iFund's Murphy tells mobile app developers 'Keep it simple'

SAN FRANCISCO--Mobile software developers should keep their applications simple and direct at launch, adding new features and expanding to new operating systems once a userbase is firmly in place, according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Matt Murphy, who oversees the venture capital firm's $200 million iFund investment unit. Speaking here at Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live! Conference, Murphy said developers must first "crack the use case," then "think over time about how to broaden." Apps that offer too much complexity at launch don't work: "Mobile consumers are still trying to figure things out," he explained. "Instead, you should focus on doing one thing really well, and prove you can get a userbase that's growing."

Kleiner Perkins has invested in 15 iPhone-centric app startups since establishing the iFund in 2008, Murphy said, adding that half of those companies already generate revenues in excess of $10 million. He credited the startups' success to their decision to focus their efforts on the iPhone platform, noting that iPhone applications monetize six to seven times better than apps on other operating systems. Murphy added that Kleiner Perkins speaks to Apple each week, with the computing giant even recommending two developers that are now iFund recipients.

Beyond heeding Apple's advice, Murphy said Kleiner Perkins looks for apps with significant user traction, although there is no exact formula that determines which startups the firm targets for investment. "You want to see somebody who's breaking out," Murphy said. Looking ahead, he said is most excited by mobile experiences on tablet devices like Apple's iPad, stating that research indicates consumers are consuming hours of data instead of minutes. "We're starting to see the explosion of the iPad into the enterprise and healthcare segments," Murphy said. "We're going to see a ton of apps that change the workforce."