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App Store Downloads Top 85 Billion, Revenue Up 36 Percent Year-Over-Year


Apple CEO Tim Cook announced today during the company’s FY Q4 2014 earnings call that Apple’s cumulative App Store downloads have now topped 85 billion up from 60 billion around a year ago. The number was announced alongside news of Apple’s massive quarter, and its record-breaking sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices.

For additional context, at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco this June, the company announced that the iOS App Store had then reached 1.2 million applications. By September, that number had reached 1.3 million – a figure that had put Apple just behind competitor Google, which is currently estimated to have roughly 1.4 million or 1.5 million, depending on which reports you go by. (The latter is App Annie’s data.) In other words, the app store races – at least in terms of filling out the stores’ virtual shelves – are neck and neck.

More importantly, perhaps – thanks to the launch of Apple Pay, also out this morning with the release of iOS 8.1 – App Store revenue has the potential to grow even further. Although many people only associate Apple Pay with the ability to pay at point-of-sale at a growing number of supported retailers, Apple Pay also enables in-app transactions to take place with just a touch of the finger. That means that more consumers will be able to purchase virtual items, or subscribe to more services via in-app purchases, which will be easier than before because they’ll no longer have to remember their Apple ID and password. Instead, just by touching on the fingerprint reader on new iPhones and iPads running iOS 8, they’ll be able to pay using the credit or debit card information on file, already associated with their Apple account.

App Store revenue also saw growth of 36% compared to Q4 2013, said Cook. iTunes posted $4.6 billion in revenue for Q4 2014, with billings up 22% year-over-year.

App Store developers are a boon to the company’s bottom line. This summer, Apple CEO Tim Cook cited iTunes as one of the fastest-growing segments of Apple’s business. “iTunes billings grew 25% year-over-year in the June quarter and reached an all-time quarterly high, thanks to the very strong results from the App Store,” he said at the time.


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In Oakland, A Sign of Some Very High Times


Two years ago, this building in downtown Oakland was the part of the country’s first major cannabis growing educational institution, Oaksterdam University. After federal agents from the IRS and DEA raided the home of founder and marijuana legalization activist Richard Lee, he stepped down and the university gift shop pictured above shut down and was left vacant for about a year.

Today, the building is home to Edyn, a Y Combinator-backed startup that builds a wifi-connected garden and soil sensor. In the background is a leftover whiteboard from Oaksterdam’s tenancy, listing some marijuana varietals that were grown in the same space.

How bad is the commercial real estate crunch in San Francisco and Silicon Valley?

Uh, bad?

So bad that that prices per square foot are roughly where they were around the first dot-com boom.

So bad that Uber decided to go in, buy its own piece of land and build its own headquarters from scratch.

So bad that Doug Shorenstein, part of the storied multi-generational family of San Francisco developers that rehabbed the building that houses Twitter’s headquarters, went on Fox to explain why landlords are the demanding 10-year leases that are making Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley and Marc Andreessen finally talk about the “b” word.

Space is so tight that startups are quietly trickling over into downtown Oakland, where rents for creative office spaces are roughly half to two-thirds of what they are per square foot in San Francisco. The’s city’s commercial vacancy rate is also double San Francisco’s at around 14 percent.

Nothing might be more symbolic of Oakland’s oncoming wave of change than what’s happened to the Oaksterdam University gift shop.

The university, dubbed “America’s first cannabis college,” was started by activist Richard Lee to teach growers about everything from horticulture to law. An activist for more than two decades, Lee was involved in a failed bid back in 2010 to legalize the drug beyond medical use through the California state ballot proposition. His house was raided over the summer by federal agents from the IRS and DEA with no particularly well-explained reasoning that I’ve seen.

After a previous raid in 2012, he stepped down from leading the institution and the gift shop stayed vacant for about a year.

Meanwhile, Jason Aramburu, a Princeton grad who had worked on agricultural sustainability issues in East Africa, was starting a company. With the help of designer and Jawbone chief creative officer Yves Behar, Aramburu had designed a smart, Internet-connected garden sensor that could pick up soil acidity, temperature and moisture. His company, called Edyn, first debuted on-stage at TechCrunch Disrupt last year. After operating in and out of Berkeley and San Francisco, Aramburu needed bigger office space.

