TapCanvas, a startup that helps people build mobile applications without programming knowledge, is exiting beta today and announcing a partnership with Eventbrite for the creation of event apps. Although there are a ton of DIY mobile app builders out there (for example, here’s a spreadsheet from a while back listing over 50), TapCanvas is different because its focus is primarily on building disposable, context-specific applications using web technologies like HTML5, not building apps for submission into the leading platforms’ app stores.
Founded in October 2011, co-founder Joshua Merrill, formerly of mobile ticketing startup MogoTix, says the idea for startup came out of this idea of “single-use” apps. “Maybe an app doesn’t have to live forever on your phone,” he explains of this concept. “Maybe you can use it for a couple of hours, when it’s really useful, and then you basically throw it away.”
After getting things going in March 2012, and exiting stealth in September, the company ran a private beta with around 750 testers before today’s public debut. Merrill says during this time he found that some testers weren’t using TapCanvas only for these so-called “disposable” apps – some were using it to build persistent ones.
“The common thread through all of them is that they’re all really based on context,” he says. “So we went away from advertising single-use mobile apps to advertising ‘contextual’ mobile apps. They’re tied to a time, or a place, or even an object. And they’re very useful in that context, and then you want to move on.”
Today, around half of the apps on TapCanvas’s platform are the single-use apps (i.e., event-based apps), while the other half are what fit into this broader category of contextual apps. The latter includes things like PTA apps, ski guides, personal resumés, mobile zoo guides, clubs and more. One company, Vornado, is even working to with TapCanvas to develop mobile owner’s manuals for its products.
TapCanvas’s app builder is easy enough for anyone to use, even if they’re not technical, because it provides a series of widgets for common pieces of content like contact info, maps, agendas, social info, and more, which you click to add to your application. There are sixteen widgets at present, and at least one will be added each week going forward.
The Eventbrite partnership sees an addition of a special Ticketing widget powered by Eventbrite, which organizers can use to sell tickets and promote upcoming events directly in their mobile application. Organizers can also use the platform to provide guests with an agenda, speaker lists, and other details.
Currently, these apps will live as a website behind a Tapcanv.as URL, but Merrill says that custom domain names will be available by next month. The service is a freemium product, with pricing increasing by number of unique users. Paid plans start at $19/month and go up to $39/month for businesses.
The startup has a small amount of “pre-seed” funding (only $200K) from K9 Ventures (Manu Kumar), 500 Startups and angels including Christina Brodbeck and Dwipal Desai. TapCanvas is in the process of raising a seed round now.