We launched our first partner iPhone app today, a marine boating app from EarthNC. Since PG likes to talk about platform-izing a business, and that’s an idea that has driven us to where we are, I thought I’d blog a bit about this for Hacker News.
More Money Than Our Apps
After many months on the App Store, we have built our own app sales up to beyond ramen-profitable, and we anticipate significant growth going forward, even in our outdoor/hiking niche.
However, licensing our software to create mapping apps will be our bread and butter from now on (we think). We have secured deals with a few partners, and you can read about EarthNC and another company we are working with in Forbes. By white-labeling our software for partners, we can expand into activity verticals and markets that a) we don’t know anything about and b) can be much larger than our space.
Our Value to Partners
For companies who have maps and other geo-tagged content, we have found that the work we did in building Gaia GPS simplifies their entry into the mobile market. Some key points to this are:
- our software runs on iPhone/iPad/Ipod and Android, which means partners can get into all the markets fast
- we provide core functionality that any app will need – map display, routing, POI search, and other things
- our software has been tested millions of times in the field, by hundreds of thousands of people
I think there are a few other reasons why these business deals make sense, but these three are the main ones. Our platform lets content companies get to market fast, with well-tested and well-reviewed map software. If I had to boil it down to the essence in the manner of Paul Buchheit, those would be the three.
Scaling Our Life
My co-founders and I write a lot of code. Nearly everyday, we’re hacking away on some feature or another to improve Gaia GPS. Now that we are providing underlying code to others, it feels like we are doing a lot more. We’re able to help more companies and developers build stuff, and help more users explore the great outdoors (and the high seas).
In some circumstances, we have to build very app-specific things. For example, we’ll pretty quickly add an “anchor alarm” to the boating app. However, in a lot of cases, work will span all of our apps. Core features like “heads up” mapping, and the satellite maps and offline POI caching we did for EarthNC, will make all of our apps and our partner apps better. It’s a very intriguing feeling to have your life scale up.
Product to Platform
It is only the journey, which has taken us halfway from product to platform, that has even made these partnerships possible. If we would have set out to make a platform at the beginning, we would have surely failed. Only by creating products, and both failing and succeeding at times, have we arrived at some code that is truly useful to a lot of people. And I imagine that’s how most platforms happen. First you scratch an itch, then you find some itchy people.