Exploring the Best Business Apps with VC Stacey Bishop

Recently, the San Francisco-based venture firm Scale Venture Partners began working with the University Venture Fund — one of the largest student-run funds in the country — to figure out which mobile business productivity apps are the most popular and why.

The teams analyzed 12 million data points, including which apps lingered longest as most popular over a six-month period, what the average app costs, and how the iPad is influencing app adoption. In the end, they made a number of fun, interesting discoveries.

The most successful apps, for example, typically launch on the first Thursday of the month. Stacey Bishop, a Scale managing director who led the research project on behalf of her firm, isn’t sure why but says “our theory” is that many app makers aim to release their product at the beginning of the month and don’t quite make it.

Another finding? Most popular business apps cost $5.29 on average. (Fully 66 percent are free and are in some cases extensions of desktop applications. But people are also willing to pay richly for some apps. The most expensive popular iPad app, for example, Stage Write, used by stage managers and play directors and released in March of this year, costs $199 to download.)

Bishop also tells me that of the applications to last at least six months in the top 100 list, 73 percent were introduced by developers in North America, 12 percent came out of Asia and 15 percent came from Europe. (For what it’s worth, Igor Zhadanov, the 27-year-old  CEO of Ukraine-based Readdle, had among the most apps in the top 100 on any given day during the study — and 27 apps in the top 400. Among the business tools that Readdle produces for the iPhone and iPad are PDF Expert, Printer Pro, and Scanner Pro.)

Scale — which has backed the online data storage company Box.net and the electronic signature company DocuSign, both of which have mobile and premium mobile apps – hasn’t yet funded anyone solely for their business productivity apps.  But it’s around the corner, says Bishop, who has initiated some home-run, enterprise-related investments for Scale, including Omniture (which went public in 2006), ExactTarget (which went public in March), and Virtrue (which was acquired by Oracle for $300 million in May).

“I’d say I’m mostly looking in the productivity space right now,” she says.

Certainly, if the firm starts making related bets soon, the public market underscores why. Though the shares of many consumer Web companies continue to plunge, enterprise productivity companies like ServiceNow, Workday, and Splunk have not only held highly successful IPOs but their valuations remain strong because of their growth rates and the perceived market share opportunities that await them.

Indeed, the companies’ strong performances are slowly but surely driving up prices in the private market. But that’s seemingly okay with Bishop. “Enterprise valuations have definitely risen,” she notes. “We’re seeing some of these super-high-growth companies trading at 7 to 8 times forward revenue multiples, and that’s hefty [from an historical perspective]. But the fundamentals are good. It’s why you’re seeing private companies in some cases getting the valuations they want.”

For more on the best business apps right now, check out the infographic here, care of Scale and the University Venture Fund.

Image: Courtesy of Shutterstock.

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