Twelve months. More than 50 events. Some 20,000 developers. And about 120 corporate members. These are the statistics that make Jon Potter proud.
One year ago, Potter and Jake Ward launched the Application Developer's Alliance, an industry association they hoped would provide a collective voice for the creators of mobile and Web apps that was lacking amid discussions among platform providers, device manufacturers and others. As the organization celebrated its first anniversary about two weeks ago, FierceDeveloper checked in with Potter, who serves as the ADA's president, to reflect on key milestones so far and the group's priorities for 2013.
The association's biggest area of investment is DevsBuild.it, an online resource center that organizes content around areas such as funding options, marketing strategies and discoverability. Potter said there are around 1,000 items already in DevsBuild.It, which launched in December, some of which is original to the ADA and some of which is curated from external sources.
DevsBuild.It is a response to what Potter calls the ADA members' biggest challenge, which is not monetization or crafting the right policies but simply getting an app out the door and into an app store.
"They want to clear out the underbrush and get to market faster," he said.
A big part of that puzzle is hiring the right people. Thus, much of the ADA's focus in 2013 will be to help fill the many vacancies for iOS and Android programmers in the market. But Potter noted that "our members do not compete for talent. Their challenge is to identify talent, not compete against each other for it."
Growth and expansion for the ADA
The ADA was created at a time when smartphone adoption and the so-called app economy was starting to explode. Although there are other organizations, such as the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) and the CTIA, that touch on app-related topics, Potter said there was a need for something that placed greater focus on developers' unique and specific concerns. Over the past year, the association has spun off a number of working groups around mobile commerce, health care and emerging technologies, and more on media and entertainment and kids and education will likely form this year. The impetus for these working groups comes from the bottom up, Potter said.
The ADA started with four employees and a base in Washington D.C. Today the group has grown to a staff of 12 with presences in New York and San Francisco. The ADA's momentum also includes the addition of five new board members for 2013, including representatives from Tech Stars, Twillio and Samsung, among others.
The mobile app ecosystem is poised to grow significantly in the future, according to a September report from the Application Developers Alliance.
Perhaps the group's biggest achievement so far, Potter said, was getting so many disparate developers to coalesce into a community that's interested in supporting each other.
"It used to be that if you approached them about something like this, their first response would be that they were too busy working (to be involved). The second thing would be, 'Why would I want to share anything with my competitors?'" he said. "Once you get them in a room together, they realize they have a lot in common. ... They recognize that a rising tide lifts their company and lifts a whole bunch of other companies."
Sam Tannen agrees. The owner and creative director of Corky Portwine in Los Angeles makes a number of mobile games designed for children, including A Ninja Dinosaur Christmas and The Owl and the Pussycat. Like many developers, however, he is a one-man shop, working primarily from home, and he said the ADA, which he joined a few months ago after attending a local event, has helped him stay connected to the industry and meet up with peers.
"I liked the speakers they picked and I was impressed by their team," he said. "We need a centralized place for the industry to come together and discuss the issues."
Policy objectives for 2013
Besides the traditional benefits of a trade association such as networking and market research, the ADA has also become more focused on policies that could influence the way future apps get created. For example, the association was among the stakeholders that worked with the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) last summer to discuss mobile app transparancy in an effort to help educate customers about how apps use their personal information. Potter said the ADA will be involved in a number of other issues this year, including a possible reconsideration of the Children Online Protection Act (COPA) and unreasonable risks for developers under the current patent system. Such contentious areas require a sophisticated, nuanced approach, he added.
"You get the job done by listening aggressively," he said. "With the patent debate, we're focused on small and medium-sized businesses. We're not focusing on OS patent wars. We want to help create a healthy ecosystem for app developers. We want to be realistic and thoughtful, not bomb-throwers."