If any doubt remained about the power of web application-based industry, they were wiped away by the recent news of Apple’s purported $3.2M takeover of the Dr. Dre-driven Beats Music, which is poised to provide the iTunes Radio service provider extra ammunition in its web-based rivalry against Pandora and Spotify for listener’s ears—and subscription and advertising dollars. How did virtual come to replace brick-and-mortar startups, with companies such as Netflix wiping Blockbuster Video out of existence, and what other innovative companies and clever entrepreneurs should be on our radar?
There’s an App for That
The introduction and growth of use of web-based apps has been staggering. It is no longer just the younger set with their eyes and thumbs glued to smart phones and tablets. The use of web-based apps for everything from commerce to entertainment to news reporting has grown exponentially along with the increased sophistication and decreased general pricing of Wi-Fi and cell-based technology and hardware. What makes a web-based company worth paying attention to is the potential for it to apply its recommendation algorithm to other areas and services, including advertising, mobile app recommendations, and anything else. These companies are vibrant and think outside of the box—they are innovation at its finest. You can do things in the virtual world that print and cement can only dream of. Only online can the world keep up with our imagination.
While respected news outlets such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all have web-based apps, Circa is first and foremost an online entity. Boasting seed money of more than $2.4M, and with an editorial team headed by former Reuters participant Anthony De Rosa, Circa brings a serious attempt at reinventing new delivery for a mobile generation. It shares news in small bites for readers on the go, in headlines and photos, followed by expanded coverage. It also boasts a notification system for breaking news. Its application was one of the best selling through Apple in 2013 and was chosen by Google as a top Android app of the year.
Imgur started as a simple image service borne from the Reddit community news site that is now larger and more popular than Reddit itself. This community of image sharers (Imgurians) boasts 100M unique visitors each month, creating 100K memes per month through the online meme-generation tool, making it one of the top 30 most visited websites in the country, alongside giants Apple, Netflix, and Yelp. Its goal is simple: Allow users to upload and share links to images across the web without having to travel through other image hosting websites. Its Android and Apple iOS launches increased traffic about 30 percent. Imgur finds itself with a nice profit and has taken absolutely no outside funding. This little powerhouse is said to be in acquisition talks with monolith Yahoo.
It is full disclosure time: I use Dropbox. A lot. When I want to share photos with friends and family, or download dozens of pictures from my smart phone or tablet to my laptop, I no longer have to connect with cords or forward them as attachments via often dozens of emails. Dropbox allows me to sync my account over several web-based apps and my PC. I download photos and videos to Dropbox and I can access them via the Cloud on any device into which I am logged in. I’m not the only one using this application, as Dropbox users doubled last year from 100M to 200M. Once only considered for use by consumers, the company is expanding its focus to businesses, adding project-management features for workplace ventures. Dropbox remains private for now, with support from several venture capital firms and a value of around $10M.
Never heard of Inside.com? You will. Founded by web entrepreneur Jason Calacanis and with no more than 100 people involved in the startup, including former Wire, Gawker, and Newsweek editor Gabriel Snyder, this multi-million dollar company aims to be a mobile app with a breadth of content so vast as to take over from Wikipedia as the web’s main content source within the next decade. Its aim to deliver new uniquely tailored to each user, with about 3,000 different topic areas of interest, and boasts delivery of over 1,000 of the world’s most important and fascinating stories each day. What makes Inside different? Rather than spitting out computer-processed material and data, all of their stories will be “human curated” and only the best. Each listing is created to fit into the screen of a smart phone. This is one start up that isn’t focused on the money. With their deep pockets, their focus initially will be on growth and quality. It might not be long, however, until advertising is inserted into the mix.
Funded by a crowd funding campaign that raised $50K to start the project, Coin plans to launch later this year. It is a single wallet-sized universal credit card that is meant to replace your usual repertoire of credit cards. Your information is input into Coin, and takes over from there. Afraid of losing the only card you carry—and along with it all of your precious private financial data? Coin syncs with your phone and sends alerts when it is more than 25 feet from your smart phone, as added protection from loss or stealth. What makes Coin different from similar technology available now, such as PayPal or Google Wallet? The pre-launch buzz is high, and sales are already high. People aren’t looking to pay for everything online—they like swiping a card, and Coin aims to allow them to do this with more ease and less wallet bulk.
What newer web-based applications have you used? Have you found them easier or better than non-virtual-based companies or services?