Waterloo-based startup Dandy wants to be a place where app creators can come together to ship software, without having to start their own company. At CES this year, the startup brought its first marquee title – Picture This, an app with photo challenges conceived by student and Dandy community member Niger Little-Poole. Little-Poole won a contest and sparked a whirlwind of development, according to Dandy CEO Matt Scobel.
“He submitted as just a couple paragraphs of explanation, and we didn’t actually pick the idea until November 21,” Scobel explained in an interview. “We actually had to submit to Apple December 21st because of the shut down. So less than 30 days on iOS from concept to app, and the rest of the platforms around 45 days basically.”
Nor did Dandy take the easy way out and use something like PhoneGap to get its software on different devices.
“We did native across platforms, so we had an iOS developer, Blackberry, Android and even Google Glass,” Scobel said. “For this one we did a combination of up-front payment and revenue share because the timeline was so tight. In the future, we want to do more revenue share, much like Quirky.”
Eventually, the vision is for Dandy to be a tool for others to use, rather than what it is now, which is essentially a development studio that contracts out coding work. The company is investing early because it needs to build a following, which it then believes will naturally take over much of the heavy-lifting around organizing and spearheading development efforts.
“We want this to eventually be an open platform where developers can come in and contribute and have a chance to see their apps get made, and handle all the marketing,” Scobel explained. “We’ll be more of a facilitator and less of a driver. we’ve looked at crowdsourcing platforms before, and many have failed because no one was there to take the bull by the horns and drive efforts, but the more facilitation we can do and the less actual development, the better this has a chance of making it.”
Dandy pays out an 8 percent ownership stake to the original creator of an app idea, should it get made into a shipping app. That’s without putting in any additional work: contributing to the project means that creators can increase their stake. Thirty percent of any project is available to the Dandy community in exchange for their contributions, but 30 percent has to go to Apple or the app store being targeted, and another 40 percent goes to Dandy.
40 percent is a significant percentage, but for creators like Little-Poole, it’s a choice between owning a stake (which translates to revenue share in perpetuity, or a pay-out in keeping with their percentage in case of acquisition) in something and not seeing it made at all, he says. Little-Poole is a busy student without the time or resources to build Picture This, let alone natively for multiple platforms.
Crowdsourced app development is nothing new, however, and platforms have come and gone based on roughly the same model. It might simply be an issue of timing, however – more people are interested in app development now than ever have been before. The key will be whether or not Dandy can crack the all-important element of app store placement. Few mobile titles these days manage to crack the top charts, which is the key to real success in that market. With a real community, they might be able to offer an initial groundswell of support for anything coming from their platform, but they have to build it first.