Pocket Change says its mission is to “build the world’s first universal rewards currency,” but until now it has been limited to Android apps. Today, it’s announcing that it’s opening to iOS developers as well.
The company was founded in 2011 and has raised $6.4 million from Google Ventures and others. Co-founder and CEO Ari Mir said that last year, Pocket Change switched its model from being a virtual currency that users have to pay for in apps, and instead became something that’s given to users as a reward for “positive, organic behavior,” say for achieving certain goals in a game. The currency can then be redeemed for both virtual and physical rewards.
The switch turns around Pocket Change’s relationship with users, Mir said: “You cannot build a successful universal currency if you have a negative relationship with the consumer.”
The company offers the currency for free to developers, and it makes money by including sponsored rewards, turning Pocket Change into an ad company. (The sponsorship part of the business is only a few weeks old.) There’s no revenue sharing with the developers, who benefit instead by increasing user engagement — Mir said that for some apps, Pocket Change has increased the number of sessions per user by more than 20 percent in a month.
The virtual currency is now used in 500 applications and reaches 3 million users per day. Mir said that about 20 to 30 percent of those millions actually convert to become Pocket Change users.
As for why it stuck with Android until now, Mir said, “It’s actually really simple. We’re obsessed with building a good consumer Internet experience, so we need to iterate with the product really fast. As an SDK provider, there’s already that lag time.” Adding in the Apple approval process would only make the delay worse.
Now, however, Mir said he’s comfortable with the product and is ready to go cross-platform. He said this was a big demand from existing Pocket Change developers, but he’s also hoping to reach a new group of apps.
Other startups make a similar pitch to developers include Kiip and SessionM. Mir argued that Pocket Change is different from the competition because of the direct relationship it builds with consumers, and because of its emphasis on a non-interruptive experience. He also has an ambitious vision for the company, where Pocket Change could eventually be used to make other purchases on the web, such as getting around a newspaper paywall, and to make purchases in physical stores.