Ina Fried

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Mobilewalla is Latest Startup Aiming to Improve Mobile App Discovery

If you have a popular title like Angry Birds or Facebook, it is easy for smartphone owners to get your app. All customers need to do is check the top of most popular on an the App Store or Android Market and click download.

However, for those whose apps aren’t already well known, it is extremely hard to get noticed.

The result is that many developers pour hundreds of hours into programs that never get seen. Since the problem is well understood, there is no shortage of companies that are trying to help address the issue, and create a business of their own at the same time.

Among the newest entrants is Mobilewalla, a small start-up that plans to announce its plans later on Monday. Mobilewalla won’t sell apps directly, but has developed an online catalog and search engine that ranks various apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Founder Anindya Datta said he feels that most App stores are still too fragmented or driven by their own commercial interests. The goal of Mobilewalla is to provide objective criteria by which users can discover new apps. The site ranks each app 1-100 based on 114 different variables, including a developer’s past success.

“A developer who has been successful is likely to be successful again,” Datta said. The HTML5-based site also aims to capture fast-rising apps and other trends not easily spotted by rivals.

Most apps, Datta said, have low ratings on other sites not because they are bad, but because no one has ever seen them. Without something like Mobilewalla, Datta said, such programs “will forever remain the dungeon of low-app dom.”

But Mobilewalla will find itself up against a host of competitors, ranging from official app sites like the Android Market and Apple’s App Store as well as independent efforts like GetJar to sites that independently review applications.

Meanwhile, established players are looking to expand beyond their base. GetJar, for its part, just landed another $25 million in funding and is now looking to expand into the business of helping app developers plan and execute their marketing campaigns.

“The average developer does not make enough money creating applications to pay rent,” GetJar Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Mork told Mobilized. “That’s just the simple fact.”

Mork said that the problem, though well known in the industry, gets hidden by the fact that there are all these stories on the millions being made by folks like Rovio, maker of Angry Birds, or stories about teenagers hitting it big with a game they created after school.

Because it can link advertising to its app catalog, Mork said GetJar can charge for advertisements not based on how many times an app is seen, but instead charging per download. On that basis, Mork said developers can expect to spend anywhere from 40 cents to 70 cents in marketing costs for each app downloaded, depending on the category.

GetJar is also working on a new version of its app catalog that will tap into Facebook–tapping into the power of the social network to allow people to easily recommend apps to their friends.

As for Mobilewalla, its revenue picture is far less certain. Datta said that the company doesn’t plan to sell advertising on the site, instead hoping to generate mobile app data that will be valuable enough to sell to developers.

Datta, though, has a track record of success. His prior effort, Kleiner Perkins-backed application virtualization company Chutney, ended up selling to Cisco in 2005. Datta said he hopes to avoid taking venture funding for Mobilewalla, though it does have backing in the form of research grants from the government of Singapore.

But with so many companies trying to solve the application discovery problem, Datta knows his challenge is similar to the companies he is trying to help–standing out from the pack.

“That’s right,” he agreed.