Appy Days: “Strategic” Telecom invests in NZ app development startup

Telecom Digital Ventures has made a strategic investment in startup application services business App La Carte, in a move that recognises the rapid growth in the use of mobile apps by customers, and to accelerate the company’s product development pipeline.

According to the telco giant, connecting to and engaging with customers through a mobile platform is now a vital part of many businesses’ service offerings.

Launched in November 2012 when the owners spotted a gap in the market for providing quality applications, App La Carte allows businesses to build a professional mobile app without the significant development costs associated with traditional builds.

“Businesses don’t need to be intimidated about developing an app,” says Rod Snodgrass, CEO, Telecom Digital Ventures.

“These days apps are like the front window for your shop or as important to your brand as an advertisement in the paper.

“It’s well known our business is refocusing away from the home phone line to the world of the mobile internet where apps play a key role in the communication process.

“It’s part of the reason we’re changing our name from Telecom to Spark, to reflect the new ways people are communicating across increasingly mobile platforms.

“Part of Telecom’s strategy has been to look for businesses to partner with where we can bring our telecommunications, marketing, networks and commercial expertise to the innovation and ingenuity of new startup companies.”

In 2013 Telecom Digital Ventures signaled its intent to invest in a number of companies to extend its traditional business – the first was a $5 million investment with Sir Ray Avery’s biometric technology company Vigil.

According to Snodgrass, Telecom Digital Ventures has made a modest investment in App La Carte for a minority 20 percent stake, with options to increase to 40 percent. The product also represents an additional product offering to Telecom’s SME and corporate customers.

Chair of App La Carte John Holt says the partnership with Telecom Digital Ventures is a huge opportunity to take the business to another level.

“App La Carte has the potential to do something special and revolutionise how businesses and organisations communicate with their customers through a mobile device,” he says.

“This is a software-as-a-service platform. Customers, who range from large corporations, plenty of SMEs and even non-profit and public sector organisations, can log in and create a unique looking mobile app without needing to code.

“App La Carte allows customers to register their app in both Apple and Android stores and have them verified in a much quicker timeframe. This is because App La Carte’s apps go through a standardised vetting process and meet the requirements of both app stores.”

The start-up has been in business for 18 months and already has 150 customers ranging from the Wendy’s national restaurant chain to local cafe loyalty schemes.

The company, which is based on Auckland’s North Shore and currently has 20 employees, has had interest from a number of global telecommunications companies, such as Telstra, Swisscom and KPN, who see potential in the model.

“Businesses are increasingly bombarded with marketing around “must have” technology for their customer’s needs – particularly around mobile,” Snodgrass adds.

“With Telecom’s investment and support, App La Carte provides a “one stop shop” for a business app that can immediately increase new and repeat sales and keep pace with the changing needs of the customer and their mobile technologies.

“It’s far from just a pretty way to show your business contact details and directions – a quality mobile app essential for reaching customers where they are now.

“App La Carte has a lot of scope to grow and develop, given the massive increase in smartphone use matched with how customers now connect with businesses.”

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