ASO focuses mainly on keywords and rank tracking, MobileDevHQ CEO Ian Sefferman explains that enterprise customers are thinking about things in a much more sophisticated manner.
“We’re providing some insights into media and PR, and who is writing about competition, who’s writing about you, and what authors you should be talking to, as well as social matters,” Sefferman explains. “Understanding how people are actually sharing apps is something not a lot of publishers have insight into,” he adds. That means MobileDevHQ can explain to enterprise companies that, for example, Sarah Perez (ahem) at TechCrunch writes a lot about mobile.
MobileDevHQ is also helping companies who aren’t just mobile-only or mobile-first, and who are seeing higher engagement on mobile versus web. It’s helping those customers develop a better understanding of how well they are driving users from the web to their mobile applications.
Sefferman says that by participating in TechStars Seattle, they learned to think bigger about the opportunity of how to best help app publishers – it’s more than just ASO. “We built a lot of the primitive tools,” he says, “now we’re making them full-featured and fleshed out for all developers, and ASO is a really important piece of that.”
Currently, MobileDevHQ has a database containing 2 million apps across Apple and Google’s app stores and 350,000 keywords. Over the past eight months or so, Sefferman says they’ve seen over 10,000 sign-ups and now have hundreds of paying customers ranging from the indie developers paying $14 per month all the way up to their “bread-and-butter” user base of enterprise customers.
The additional funding will be used for the product development and expansion described above – that is, bringing the enterprise-level tools to all – as well as for a bit of hiring. The company plans to add a few developers both on the backend (machine learning, big data) and the front end, plus one or two more positions in the operations, sales and marketing side of the business. MobileDevHQ today is a team of five.
Although competition is increasing, Sefferman believes his company has the advantage by being an early leader. “We’ve basically been tracking the app ecosystem as a whole for over three and half years now, which gives us some really interesting insight into how things have evolved over time, how things have worked over time, and allows us to make better algorithms to make great recommendations.”