Forget Pokémon Go: Why you should build for the enterprise

Hint: it's all about the path to monetization

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Andrew Hayward/IDG

While many startups aspire to be the next Facebook or Google, there’s a similar trend happening at the individual level: independent software vendors racing to build the next Pokémon Go. Although payout rates like Apple’s recently disclosed $70 billion may sound impressive, the reality is less enticing: 94 percent of that is going to the top 1 percent of publishers. Savvy developers have begun to realize that future app monetization opportunities lie not in consumer app stores such as Google Play or Apple App Store, but with app stores that mean business.

Not only are B2B app stores like Salesforce AppExchange, Intuit App Store, and the Atlassian Marketplace attractive for developers because they’re less crowded, but the primary customers are large enterprises eager to find the right solutions for their teams and willing to hand over large sums of money to do so. The apps they require may be less sexy than capturing Pikachu, but the users of business apps are a great deal less fickle—and more invested.

Companies need apps too

Building apps for a B2B audience means you have access to a company’s customer base—hundreds of thousands, even millions, of users waiting to adopt your app to make them more successful at their jobs. You don’t have to start from the ground up to build a following, and those customers have deep pockets—corporate budgets are set at a higher threshold for useful business productivity tools. Not only can you charge more, but these business tools are generally subscription-based, which brings in recurring revenue—the basis for any sustainable business. Contrast this with consumers who grumble that an app “better be worth it” for a one-time fee of $1.99.

The customer base using business apps tends to be deeply engaged, with long-term plans and needs for a solution that will help their teams do great work. We’re not talking about a game to help pass the wait time at the DMV, with such low switching costs that users abandon it when the next Pokémon Go app makes its debut.

Better support for your business

Most business app stores are set up to help their developers succeed. They have licensing, brand guidelines, privacy guidelines, vendor support, marketing tools, and renewals tools to simplify business workstreams. At Atlassian, we have an entire business operations team that helps support businesses from getting their submitted apps through the approval process to a dedicated product team focused on helping businesses offering apps offer excellent customer support to end users of their apps.

Higher odds of discovery

And then there’s the signal to noise ratio. Business app stores are relatively greenfield, meaning there’s still opportunity to get in early and make an impact. There are nearly 3,500 apps in the Atlassian Marketplace; Salesforce AppExchange has close to 3,000 (as reported last year); Github launched its own Marketplace just a few months ago, making it ripe for developers to put their stake in the ground. Now compare that to the Apple App Store’s 2.2 million apps, and the 2.8 million in Google Play. The odds of getting noticed in the enterprise space are more in the developer’s favor. 

I’m not arguing that you’ll make a million overnight by building for the enterprise. But B2B app stores, unlike their consumer counterparts, offer more predictable, certain growth and a chance to grow a business that generates real revenue—and profit. The Atlassian Marketplace has paid out well over $200 million to developers since its 2012 inception. More than 35 companies like EazyBI, Balsamiq, and Xpand IT have made more than $1 million in recurring revenue by building on top of the platform, and several have even hit the $20 million mark.

Consider the path to monetization for consumer app stores as compared to business app stores, and you might decide to focus your return on investment and app distribution strategies—where the users are focused on getting business done.

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