One of the most increasingly popular segments in the app market is ‘productivity apps’ – in other words apps that help you get things done (think Evernote, Dropbox, Instapaper, etc.). Sophia-Antopolis based Hot Apps Factory, founded by Xavier Veyrat and Johann Fradj, decided to venture into this space last year with App Cooker, an innovative app that enables developers to navigate the pre-production phase of app development. More specifically, App Cooker helps developers to do everything from defining the vision of the app, determining the right type of interface style based on the developer’s vision, and creating mock-ups, to, via their Price Cooker tool, figuring out the app’s economics (e.g. optimum pricing, cost management, forecasting, etc). App Cooker is a paid app at a pricepoint of $24.99.
App Cooker has gotten off to a great start with very high user engagement (2x for the average app), press coverage, and positive feedback and recognition from users and others, including Gartner which has just included them on their Cool Vendor 2012 list. Xavier and Johann believe that while it was obviously imperative to develop a fantastic app that actively engages their users and makes app development more effective, there were several key strategic decisions that they made along the laid the foundation for their successful first year. More specifically, they…
1. Started with English. They decided to develop App Cooker in English and expand into other languages as app usage grew. Xavier and Johann felt this was really be best way to go because it enabled them to reach a broader market (currently their biggest market is the US, followed by various European markets) and because their target customers, developers, tended to be university age and/or younger adults who, regardless of where they are geographically, are used to developing in English.
2. Focused on niche with a real need and great growth potential. As every app developer knows, the App Store (particularly the US version) is an extremely crowded, highly competitive marketplace. Figuring out how to make your app stand out in that space is a monstrous challenge. By focusing on the ‘productivity app’ part of the market, they reasoned that they’d be competing in a much smaller universe (according to Xavier, there are approximately 3.5k productivity apps on US App Store), where their app would have a greater chance of increased visibility. In addition, they felt there was a real unmet need in the market for this type of app as there was really no development app out there that enabled developers to properly manage all the most important phases of the app development planning process in a visual, efficient way.
3. Prioritised iOS. For design oriented apps in particular, they felt it was most important to develop a premium app on iOS and then expand into versions for Android and Windows. This is essentially because their view is that the iPad (at the moment) is better suited than other devices to facilitate app development. So, they made the call to start there. In addition, they felt that there was a proliferation of web based development tools, such as Balsamiq, so were looking to find a niche where they could deliver real value to users.
In the short-term, they plan to build on their momentum and ‘celebrate’ their first birthday on the 31st of May with a jam packed release, including various significant new features such as color management and advanced links. Their long-term vision is to evolve App Cooker into an end-to-end (including App creation), cross-platform solution and to facilitate app development collaboration in the cloud (via a tool such as iCloud or Dropbox). Interestingly Hot Apps Factory is a bootstrapped startup. They don’t believe there’s a real urgency to raise funding right now, but, given their ambitious plans, they are starting to think about raising funds.
App Cooker really looks like has legs and is off to a great start. I think they’ve really set a great example of how thinking global from the beginning can often be a smarter approach for expanding in the in the long-term.