Ionic Unveils New App-Making Tools, Continues Push to Make Money

Ionic has introduced a new set of tools for developing mobile software applications, as the Madison, WI-based startup continues its effort to create revenue streams off of its sizeable user base.

The new suite of development tools, known as Ionic Pro, is aimed at helping developers build, test, and distribute apps faster and more easily than was possible previously, says Ionic co-founder and CEO Max Lynch. He says Ionic Pro represents a “commercial layer on top” of Ionic Framework, an open-source system for developing mobile apps the startup first released in 2013.

The company began generating revenue from Ionic Framework in late 2015, Lynch told Xconomy last year. The Ionic Framework community includes more than 5 million developers, he says, and one of the company’s goals in launching Ionic Pro is to continue its push to monetize certain tools and features.

“Ionic Pro really represents the transition of Ionic from just purely open-source and free to now balancing that out with strong commercial adoption,” Lynch says. “We had to get that developer base, that community, built first. When we got to a critical mass, it seemed like we could then offer some high-value services … on top, to commercialize some of that.”

Lynch says that in the past few months, more than 100,000 developers in Ionic’s open-source community activated the new tools during what he calls a “pre-release soft launch phase.”

Ionic’s software allows developers to make mobile apps using Web-based programming languages like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. The company’s tools essentially allow users to create a single app that works across the three leading mobile operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows. (Some other related app-development companies include Appcelerator, which is part of Axway, and Xamarin, now part of Microsoft.)

The skill set a developer needs to be able to build a mobile app differs from that required to make a website or Web app, Lynch says. Ionic’s tools are designed to lower the barriers to entry for would-be mobile developers, he says.

Ionic offers a free “starter” developer kit, as well as more advanced packages that range from $29 to $169 per month for each developer using the tools.

The startup’s customers include businesses as well as individual developers. Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), and Nationwide are among the companies that have built apps using Ionic Framework. “I think the bulk of our growth over time in terms of revenue is probably going to be [from] enterprise companies,” Lynch says.

Clients tend to continue using Ionic’s products even after they’ve created and launched mobile apps, Lynch says.

“When a developer builds an app and ships it to the app store, rarely is that the last time they need to work on it,” he says. “They’re continually working with Ionic Framework to ship updates, make bug fixes, [or] maybe prepare for a new iPhone release.”

With Ionic Pro, customers will have new ways of tracking bugs and errors reported by users, Lynch says.

Ionic, which Lynch says now has 30-plus employees, is still a relatively young and small company. Explaining the startup’s strategy to first accumulate lots of users, and then focus on monetizing its products, Lynch says Ionic is “following in the footsteps of some really great companies who have proven that out, including MongoDB.”

New York-based MongoDB (NASDAQ: MDB) makes open-source database software for developers. The company, which according to an SEC filing had 820 employees as of July, raised $192 million as part of an initial public offering in October that was considered successful by most outside observers.

For its part, Ionic has raised $12.2 million from investors since Lynch and his childhood … Next Page »

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Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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