Over the past three years the Los Angeles-based startup Maple Media has amassed a portfolio of roughly 30 companies and 100 apps in its quest to become the IAC of app store businesses. And now, even with the economy continuing to collapse, the company is on the prowl for new acquisitions and expects to spend tens of millions of dollars on new deals.
“We look at three pillars of our types of apps… casual games, mobile games, and personal tools,” said Maple Media chief executive, Michael Ritter.
The company recently acquired PlayerFM, a podcast discovery service, for an undisclosed amount to expand its footprint in the podcast space. Other apps in the company’s portfolio include Pic Stitch, the photo collage editor, and the calendar app, WeCal.
The PlayerFM deal stands out as an example of what the company looks for in an acquisition target, said Ritter. “It’s an app that’s been in the market for eight years — and it’s feature complete, which is what you would expect in the podcast category.”
What Maple Media provides, said Ritter, is an ability to use its marketing muscle and internal development shop to update products more regularly, add new features and make sure that those features are marketed effectively to potential new users.
“We actually push a lot of product… we’re working on five to six different apps at a time pushing updates weekly to our apps… we work on very short two-week sprints and doing a lot of different development,” said Ritter.
Typically production cycles are driven by the rhythms of Google Play and Apple’s app stores. If an app store reaches out to feature one of the company’s portfolio of apps then that app gets an upgrade. As new features come online or stores switch out APIs those 30 apps will all get the attention they need to remain up to speed, says Ritter.
One of the benefits of having such a broad stable is that the company can update a single codebase in its library and push that update to several different apps. “We have one codebase that we manage things from,” Ritter said.
Maple Media raised its original capital from Shamrock Capital, the investment firm managing money for the Disney family.
“We see ourselves as a media company,” said Ritter. “Our strategy is to build as large a user base over mobile and distribute advertising across that platform.”
Going forward, Maple Media could spend as much as $50 million this year alone, according to Ritter. The key for the company is to make acquisitions in areas that have lasting resonance with a certain audience, whether that’s a broadly useful service like a calendar, or a digital document scanner — or a game like Sudoku or Mahjong.
“What we’re looking for,” says Ritter, “are classic and evergreen games and apps.”