It’s tough. On the large end, the last time I checked there were less than a half-dozen spaces with more than 100,000 square feet available in SF. Small space is just as competitive and pricey.

But Oakland’s a totally different story.

When Aramburu first checked out the gift shop space, which had been vacant for at least a year, he heard some recorded chanting music wafting through the air. His Chinese-American landlords were doing a kind of ritual for someone really anyone – to take the space.

He signed the lease. It ended up costing about a tenth of what he would have ended up paying in San Francisco’s startup-heavy SOMA district.

Yeah, a tenth. And it’s three blocks from a BART station.

“It’s insane,” he said. He had more than enough space for what he needed, so he’s renting out the other part to a non-profit.

So now, the one-time cannabis educational institute is home to an Internet-of-things gardening startup.

Edyn isn’t alone in Oakland. Up Broadway Street, there are a few other Y Combinator startups like journalism crowdfunding platform Beacon Reader and The Immunity Project, which is developing an HIV and AIDS vaccine. There’s also the high-end photo app VSCO, which just raised a hefty $40 million led by Accel Partners, and the stalwart Pandora, which has been in the city for years. On the phone a few weeks ago, Sam Altman mentioned that two Y Combinator companies were moving over, but he didn’t name who because it was the startups’ news to share, not his. He said that one was pretty high-profile.

Then over the summer, Menlo Park-based real estate investment firm Lane Partners also plunked down $25 million to buy the old 400,000-square foot Sears building downtown. They’re going to renovate it, rename it “Uptown Station” and hope to lure a big tech tenant.

Um, so does Oakland want a flood of tech bros?

Is Oakland prepared for what might be coming? Does it even want this?

The city has twice the land mass, half the population and roughly one-fourth of the city budget of San Francisco.

It’s in the middle of a mayoral race at the moment where issues like community policing, jobs and education seem to be more at the forefront than housing, which is San Francisco’s red-hot button at the moment. (Today, by the way is the last day to register to vote before the elections.)

Current mayor Jean Quan has adopted a plan to build 10,000 housing units, which seems to be inspired by former mayor and current California governor Jerry Brown’s playbook. (She did not return a request for comment.)

Rebecca Kaplan, who polls say is the current front-runner, sees a lot of room for in-fill development.

She thinks Oakland could add another 100,000 people.

Wait, what?

“That might sound like a lot,” said Kaplan, an MIT alum who started programming in BASIC and Pascal when she was 11. “But given that we have so much unbuilt space and so many abandoned buildings that need to be brought back into re-use, I don’t actually think 100,000 people would make Oakland feel overcrowded. We would still be so much less dense than San Francisco.”

Across the Bay in San Francisco, there is practically a pissing match every time over building even a 100 units here or there.

Over the summer in one of the lowest turnout elections in city history, San Francisco voters decided that they wanted to vote on every project on the waterfront that was higher than existing height limits, which are sometimes zero. That proposition was funded primarily by a single wealthy couple that lives on the waterfront.

The ostensible intent was to prevent a wall of high-end luxury condos from sprouting along the city’s waterfront. But there’s a perverse consequence of injecting so much political uncertainty into every development: project and borrowing costs have to rise to compensate for the heightened risk of something not passing through city’s highly politicized process. Those additional financing costs get reflected in the ultimate prices of housing units.

Oakland’s development process, however, is slightly more relaxed. The non-profit Housing Action Coalition has a rundown on the differences here. And if you want an explanation of why rents are so high in entire San Francisco Bay Area region, here is a 13,000 word explanation of that.

Kaplan pointed to a 300,000-square foot Class A LEED certified building that’s permitted to be built right above the 12th Street Oakland BART station. That is a choice piece of real estate, given that tech companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn and Salesforce have already pre-leased more than two-thirds of the office space currently under construction in San Francisco.

“We have some absolutely fabulous commercial real estate if someone wanted to step in,” Kaplan said.

Libby Schaaf, who has zoomed into second place in the polls after being endorsed by her former boss Governor Brown, also wants to attract tech incubators and startups to the city. She partnered with Kiva to offer loans to small, homegrown Oakland businesses, lured Code for America to move its headquarters Oakland and worked with them on a program to make public records more accessible online.

