It’s every entrepreneur’s dream to steer the ship that disrupts an entire industry, or fundamentally change the way people interact with a product or service. When it comes to mobile app development, the recipe takes a few rare ingredients: a new, different idea that fills a need or solves a problem for your users, a talented team of designers and developers and a plan to get that app to market and create a splash.
And then maybe, if you play your cards right, you might be the next Airbnb. The next Tinder. The next Angry Birds.
We spoke with six entrepreneurs and developers seeking to shake up the status quo in their particular niches — some of them are even putting new mobile raisons d’etre on the map. We asked them which mobile app development companies inspire them and stand out as industry game-changers.
What we learned was that there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to change the world one mobile app at a time, as long as they have a keen eye for what users need and a strong vision.
Makeup has seen a social media explosion in the past few years, as Sephora and Mac Cosmetics junkies subscribe to countless YouTube channels and Instagram accounts to see what their favorite makeup gurus have to say about a certain product, or to watch tutorials for new, on-trend looks. In a world where Michelle Phan and Desi Perkins rise to the ranks of celebrity, GlamSquad (@GlamSquad) brings beauty right to your door, giving you easy access to hair and makeup stylists for your next event, or even for everyday glamour.
But the GlamSquad story isn’t just one about a great idea, keen market sense and beautiful app design — it’s also one of business acumen and a strong platform, built on Applico. Erik Zambrano told us what makes Applico tick, and why it’s key to the GlamSquad story: “GlamSquad was an app idea by Columbia Business School graduates to build an Uber for hair blowouts. It was a genius idea, but we made it into a business by consulting on the business strategy upfront, designing the app and ultimately building the app.”
The bottom line for mobile app development companies? While great design and development will get you far, having the entrepreneurial sense to make the right business partnerships will bring you to the promised land. In this case, Applico was the perfect fit for GlamSquad. Says Zambrano, “GlamSquad went on to raise a $7MM Series A within six months of launching their MVP.”
While GlamSquad is a rising star among mobile app development companies, Applico is another industry disruptor, as it brings smart business to already smart apps.
Says Zambrano, “We don’t just build apps, we build disruptive businesses for our clients by bringing together a cross-functional team that includes platform experts, business strategists, product managers, designers and developers. We identify ways in which enterprise business leaders and startup founders alike can take their app ideas and turn them into a platform business that can scale without increasing costs, and disrupt existing industries or create new ones.”
2. Kiip (@kiip) turns mobile advertisement into gamified rewards.
Kiip is a mobile rewards platform that links app developers, advertisers and users. Kiip offer mobile app development companies a way to monetize their apps by offering mobile rewards and relevant content that addresses real-time consumer needs. For instance, if a user logs a completed workout in RunKeeper or another popular fitness app, Kiip serendipitously delivers rewards, such as free samples of Propel Fitness Water or discounts on Nike products.
When devs find they’re losing consumers due to intrusive ads, they turn to Kiip for rewards that consumers actually like.
Kiip’s CEO, Brian Wong (@brian_wong), knows a lot about the mobile app landscape, given that he helps empower developers and designers to monetize their ideas. He shared with us some of the mobile app development companies he admires:
“We’ve recently partnered with Breathometer, SafeDrive and RunKeeper, three great examples of disrupters in the industry. Breathometer has a smart breath analysis platform that alerts users when their BAC levels are over the legal driving limit. SafeDrive gamifies safe driving, keeping you focused on the road, rather than on your phone.
And lastly, RunKeeper (@RunKeeper) is such a dominant player in the fitness field. Their strategy for keeping users motivated about their health is nothing shy of amazing. All three of these apps are focused on improving personal wellness in attention-grabbing ways. I’m proud that Kiip has been fortunate enough to work with such outstanding partners.”
One of the most important aspects of entrepreneurship, whether you’re in mobile development or any other field, is finding the right partners and forging relationships that enable you to disrupt the landscape. That’s exactly what Kiip is doing — and an important aspect of their goal of revolutionizing the way mobile app development companies advertise.
3. Keeper Security (@keepersecurity) brings elegance to mobile security.
Darren Guccione created Keeper in 2008, while on a 40 hour flight to China with his co-founder and CTO, Craig Lurey. They knew the iPhone 3G was coming out and the App Store was debuting, but nobody had a password manager app out there for the mobile space. They believed that the world was moving towards mobile, so they built the app with mobile domination in mind.
