Mobile

StackMob duct tapes typical add-ons onto mobile apps until Apple and Google do it

[Updated to reflect co-founder Ty Amell's wording to indicate he was speaking with a number of large enterprise companies but had not signed any yet.]

StackMob has a pretty novel idea: make a launchpad for developers looking to add all the usual bell and whistles to their mobile applications. Its founders just have to make sure they beat Apple and Google to the punch — which they hope to do by launching an open beta later next month.

The idea is to take away all the technical elements of developing add-ons for an application to let each developer focus on “what they are good at,” said co-founder Ty Amell. Those add-ons range from ways to track analytics, adding a social layer for sharing on Facebook and Twitter and others. That way, developers can focus on making their games look a little better or make the applications run just a little slicker.

StackMob is the next in a long line of startups that have pegged themselves as a “Heroku for X” (where you can stuff whatever you want within reason in place of X.) The StackMob set includes application programming interfaces (APIs) for adding social integration and other back-end services. You can add ways to sync up to cloud storage services, push notifications, analytics services and a few other typically used add-ons for mobile applications.

“If you build your back-end on StackMob, you only have to do it once,” said co-founder Pouyan Salehi. “It’s easier than having to re-build the back-end on every platform.”

But adding services like these for developers seems like a natural extension to the current development ecosystem run by Apple and Google. Amell said he expects those features to pop up eventually in each development tool set. They’ll just be mutually exclusive — meaning developers will have to use different development tool sets for each mobile operating system — as Apple and Google have always been.

That’s what StackMob is trying to focus on — being a one-stop shop for mobile APIs — to survive when Google and Apple inevitably start including those tools for developers. The current development set is optimized for iOS, but developers can also retrofit it for use with Android applications — they just won’t be able to use the push API. Developers can even take the tools and build a stripped-down website complete with those APIs.

The next major focus is optimizing the service for Android, which Amell said he is convinced is the next big thing. He said that most mobile developers in China are actually developing applications on Android, and that StackMob wasn’t interested in building a platform for devices that weren’t going to take off (perhaps a nod to Palm’s late WebOS, despite its recent resurgence.) Adding BlackBerry to the development tool set is next on the list for StackMob once it’s available for Android.

The team is led by Amell, a member of the formerly popular online music service imeem that was bought out by MySpace in a fire sale, and former Apple employee Salehi — who Amell has nudged to join the team from practically day one, he said. Salehi was an adviser since the company launched but finally joined the team in August.

StackMob has already raised money through a seed funding round. Harrison Metal and Baseline Ventures, both investors in Heroku, participated in StackMob’s seed funding round. The service is currently in a closed alpha and is speaking with a number of large enterprise clients — though Amell wouldn’t disclose which ones. StackMob will go live in beta form for everyone late next month.


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