“I really am hopeful that tech companies that come to Oakland choose to have a social conscience,” she said. “We’ve always been a city of social movements. That is the part of the DNA of our city.”

While she was hesitant to throw out a specific housing goal like rivals Quan and Kaplan, she favored a lot of market-rate housing development along transit hubs.

“One of the best ways to stave off more displacement is to build more housing,” Schaaf said. “We can create more revenue streams to address the affordable housing need, but we shouldn’t discourage this much-needed infusion of market-rate housing.”

She favors using targeted subsidies to transform existing units into permanently affordable housing over constructing new below-market rate units. In San Francisco, developers either have to build 12 percent of units on-site as permanently affordable or pay 20 percent into a fund. It’s a particularly expensive way of providing affordable housing units, since each new unit can require at least $250,000 in subsidies. Without as much federal or state funding for affordable housing as there has been in the past, those costs usually get passed onto the buyers of other units, which makes it arguably a tax on market-rate units. This new building slated for 6th and Howard in San Francisco, for example, will cost $690,000 to build each permanently affordable unit.

Schaaf argues that taking existing units that people already live in and either using tax credits or direct subsidies to convert them into permanently affordable units might be a more effective route. She still favors upholding inclusionary goals that set aside 15 percent of new housing in redevelopment areas as affordable.

She also mediated negotiations over the spring to cap the maximum increases under rent control to 10 percent a year when a landlord does capital improvements or debt service passthroughs. Rent control covers about 60,000 of Oakland’s roughly 170,000 units, which is a slightly lower percentage than San Francisco, where 172,000 of the city’s 376,000 housing units are rent-controlled.

Oakland’s maximum rent increases are also looser than what you’ll find in San Francisco; they match the pace of inflation unless the landlord does capital improvements. San Francisco’s rent board caps rent increases at 60 percent of the CPI, which means that almost half of the city’s units’ rents are declining in real economic terms even as market-rate rents on the city’s 37,000 non-rent controlled units climb to nationwide highs.

Kaplan’s goal is to set aside 25 percent of new development as affordable housing.

“The goal is not for Oakland to copy what San Francisco has done,” Kaplan said. “Our goal is a future that is thriving, dynamic and inclusive. We won’t allow wrongful evictions, we’ll enforce the housing laws and we’ll protect tenants.”

For comparison, Mayor Ed Lee has said that he wants 10,000 units of his goal to build or rehabilitate 30,000 housing units by 2020 to be affordable.

The Regional Question

Oakland could sure use the tax revenues from tech jobs and population growth. The city has had to cut its workforce by more than one-fifth over the last decade after the 2008 financial crisis gutted its finances. San Francisco’s progressives also don’t seem to mind pushing tech across the Bay either; former mayor Art Agnos said last week in a forum that tech companies ought to look at the city to relieve pressure from San Francisco’s heated market.

This is the thing. Cities make these decisions to attract these jobs, startups and people because they want the tax base. As vocal and critical as parts of the progressive community are about Mayor Ed Lee’s policies, San Francisco’s annual budget is more than $1.5 billion larger than it was when he took office. Virtually all of that economic growth is due to the tech boom and the spillover jobs it has created.

After the financial crisis, municipal Bay Area governments made choices favoring job creation. These choices just worked far faster than people anticipated. Too well for the current infrastructure and region’s severely constricted housing stock to handle.

I was in San Francisco in the Mission District five years ago when blogs like Mission Local were cataloguing stores shutting down amid the recession. These days, it’s a different story. With some longtime businesses being priced out, city supervisors are considering building a registry of legacy businesses that’s paired with financial incentives for landlords to sustain them.

Then, of course, there’s housing. San Francisco has ended up creating 70,000 jobs since 2010, but it has only built roughly 5,000 housing units in the same time period. Even with all the construction cranes everywhere, last year is only marginally better: the city added 17,600 jobs in the last year but finished a net total of 2,940 housing units during the last four quarters.

