This startup just raised $12 million to build you a sleek app in seconds -- and help you make money from it

AKAlexandra KeatingCEO Alexandra Keating is the daughter of former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

After Alexandra Keating sold her first tech company, a charity platform she’d started in Australia at the age of 19, she thought she never wanted to work in tech again.

“It was intense,” she says, and draining to start a company at such a young age. And if she were to plunge back into those sleepless nights, she would need something she was truly passionate about. So she waited.

But a decade later, Keating has found that spark — and her new company, DWNLD, just landed $US12 million in investment from Greylock Partners.

DWNLD is a platform that makes apps on demand for anyone who wants them. In the basic sense, it scrapes the data off something like an existing blog, or YouTube channel, and builds a sleek app instantaneously — which you can then customise to your heart’s content. You can think of it a bit like a Squarespace, but for apps instead of websites.

But aren’t there services like that already? There are a slew of them, Keating admits. But what sets DWNLD apart is not only ease of use, but a focus on making users actual money.

Making Money

Though DWNLD has a free tier, in which you can’t easily monetise your app, the $US15 dollar a month “standard” plan is where the platform truly shines. In this tier, DWNLD lets you charge for advertising and app content (you take 90%).

CustomisationDWNLDSome of DWNLD’s customisation options.

“In the YouTube space it’s really interesting,” Keating explains. “A lot of them have apps for download, but they don’t have data. They don’t know how much the ads are being sold for or how. They are in the dark.”

One of Keating’s goals with the new funding it to ramp up the customer service and sales parts of the company, to give app creators a full picture of the types of monetisation available to them.

“I’m focused on getting as many people as possible to make money,” she says. “We can look at their traffic, and how it’s recurring, and other data. And we can match them to the advertising network that’s best.”

You can also sell your own ads, but that’s a lot of work. And Keating wants to use this new capital infusion to make monetizing your app as easy as creating it — which as I saw, takes only a few seconds.

Why Apps?

I asked Keating if she’s worried about statistics that say people, by and large, are only using the same apps over and over. She says her and cofounder Fritz Lanman thought about having a mobile web option, but ultimately decided against it. The type of experience they were going after, especially with regards to monetisation, was just better in a native app.

“The people we can help the most have content that has a lot of actions they want users to take. Start listening to an album, or watch a video. Buy something.” Actions translate a lot better to a native app than they do to the mobile web, she says.

And with the rise of “deep linking,” it’s not as much of an issue that many people get directed to a specific article or video from social media, Keating says. “Deep linking” makes an app searchable, which means that if you have an app downloaded and you click a link from, let’s say, Google search, that link will automatically open in the app. You don’t have to go into the app to search for content, which has been a pain point for many users.

Screen Shot 2015 09 16 at 2.39.36 PMDWNLDTiers of service from DWNLD.

Another potential barrier for customers is getting rejected from the App Store, but Keating says this hasn’t been a problem. “If you’d asked me that a year ago, I was very much worried about that.” But she says it’s hard to create an ugly or buggy app using the DWNLD platform. And in my experience with DWNLD, that rings true.

DWNLD has so far attracted media companies like Nylon, xoJane, and a string of YouTube stars. But the app Keating is obsessed with is called IKEA Hackers. “It’s this group of kids that creates all this amazing stuff from IKEA. Before they kind of had a blog, for lack of a better term. But it’s done really well organically and people have been searching for it without any support. And that’s so much cooler than any of the big guys who are using DWNLD.”

As to whether an acquisition might be coming down the line, Keating insists she’s in it for the long haul. “I’m not looking to flip,” she laughs. “Apparently that’s the American way. It’s quite funny, a lot of people ask me that.”

You can check out DWNLD for yourself here.

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