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We Made This Tech 3 Years Before Google, Here’s Why We’re Shutting Down

We Made This Tech 3 Years Before Google, Here’s Why We’re Shutting Down

Appsurfer in its current form is trying to solve a problem of unnecessary app downloads, by making apps instantly accessible. We are trying to do that by streaming apps from the cloud and running them instantly on user’s devices. Recently Google launched a new product called Instant Apps which solves the same problem but with a better approach at the platform level.

Looking at this scenario, we had a long, hard look at the potential options for our product/technology. We see that the problem we had set out to solve has been solved in a big way, and we can’t compete with it going forward. So we have decided to call it a day on AppSurfer and shut it down.

We have spent the better part of last 4 years building AppSurfer. The journey has taught us a great deal and this is all about the journey of building AppSurfer.

Where it all Started

We were a group of friends, who happened to be engineers and had the startup bug. We were in android since a long time, and we saw the android was going to be a huge deal in mobile space. This was 2011, still early days for android adoption. We wanted to liberate android from devices, put it on the cloud and use it from browsers. We thought the possibilities were endless if we could do that. We used to call it the ‘DroidCloud’.

In 2012, we bootstrapped and created a prototype of AppSurfer – a technology that could run android on the cloud and stream it to browsers. It would allow users to access apps through web browsers from any device. We presented it in UnPlugged and Pune Connect and got a lot of feedback in terms of market positioning. We also got into ET Now’s TV show called ‘Super Angels’ which was great and geared towards funding new startups. We got into the finals and got funded by Vijay Shekhar Sharma from One97 – the company behind Paytm. We also got Alok Kejriwal as an advisor for us.

Version 1.0: ‘Try before Download’ platform for apps

In its first iteration, we created a ‘Try before Download’ platform for consumers and an online app demoing platform for developers.

For consumers, we created a web and mobile based portal where they could try apps without downloading and if they like it, they could install it. We presented the platform to the Indian audience at the Mobisparks and Demo India, and the buzz around it was positive.

We courted developers by providing them free app demoing widgets, which could be embedded all across the web. We also created ‘Try Now’ buttons that they could put in web pages.

We launched this platform in early 2013 and got a great response. We got covered several times then forth on TechCrunch and within months, we had more than 8,000 Android developers, uploading close to 40k apps on our platform. We were serving millions of app views and did more than 500,000 app demos.

But then, we had to figure out how to monetize the platform. Our plan was to monetize with ‘App Install ads’ in consumer platform, but sourcing problem with top apps made it very difficult to hold a consumer and engage him regularly.

Version 2.0: Monetization by offering App Demoing tools for Developers

We started offering app demoing tools like App widgets, Try Now Buttons and App Pages for developers to demo the apps all across the web, inside Facebook NewsFeed and drive the downloads. We started offering ‘tier based’ pricing for using the demoing tools. During this period, we got a chance to showcase the product at TechCrunch Disrupt 2013 and the US audience loved the offering.

try now button

We had a small revenue from the developers, but it was not big enough to continue in that model. We needed to pivot into something where we could maximize the value of the technology.

The positives out of the use case were, the rate at which people were going for downloads after doing the app trial was really good. We decided to use this insight and use it at a place where we could monetize it in a big way.

Version 3.0: ‘Try and Install’ ad format for App advertisers and Ad networks

We created a new product, a new pitch, built an entirely new technology stack suited for the product. We launched the Android app in the US and Europe in beta. The response was overwhelming and our value proposition hypothesis was proved.

app streaming adds

But by this time, we were almost out of money. And we were not able to raise additional funds at that time. So in early 2014, just before the startup boom in India, we ran out of money.

Staying in the Game

In case you didn’t know, having no money is not good for anybody, let alone a startup under a pivot. We had very few options in front of us. We had a small core team, a product that needed a lot of technology updates to be suited for a new model, and no money. We believed in our product and future potential. So we decided to buckle up and raise some cash ourselves. We started doing consultancy for other companies and building up cash. We moonlighted on our product and kept on improving it.

The last Effort
Version 4.0: Instant Apps without downloading

Last year, we had built up enough cash to launch our product in a new model. We saw a big opportunity in making apps instantly usable without unnecessarily keeping them downloaded on the device all the time. The way we did it is by streaming apps from the cloud Android and running them instantly on user’s devices.

We created a new product, a new pitch, built an entirely new technology stack suited for the product. We launched the Android app in the US and Europe in beta. The response was overwhelming and our value proposition hypothesis was proved.

appsurfer instant apps

We also presented the app again in the US at major events, this time, it was DroidCon SF and the media loved it. Everyone needed it and thought it could be improved.

Recent Google IO 2016 saw the introduction of ‘Android Instant Apps’.  They solved the exact same problem with a better approach at the platform level. We think, having better control over the platform, ecosystem, and mobile devices helped Google to come up with this approach. The way Google does it is by splitting an app into modules and allowing the user to download only the module which they wish for at the moment. This makes the download size small and makes apps instantly usable. And we think this is the best way Instant Apps could have been brought to the users and only Google could have done it by introducing the concept at the platform level.

How AppSurfer Instant Apps work

image

How Google’s Instant Apps work

image

The Way Forward

A startup lifecycle is full of ups and downs. This is exactly what AppSurfer went through and this has been a great journey. Appsurfer got introduced into the market 4 years ago.We built a great team, moved fast and became first movers in the space. The journey saw AppSurfer move through various pivots and had its business model changed various times, raised funds, had great investors backing it and created a patented IP.

We tried real hard in last four years, spent everything we had on the product and company. We had a great time, learned a lot, knew our way forward and kept going. Two of our products eventually got built by Google itself, and now people world-over will be using them.

Today we are shutting it down, with a sense of pride in the effort and sadness at the result.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years.

Farewell AppSurfer.

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.

Author

Aniket Awati

Community

Aniket is CEO and Co-founder at AppSurfer.com

Responses
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