As I’ve pointed out, it is a regional problem. But the Bay Area’s diffuse power structure makes it difficult to have a cohesive, long-term vision for the entire region. In New York City, there are 8.4 million people under a single municipal government. In the Bay Area, there are 7 million people living under 101 city governments and 10 bus and rail systems. Everyone ends up just shoving the problem onto everyone else, and the wealthiest suburbs on the peninsula and in Marin County are the worst culprits.

Back in 2012, the city council of Mountain View, where Google is headquartered, approved space in North Bayshore for an additional 10,500 weekday commuters, but no housing. That combination of limited or no housing development, plus Google’s transformation into a nearly 54,000-person company has made home prices and rents out of reach in what used to be a middle-class suburb.

“On paper, I’m a millionaire,” said Lenny Siegel, who is running for Mountain View city council and bought a home there back in 1979. “My house is probably worth between $1.5 and 2 million now, but my kids can’t afford to live here.”

Siegel is pushing to allow 5,000 new housing units in the North Bayshore area, which Google has wanted to do for years.

Kaplan also sees it as a regional problem. There is some groundwork for a regional movement, but it’s not very powerful or enforceable. A Plan Bay Area calls for adding 2 million people to the region by 2040 and there is a regional organization called the Association of Bay Area Governments that is supposed to set aside housing allotments for every city. But many city governments do not actually follow it.

Kaplan said that individual cities may need to work out deals. So, for example, if Menlo Park fails to build enough housing to go along with the 11,000-person campus Facebook is currently constructing there, perhaps they should pay into a regional fund that will build affordable housing elsewhere.

Trying To Not Do It All Wrong

While there are a lot of sexy, surface-level stories like this New York Times piece on how Oakland is the new “Brooklyn By The Bay,” there are also immense concerns around displacement.

The history and landscape of Oakland has been profoundly shaped by racialized housing policies and redlining in the mid-20th century, which separated the relative privilege of the hills in the East from the entrenched poverty in the flatlands of the West. Basically, minority parts of the region had little or no access to Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgages, which prevented the capital accumulation that other communities were able to experience through homeownership. Because banks deemed certain areas risky, that also meant that many kinds of basic businesses like grocery stores couldn’t find the capital to open up in these neighborhoods. If you want a primer on this, I would just go read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ long and comprehensive piece in the Atlantic.

In the face of so much exclusion and disinvestment, black communities in the East Bay had to build their own institutions and culture. Oakland has been home to everything from the Black Panther Party to strands of West Coast hip-hop, rap and RB.

The community’s size peaked in the 1980s, and between 1990 and 2011, the city lost about 40 percent of its black population. Some of this is by choice as black homeowners sell property and move elsewhere into the suburbs, exurbs or follow a broad migration back into the South. Some of it is not, with lower-income blacks being priced out and displaced into areas where the unemployment rate is higher. Broadly speaking, as both baby boomers and the young and affluent move back into the U.S.’s inner cities, poverty is being suburbanized in less dense areas that don’t have the resources or institutions to deal with economic deprivation.

Gentrification is a complex phenomenon that brings both risks and opportunities. In a study published in the American Sociological Review over the summer, Harvard University’s Jackelyn Hwang and Robert Sampson, found that gentrification basically bypasses areas that are more than 40 percent black. That segregation means that these communities get left out of the informal social networks that lead to jobs and upward economic mobility, and generally get relegated to underfunded schools and poorer quality public services. The impacts of being in these different neighborhoods are enduring and multi-generational, Sampson found in his landmark book about Chicago. 

But what’s happening now in American cities like New York and San Francisco where gentrification is at its most advanced, this growth is putting pressure on historically black neighborhoods. That’s what you’re seeing when San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood has its most expensive single family home sale ever. Or when a plan to rezone West Oakland — colloquially known as ‘WOSP’is passed despite protests. Or in East Palo Alto’s brutal fight against Sam Zell’s Equity Residential. Or when director Spike Lee goes on a tirade about gentrification, as it starts to spill over into Bedford-Stuyvesant after Bushwick and Williamsburg. Or when the young mayor of Compton tells the Guardian that her city is the new Brooklyn.

Shortly after the first tech boom, Oakland novelist Ishmael Reed railed against Jerry Brown for affecting “a countercultural style while practicing a brutal capitalist philosophy,” when the former mayor carried out plans to bring 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland.

