Atlassian, the Australian company that makes popular software project management tools JIRA and Confluence, has opened a marketplace where customers can download and buy add-ons for the company’s apps.
Usually, the launch of a marketplace or app store signals a company’s broader platform ambitions, but Atlassian President Jay Simons says the platform approach has been “part of our DNA” for a long time. The company regards JIRA and Confluence, in particular, as its core products, so it has been building its own add-ons, and companies like Box and Zendesk have offered their own integrations. (Marketplace includes add-ons for a few other Atlassian products, too.)
However, Simons says the Marketplace improves the existing add-on system in a few key ways. It allow customers to search for additional tools on a single website, or even from inside Atlassian products, rather than visiting a separate site for each add-on. Developers, meanwhile, get a ready-made licensing agreement, as well as billing and invoicing (Atlassian takes a cut of the revenue). Previously, even if you wanted to build “a simple little add-on,” Simons says you’d still think, “I’ve got to build a website, create a brand around this thing, start a blog, just to sell 10 of these things a week.” By tapping into Atlassian’s infrastructure and distribution, you can focus on the product, and still see more sales than you would have previously.
At launch, there are currently 1,000 add-ons and third-party integrations in the Marketplace. Fifty of those are paid products. As more developers taking advantage of the billing tools, Simons says the amount of paid add-ons should increase, though free will always be a part of the mix.
Simons says one of his main goals is to turn the Marketplace into a real moneymaker for smaller developers. He argues that with all the hype around iPhone and Facebook app development, there’s “a huge opportunity for the hobbyist” that’s being overlooked on the enterprise side, especially since business customers are much more willing to pay.
As for building a thriving developer ecosystem while building its own products (meaning that Atlassian could end up competing with its developers), Simons says, “We try to be really forthcoming with our roadmaps.” He says things are tricky since Atlassian has acquired add-on developers before: “If there are three widget makers and you buy one of them, the other two are screwed.” However, he says the Marketplace’s revenue-sharing model could make Atlassian more comfortable allowing multiple competitors to thrive, because it’s making money from all of their successes.
Developer Stepstone Technologies participated in the early versions of the Marketplace, and founder Darryl Duke says it’s already making a difference. Evaluation downloads for the company’s Zen Foundation add-on ahve more than quadruple, he says, thanks to the Marketplace. And yes, it’s changing the way Duke thinks about his business — he says Stepstone started out as a consulting services company, and that Zen Foundation was “an outgrowth of our consulting work.” By taking over the more “onerous” parts of selling the product, the Marketplace makes Duke “really confident that we can pursue both courses.”
Atlassian says it saw $102 million in revenue last year. And it still doesn’t have any salespeople. The company will be discussing the Marketplace on-stage tomorrow in San Francisco at the Atlassian Summit.