Entrepreneurs have leveraged the power of platforms offered by companies like Facebook, Google and Apple to kick-start a phenomenon we call the “app economy.” In 2009, this revolution took significant strides in funding, acquisitions and job creation for an economic sector of educational and entertaining software that until several years ago did not exist.
Small companies have already created more than 500,000 active apps reached through Facebook alone that attract at least 70 percent of Facebook’s 350 million members each month. Apple’s App Store boasts 100,000 apps and recently celebrated its three-billionth download. These small-scale yet widely used widgets are enriching individuals’ digital lives — and at the same time have cultivated a booming new business model.
These are real companies with everything from accountants to janitors. Consider California-based app developer Playdom, which has grown to a staff of 210 full-time employees, most of whom joined last year. Or Where I’ve Been, a Chicago startup that helps users plan locally, travel globally and share their experiences.
There’s Seattle’s PopCap, creator of the wildly successful Bejeweled Blitz game; and Provo, Utah-based FamilyLink, whose We’re Related app is among our top five with more than 50 million users. Right here in Washington, Living Social lets users share insights about their favorite pastimes and Causes helps individuals organize into communities of action focused upon specific issues or nonprofit organizations.
The app economy is real. FamilyLink has more than 50 employees and is trying to hire more front end and back end developers, Flash/Flex architects, business development and ad sales people.
Platforms make it very easy for entrepreneurs or developers to get started in the app economy. They offer a huge potential audience that is easy to reach. When I lecture at business schools, I focus on “catching the next technology wave” and “building on the right platform” as some of the most important strategic decisions that high-tech entrepreneurs have to make. But don’t worry–if you missed a wave, there’s always another one coming right around the corner.