For Oakland, it raises the question: is it a people or is it a place?

For the tech community, which has faced criticism about its lack of diversity, there is an opportunity — if people want to rise to it — to create something integrated. Several of the city’s startups are already run by black founders like Mindblown Labs‘ Jason Young.

Two pieces worth reading are Susan Mernit’s essay “San Fran Tech Types: What You Need To Know To Move To Oakland” or writer and playwright Chinaka Hodge’s “Gentrifier’s Guide to Getting Along” from San Francisco Magazine.

Mernit, a former Yahoo, Netscape and AOL executive, is the co-founder of Hack the Hood, a non-profit that teaches tech skills to minority youth in Oakland. It recently won grant money from Google and part of a $500,000 donation that Marc Andreessen and his wife Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen gave to three non-profits.

“Oakland has a terrific start-up community, but it’s very connected to place, and to culture,” she said. “The way to do well here is to learn from your neighbors. Get involved in what’s here already–and hire some local people as you grow.”

Ayori Selassie, who grew up in West Oakland and has worked as an engineer and product manager at Salesforce for the last seven years, said that hands-on time and mentorship might be more helpful than money or the creation of service-level jobs.

Many of the tech industry’s fastest-growing companies like Uber or Homejoy, actively create a two-tier system of jobs that may align with or even reinforce pre-existing socioeconomic and racial inequities. Neither company has released diversity numbers on their employee and contractor base; no one really understands whether these business models will enhance or diminish social mobility over the long run. Other big companies like Facebook and Google have also received blowback for how they pay and employ security guards, shuttle drivers and delivery people for projects like Google Shopping Express.

“There are jobs where that don’t require college-level skills like facilities and administration work. Many would like to see those jobs go to people in the community,” Selassie said. “But what concerns me about that is it reinforces a social hierarchy that says unskilled labor should be relegated to people of color and so it doesn’t solve the challenges of social inequity. It might put a temporary dent in gentrification, but it will be short lived.”

The real work of building and training a diverse work force takes years of engagement and effort. (You know, maybe less of this kind of “Making The World A Better Place,” and more of this kind instead.)

“For sustained change we need our startups to be vested in the social journey of people in the community,” she said. “They need to volunteer in the schools, mentor, and give their time — not just money — to the community to be a part of lasting change. I understand that startups can be capital-limited, and that’s OK because their story, life experiences and empathy are the most valuable thing they can give to these communities. Once that happens, real progress can begin.”

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Addresses The iPad’s Continued Lack Of Sales Growth


During today’s earnings call for Apple’s fiscal Q4 2014, CEO Tim Cook took time to address the iPad’s performance at length. Cook referred to a lot of the general kinds of negative feeling around iPad performance circulating around media and analysts, and brought up his own perspective on the product category.

“I take a step back on iPad,” he said. “I know that there’s a lot of negative commentary in the market on iPad, but i have a sort of different perspective on it [...] We’ve sold 247 million over the first four years, that’s more than we sold over the first four years of iPhone.”

“To me, I view it as a speed bump, not a huge issue,” he added, referencing the lack of growth year-over-year for iPad during the past three quarters. “That said, we want to grow, we don’t like negative numbers on these things.”

Cook said that while there’s a popular view among critics that the tablet market is saturated, that’s not what he’s seeing from the available data. He cited market research from this past June, which revealed that in the top six countries for Apple in terms of revenue generation, the one that showed the lowest percentage of iPads sold to people who’d never owned one before still showed over 50 percent sold to new buyers, with the range over the rest of the countries spanning 50 to 70 percent.

Those numbers don’t indicate a saturated market, Cook says – and indeed, they do seem to suggest there are still a lot of potential new buyers for iPad devices. He maintains that it’s too early to tell what kind of upgrade cycle consumers have when it comes to the iPad, given that we’re only four years into its existence. Cook also said that, in response to suggestions that other product categories are cannabalizing iPad sales, he conceded that some customers are probably opting to purchase Macs or iPhones instead of iPads, and also that he had no problem with that – an expression of Apple’s continuing willingness to eat into parts of their own business with successful products from others.