But in that increasingly mobile world, who was the biggest influence on Keeper Security? We asked Guccione which mobile app development companies stood out to him as true leaders in the industry. Given that he’s a security buff, we expected something very high tech, but his answer was actually somewhat surprising.
“The two top mobile app development companies that inspire me, and that make products I personally just love to use,” says Darren, “are Uber and Fandango. And I love both of these apps for the same reason. They are both simple, elegant, friction-less and intuitive. You don’t have to think very much to use them — you can tell great care was put into the UI/UX design.”
That’s because no matter what kind of app you’re designing or developing, a good user experience needs to be one of your top priorities. It’s important not to pigeonhole your product by thinking of it as just aesthetic, or just practical. “Honestly, outside of the app realm, I’d say my biggest influence is Leonardo da Vinci,” Guccione continues, “because he was able to merge philosophy, art and science to create elegant solutions for humanity. I’m also inspired by Steve Jobs, because he was relentless in his pursuit of perfection, and put design and humanity before technology.”
Even though Keeper Security is one of the mobile app development companies that have a clear, practical focus, it doesn’t mean that their founder doesn’t prioritize design — in fact, just the opposite. “As you might be able to tell even from our website, we feel that design and functionality need to coexist for an app to truly be successful and disruptive — again, this is where Uber and Fandango excel, and this is something I’m personally very interested in here at Keeper Security. We’re perfectionists here, and I can spot a broken pixel from a mile away.”
Of course, Guccione is also passionate about cybersecurity. “I live by the motto, ‘What if every person on the planet had their own personal Fort Knox online to protect their identity and sensitive data?’”
That interdisciplinary approach is helping to put Keeper on the map. Keeper is the world’s most downloaded password manager, with more than 100 million downloads and 8 million users, and the app is available in 80 countries in 18 languages. Their business solution, Keeper for Groups, provides password management and secured digital vaults for more than 5,000 businesses.
4. Plowz and Mowz (@plowzapp) gives you the power to mow your lawn or shovel your walkway, all from your mobile phone.
One of the most important keys to disruption is to find a very specific, but universal need and capitalize on it. Plowz and Mowz isn’t just shaking up the mobile app development landscape — it’s also shaking up physical landscapes. As in, your front lawn. “Plowz and Mowz is an On Demand app for snow removal and landscaping services,” says Dan Lopez, a software developer at the lawn-beautifying mobile app firm. “This is an industry valued at $74 billion dollars a year, so there’s a ton of potential to take these markets and make them more compatible with the mobile world.”
Anyone who has ever whined about having to cut their lawn, shovel their driveway or trim their topiaries can probably see the instant value Plowz and Mowz adds to their app collection. But when we asked Lopez which mobile app development companies stood out to him as being true movers and shakers, he drew a parallel that was instantly visible.
“Uber was a big motivator and driving force in the creation of Plowz and Mowz,” says Lopez. “Once the general public started to grasp the scope of apps being more than just games and time killers, we thought, ‘Lets take a crack at this!’”
“Uber made it possible for hundreds of startups and their hopes to create something great. The term ‘Uber of’ is something that people understand. All the exposure, be it good or bad, helped create a new world of jobs both in and out of the tech world. Plowz and Mowz has over 2,500 providers in 38 markets from Boston to Miami to Anchorage, Alaska, and the one thing we hear from providers all the time when they sign up is, ‘so you’re like the Uber for snow removal and lawn care, right?’”
“Normally, this is the part where we explain what differentiates us from the other services out there,” he adds, “but you know what? Given how huge and disruptive Uber has been over the past few years, we’ll take ‘Uber for Lawn Care and Snow.’ That works, too.”
5. MyAlbum (@JoinMyAlbum) brings granular privacy and narrative storytelling to photo sharing.
When you think of the big players in photography apps, Instragram and Snapchat come to mind. VSCO Cam may be another. Think more on it, and you’ll probably come up with Facebook, which adds a narrative element to the art of photo sharing. One Netherlands entrepreneur is seeking to take this further.
