Last week, we reported that Pinterest investor Fritz Lanman was pursuing the company builder model for creating startups and working on two different companies simultaneously. Today one of those companies, called DWNLD, is launching to help web publishers quickly, easily, and affordably build awesome native mobile apps.
DWNLD hopes to cash in on the trend of more and more publishers turning to native apps in lieu of mobile web sites. The platform was built to help media companies or brands or really anyone with a web presence to build those apps and submit them to the Apple App Store and Google Play market.
“The lines between the web and native apps is blurring,” Lanman said in a phone conversation. Nowadays, there shouldn’t be any reason why a web publisher can’t also publish a native app, except maybe development costs. But DWNLD is set to change that.
Once registered, DWNLD can import a publisher’s web content into its content management system and generate a native app based on it. Apps are customizable, enabling publishers to define the overall look and feel based on a variety of different templates, fonts, and color combinations. They can also incorporate a number of different types of rich media, including photos, videos, links, GIFs and the like, and display them natively.
Before this, rolling out such an app would usually require a big upfront investment in development. But DWNLD wants to make the creation of these apps affordable, and also to simplify the cost structure so that anyone can build one.
Instead of charging for the cost of app creation, DWNLD has a flat cost of $15 per month. For many publishers, that follows the usual hosting model that they are already used to. Publishers can also monetize their apps by enabling advertising, of which DWNLD takes a cut.
And that’s how the company really hopes to make money. While it will make some revenue from the SaaS business, the bigger opportunity is around aggregating a bunch of native apps and creating an ad network around them. According to Lanman, the startup is optimizing for the ad business and hoping to create a sort of Google AdSense for mobile apps.
While DWNLD is launching to the public now, the company has spent the last several months getting partners lined up, mostly recruiting high-profile bloggers to try it out. It’s coming to market with 200 publishers signed up and using it for their native apps.
Founded in 2012, the company now has a staff of 14 employees and has raised $2 million in seed funding. The company was co-founded by Lanman, who is a former Microsoft exec turned angel investor and entrepreneur. He had previously invested in companies like Square, Pinterest, FiftyThree, and Teespring, and sold his last company, Livestar, to Pinterest last year.
He’s joined by Alexandra Keating, who runs day-to-day operations of the startup as CEO. She was former VP of marketing at Thrillist Media, where she helped the company see 500 percent year-over-year growth. Prior to that she founded a not-for-profit fundraising platform called GoFundraise, which she sold in 2008.