“I’m very bullish on where we can take iPad over time,” Cook said, saying that the long view on the product tells a better story than snapshots of performance over a brief period. We’re continuing to invest in the product pipeline, we’re continuing to invest in distribution.”

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And The TechCrunch Disrupt Europe Finalists Are Crate, Disease Diagnostic Group, Oscult And PhotoMath


Over 1,500 people have walked through door at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt Europe conference in London. We had everyone from Elvis impersonators to people dressed up as chickens participate, as one does at a tech conference.

Highlights included watching our boss Tim Armstrong chat with Josh Constine about the high growth future of Aol, and what he learned after the mistake of firing TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington and Neelie Kroes pontificate on what’s next for the European startup ecosystem.

And after some very intense and sophisticated Startup Battlefield pitches, we are down to our four finalists at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe. It was a difficult decision because the 15 startups that presented all were solving hard problems, and impressed their judges in their own right.

But we had to whittle them down to four. Here they are:


“Crate makes central database servers obsolete, it allows you to launch a highly scalable back end in minutes. Based on the familiar SQL syntax, Crate combines high availability, resiliency, and scalability in a distributed design that allows you to query mountains of data in real time, not batches.”

Disease Diagnostic Group

“What if we told you we could save one million lives every year with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer? DDG uses magneto-optical technology to change the way diseases are diagnosed. Our mission is to create a low-cost, reusable device that can reach the patient and differentiate between multiple diseases.”


“At Oscadi, we’re seeking to bring excellence to our users. We do so with simple and yet powerful devices like Oscult, our first product. Oscult is an imaging device interfaced with an iPad Air, changing the way medical devices are used. Our full-featured iPad app allows a rich, precise and connected experience.”


“PhotoMath is the world’s first camera calculator app. Point your phone camera toward a math expression and get an instant solution with detailed solving steps. The company behind PhotoMath is MicroBlink, with its mobile vision and real-time text-recognition technology.”

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iOS 8.1 With Apple Pay Now Available, Here’s What Else It Brings To Your iPhone And iPad


Apple’s iOS 8.1 arrives today, and it brings with it some impressive new abilities. First and foremost, at least in terms of its long-term impact, is probably the introduction of Apple Pay, the new mobile payment solution built into iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. But 8.1 also offers the ability to send/receive texts and phone calls from your phone on your Mac, the return of “Camera Roll,” the public beta of iCloud Library and more.

Apple’s first major update for iOS 8 is a mix of features that didn’t quite make the launch of the original software, and things that the company is adding based on user feedback, like the return of Camera Roll. The ability to make and receive calls on your Mac, as well as “green bubble” (i.e. non-iMessage) SMS, was something first announced at WWDC in June, but required OS X Yosemite to run, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t arrive until after the launch of Apple’s new desktop update last week – still, this too likely needed a little more time in the oven, why is why it didn’t launch baked into iOS 8 in September.

Having used iOS 8.1 briefly before its release, I can say that on the iPhone it’s a big improvement, thanks in large part to the communications sharing features it brings between desktop and mobile. The ability to make and receive calls at your desk, and to get texts from your friends even if they’re not using Apple devices, is a great boon, provided you don’t have too noisy a phone. If you receive a heavy volume of texts and calls, only some of which are actually all that important, you might find the symphony of pings a bit much, but any texts/calls inbound to me are generally few and far between, as well as things I need to genuinely pay attention to.

Bringing Camera Roll back does eliminate some confusion in iOS 8.1 device media management, though I must confess I was never left all that confused by its absence in the first place. As for Apple Pay, while it seems like the feature launch in iOS 8.1 with the most long-term potential, initially it’s going to be limited by retail availability, and also the fact that it’s U.S.-locked – a fact which means I won’t have a chance to trial it in a real-world situation for the time begin. In staged demos with live terminals, however, it performs very well.

iOS 8.1 is available for your device as an over-the-air update, which you can find by going to Settings General Software Update; you can also plug your phone or tablet into your computer and update via iTunes, which might be preferable if you’re still on an OS version earlier than 8.0, since the size requirements for over-the-air are significant. To use the new Continuity features with your Mac, you’ll have to download and install OS X 10.10 from the Mac App Store, which is a free update.