We spoke with Jos de Shiffart, co-founder of MyAlbum (@JoinMyAlbum), to get a sense of where he thinks the future of photo sharing lies.
“As a photo app designer and developer, I’m obviously inspired by the great disruptors in the photo sharing world. Instagram makes sharing gorgeous photos easy, even if you don’t know the first thing about photography. Facebook keeps us connected with friends and family we might only see maybe once every few years, if that. Flickr is one of the great pioneers in photo sharing.
The other apps we’ve been watching closely, and are really shaking up the industry, I think, are Storehouse, Medium and Exposure. These apps take photos and help contextualize them within a story. After all, what drives us to share photos with our friends and loved ones is the urge to share those stories. It’s not just the picture, but also what’s behind the picture.
While these firms have been paving the way for even more innovative apps to come in and make a splash in the industry, we felt like there were a few important functionalities they left out — and that’s where MyAlbum comes in.
MyAlbum is a visual storytelling platform that lets you create visual stories with photos and videos that you can then enrich with text, maps, the weather and more. Soon we’ll be launching an iPhone app, followed in a few weeks by the iPad version. The photography app market today makes it easy to share an individual photo, but we want to enable users to share series of photos, and to be able to tie them together within a single narrative. Flickr, Facebook, Instagram — all of the large photo sharing platforms are aimed at sharing single shots in a semi public setting.
That, of course, leads to a conversation about privacy, and there’s no easy way to set granular privacy settings for each photo. This, I think, will be the next revolution in these photography apps, and that’s also where MyAlbum is trying to steer the landscape.
As a young father, I have a lot of stories to tell, and I think plenty of parents can relate! That includes tons of photos and videos that I do not want to share publicly, but with a selective audience. It seems as though more people want this. MyAlbum has spent just over two weeks in beta, and already thousands of users have subscribed to create awesome stories.”
6. Yeeply (@Yeeply_ES) harnesses the potential of the international app development community.
Many times, when we think about mobile app development companies that are leading the way in the industry — at least here in the US — a few stereotypes come to mind. We might think of a young, hip trendy startup in San Francisco or Silicon Valley, or a few folks meeting in a garage somewhere in the Midwest. But as Fernando Ballester (@Fer_Bru), a Spain-based Business Developer at Yeeply points out, a lot of innovation is happening across the ocean.
“Freelancing is becoming the new top working force,” says Ballester. “The apps market keeps growing and many corporations and companies like SmallBiz have app ideas in mind as solutions for their customer relations, sales force, etc. When it comes the time to develop them, they’re going to search online for good developers, and I do believe price is going to be at the top of the priorities list when hiring one.”
That’s where international designers and developers are poised to come in and make a splash. “With Spanish developers, for example,” Ballester continues, “the economic crisis hit us so hard that we had to either look abroad for jobs and business or start creating them ourselves. For a country that doesn’t have the strong entrepreneurial culture you might associate with the US, we have fully embraced the startup way of life — and quite successfully, in my opinion! You can look at examples like PeerTransfer, Kantox, SocialBro, Fever and Privalia to see what I’m talking about.”
We asked Ballester which international mobile app development companies stood out to him as examples of firms shaking up the industry. “BraveZebra is a big one,” says Ballester. “It’s one of the top game development companies in Europe. At this moment, Yeeply is working with BraveZebra to develop the official fantasy mobile game of La Liga — think of how big Fantasy NFL is, then think about the fact that soccer is as big in Europe as football is in America.”
“Tyris Software (@TyrisSoftware) is another major player,” he continues. “They’re really leading the way in augmented reality and virtual reality, which I think will be two of the next big frontiers for mobile app development companies.”
Make Your Innovative Ideas Come to Life With Digital Prototyping
Are you the next app ready to disrupt the way people interact not only with their phones, but with the world around them? There’s no better time than now! It all begins with a prototype. Even if you don’t a single designer or developer to work with yet — even if you don’t know a lick of code, or couldn’t Photoshop your way out of a broken pixel — you can bring your disruptive app ideas to life with Proto.io. Our easy-to-use drag and drop interface can help you build a stunning prototype, complete with animations and user interactions, in no time at all.
Ready to count yourself among the mobile app development companies innovating the marketplace? Sign up for a free 15-day trial of Proto.io today!