App Transformation, or what I used to call App Refactoring until every single vendor told me they hated that term (I blamed Gartner), has seen a rough go of it lately. I wrote about this back in July when word of the demise of Reddo Mobility broke, and again in August when we caught wind of rough seas for HopTo and StarMobile. HopTo appears to have their doors open at the moment, but they haven’t had any forward momentum with their Mobile App eXperience platform since demoing a preview of their Citrix HDX-based Project Mobilis at Citrix Synergy.
StarMobile, on the other hand, was rumored to have closed their doors altogether. We kept hearing faint signs of life from time to time, and I even ran into CEO Todd Fryburger at VMworld where he hinted that the epitaph had not yet been written. Turns out he was right.
Today, PowWow Mobile is announcing their acquisition of StarMobile. Make no mistake, though, this is not two active companies merging–StarMobile has been dormant for quite a while. The acquisition nets PowWow the services of Fryburger while also keeping the patents that StarMobile acquired out of the hands of anyone that might try to compete with PowWow (albeit, in a space where it appears to be rather hard to gain traction). Additionally, it gives PowWow the potential to onboard some big name customers like Mondelez and AB InBev, who were two of StarMobile’s reference customers. (As Todd puts it: “Beer and Oreos don’t get delivered without StarMobile.”)
Product-wise, StarMobile had put a lot of work into the analytics and reporting engines, two things that are on PowWow’s roadmap but not yet fully implemented. The acquisition can help jump start that process. StarMobile Studio, while not as advanced as PowWow's SmartUX management platform, offers some features that can be ported over as well.
Call it what you want: acqui-hire, patent grab, fire sale. This deal means that existing StarMobile customers can continue using the products they took a chance on and invested in, rather than having to move on with a bad taste in their mouth (from Oreos and beer? Never!). It also means that PowWow gets visibility into new use cases that they can support. Plus, PowWow gets the wisdom that comes from StarMobile’s experiences, which means that they have the opportunity to grow their product while at the same time avoiding costly mistakes they may not have been aware of.
2017 is shaping up to be a make-or-break year for App Transformation. Capriza, who focuses solely on web apps, raised $23M back in July, and PowWow is trying to leverage a year of growth and momentum building into more funding as well. We’ll just have to see what happens. I still believe in App Transformation, so I’m hopeful it all works out.