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InstantAPI Lets You Build An API In An Instant


“In the world of cloud computing, APIs are the new currency,” Microsoft’s VP of its developer division S. “Soma” Somasegar told me last week. But if that’s true, then how can you best create an API for your services? There are a number of API management services on the market — and some of them sold for a lot of money recently — but you won’t find all that many API creation tools out there. That’s the niche InstantAPI, which is launching at TechCrunch Disrupt Europe today, is going after. With InstantAPI, developers can create an API for their services and publish them in minutes.

As InstantAPI co-founder and CEO Scott Ling told me last week, he had been thinking about a service like this for a while and first started working on what would later become InstantAPI in early 2013. The team then canned the idea for working on a quantified-self startup for a bit, but after this “stupid diversion,” as Ling called it, the team went back to working on InstantAPI. Since it first announced its existence a few months ago, the company signed up about 17,000 developers who are now waiting for access to the platform.

With InstantAPI, any developer who knows how to access a database can also create an API. The service currently supports MongoDB, MySQL and Cloudyn, but support for a wider variety of technologies is in the works, and Postgres support should launch in the coming weeks, for example. To get started, a developer simply has to create an account (there is one account per API, not user) and configure access to the backend service. InstantAPI also distinguishes between data APIs and service silos, i.e. APIs that only access databases and those that offer other features (think Facebook’s APIs). Once the system has access to the backend, the developer simply has to map the data that is supposed to be exposed over the API to the REST API by writing standard database queries. In the background, InstantAPI will even write a draft of the API documentation, and once you hit the publish button, the API is live.

Once everything is up and running, InstantAPI will quietly monitor your API’s health — and that of your backend databases or services — and alert you when it looks like something has gone wrong. Over time, as more developers sign up for the service, this could also allow the company to provide other vendors with interesting data about their services. Overall, however, InstantAPI doesn’t want to get too deeply into the API management business. As Ling told me, the idea is to offer all of the essential features to create and run an API (stats, user management, caching, security, etc.), so there is some overlap there with API management services like Mashery anyway, but the focus for the time being is going to be on API creation.

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The company has a pretty straightforward business model. It offes a very limited freemium/trial plan that allows for only 200 API calls per day. At best, that’s good enough for a quick test of the service and InstantAPI will likely kick users who don’t convert to a paid plan off its service after a while.

Paid plans with the ability to host private APIs start at $50 year for hosting on InstantAPIs shared platform (which runs in Softlayer’s data centers for the time being) and the business package for enterprise users who want to run the service on dedicated servers (or on their own metal) starts at $250 a month. That’s a pretty big gap between the two paid plans, but Ling tells me that the team is seeing quite a bit of demand for the pricier plan as enterprise start to realize how much money they can save using InstantAPI versus building their own APIs from scratch. The company argues that it can save a company up to $10,000 per API per year.

Ling hopes to get 10,000 APIs onto its platform as quickly as possible — and then get to 100,000 soon. The reason for this is that the team also looks at InstantAPI as an API discovery platform. And there more APIs there are, the more interesting that service becomes. What exactly that will look like remains to be seen, but as Ling noted, “once you have lots of apps on the platform, the marketplace changes.”

InstantAPI was founded by Ling (CEO), Sunil Kumar (CTO), Jay Reed (COO), Mimi Ling (CFO) and Lukas Druks. The company is mostly self-funded, though it did raise some money when it participated in the Tech Wildcatters accelerator earlier this year.

Disrupt QA

How do you respond to engineers who think they can build this themselves.

Building an API isn’t that hard for an engineer, but when it comes to scaling it and doing more complex integrations, it can take a long time. With us, they can be up in five minutes.

Can you talk more about the companies that have signed up.

We were surprised by how many enterprises approached us. Because of this, we are now hiring enterprise sales people. When it comes to the enterprise, barriers to acceptance and how you sell changes radically.

Can you talk more about the team?

We have two technical people. A product manager, our CPA Mimi and people who help us with design, etc.

Who are your competitors? Mashape?

Mashery, Layer 7, etc. But we don’t do API management beyond what we have to do.

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