GetJar, which bills itself as the second largest app store behind Apple’s, closed an $11 million Series B found of financing that will help the company expand its distribution and do more product improvements. The round was led by existing investor Accel Partners.
The company wants to expand its distribution deals with carriers and handset vendors globally, and it will be beefing up its presence in the U.K., says Patrick Mork, vice president of marketing at GetJar, which earlier this month topped the 1 billion download mark. On the product front, GetJar would like to do more in the areas of usability, navigation, recommendation engines and search.
Applications are not a core competency of carriers, so they turn to companies like GetJar to manage apps and relationships with developers worldwide, he says. The company has done more than three dozen deals in the past 12 months.
In the United States, Sprint’s website features a link to GetJar, where customers can access its entire catalog. “Sprint really today is the only mobile operator in the U.S. who can claim to offer apps to users regardless of handset,” Mork says. While consumers increasing are adopting smartphones, a lot of feature phones now come with more smartphone-like capabilities.
GetJar isn’t releasing revenue figures but says it’s profitable. Developers pay GetJar to get visibility in its online store. In its pay-per-download model, content owners pay for each download to promote applications that are free to consumers. GetJar says it is the first app store to enable developers to measure the conversion rate of mobile downloads to actual users across all open platforms, including Android, BlackBerry, Flash, Java, Symbian and Windows Mobile.
GetJar’s latest round of funding is a “huge vote of confidence” for the entire consumer applications economy and “Accel is sending a very strong message with their wallet that we are simply at the beginning of this burgeoning ‘apps’ revolution,” says Drew Ianni, founder of APPNATION, which will host a conference in San Francisco Sept. 13-14 with GetJar founder and CEO Ilja Laurs as one of the speakers.
“Literally billions of connected devices will flood the market in the next five years and the vast majority of these devices will feature apps as consumers will continue to want them and demand them,” Ianni says.
One theme at GetJar is “open,” including in how developers make money. “Our approach to that has been very open over the last couple of years. We let developers decide how they want to monetize,” Mork says. Some are in-app ads; others are sponsored apps so someone else pays the developer to create them. Some use virtual currencies where the consumer downloads the apps for free but the user has to buy credits to do things with the app, and some developers put up free trial versions of their apps and when the trial ends, they redirect users to buy the full version.
Earlier this week, the Unified Testing Initiative announced Simple App Testing, enabling simple apps to get Java Verified status at a more cost-effective rate – 75 euros per app. The testing initiative went independent after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems and consists of representatives from AT&T, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Oracle, Orange, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Vodafone.
Mork says more than 50 percent of apps are still Java, and anything that brings down testing fees and helps developers reduce cost and get products to market more quickly is welcome news for GetJar. But, he adds, GetJar historically has not required testing for developers using its service. In the coming months, however, it will begin to give more weight and priority to apps that are “proven, tested and high quality,” he says.