Chuck Freedman | Director, Vertical Insights
August 30, 2012

Platforms Emerging From Apps


Some of my favorite stories emerging from the app economy are those of apps that actually created platforms. In most cases, these platforms emerge from vision and strategy where the backend driving the app can and should be available to serve a larger ecosystem. The following stories are of companies that saw the potential of their functionality beyond their own successful apps.

Functionality infusion with Sincerely
Sincerely, based in San Francisco, initially produced high quality photo apps, Postagram and PopBooth, with a special ability to order and ship on-demand postcards of photos. This feature proved to be a commodity, the sleek processing, printing and shipping of postcards and photo prints. While established by Sincerely to fulfill their own apps’ potential, this system is obviously complex for other independent developers to reproduce. So, in August 2011, Sincerely decided to make this feature set available to other app makers as a platform.

While the Sincerely Ship Library provides hard-to-reproduce functionality, it also comes with a simple revenue proposition for developers. By adding Sincerely’s platform capabilities to your app, you benefit from a revenue share (70% of purchases over $0.99) whenever your users order prints. This in-app purchase ability encourages the freemium model where a developer can put their app out for free, or at a minimum up front cost to the user, and then fund their efforts based on the revenue generated by what the Sincerely platform enables. While Sincerely has small app developer appeal, it is also being proven at a much bigger level. Earlier this month, Facebook announced a new feature allowing users to send postcard prints – powered, of course, by Sincerely.

User infusion with HealthGraph
In 2008, an impressive fitness app launched called Runkeeper. The app became a sensation among those looking to track their cardio activity through their neighborhoods. At the core of the app’s unique map-tracking functionality is a flow based on a user’s account, storing and sharing a user’s run data. Developing optimal usability helps onboard users, but investment in a scalable backend to accommodate the activity of millions of “active” users becomes the real commodity at a certain level. FitnessKeeper, the parent company of Runkeeper, formulated a strategy based on what they created, combined with a broad vision to allow their users to track, store and share fitness data well beyond what they captured with their flagship app.

FitnessKeeper also opened up their Health Graph API in August of 2011.
Now 50 integrations strong (as of March 2012), the platform is integrated by fitness apps and devices allowing users to store and view their health activity data in a central place. From a developer’s perspective, adding their app to the Health Graph ecosystem likely attracts existing users and positions the app to be promoted among the other successful apps on the Health Graph platform, including Runkeeper. In fact, HealthGraph touts “instant exposure to 10m users” right on its dev portal homepage. This promise of instant user infusion is a huge value add for those exploring platform options. Health Graph continues to expand functionality, wisely driven by partner feedback and they also offer some affiliate revenue when an app introduces new “Elite” users.

In both cases, not only can developers benefit from platform functionality that is likely out of their reach – due to financial limits or complexity – but there are clear incentives to adoption. To boost your app with the platforms the likes of Sincerely or HealthGraph not only prevents you from having to reinvent a wheel, it can provide revenue and increased usage. One thing is clear about platforms that emerge from apps; the value proposition is proven because these platforms were already proven behind successful apps.