Apps exist to make life better for consumers. But what about making life better for people who make apps?
The co-founders of Revvly, a Toronto-based startup, is trying to answer that question by trying to make life easier for programmers in a very specific slice of the app market: online ticketing and event bookings.
"A lot of people realized that there's a gap in the market for ticketing solutions," says Saadia Muzaffar, Revvly's co-founder, along with Jason Lavigne, its chief executive officer. However, she says, there was a lot of overlapping products and "noise" in the market. "My idea was, if there are a lot of people wanting to do that, who's helping them?"
The ticketing space is hot for a few reasons. For one thing, in this digital-media world, live events that put human bums in seats are still a reliable way for artists and promoters to make money. For another, the ticketing market is dominated by the leviathan TicketMaster, which has a commanding reach but remains ripe for disruption. Take PrepTickets.com, an online service that lets high schools sell tickets to their events, that's powered by Revvly's software under the hood.
To make their service work, PrepTickets had to do many of the same things that other ticketing sites do: handle the basics of customer-management, logins, the storage of personal information, and the handling of sensitive payment information, and in multiple currencies at that. It had to connect to payment services like PayPal, as well as work with traditional banks; both cumbersome processes.
It also had to make sure it didn't crash, which is a particular challenge for ticketing services. Ticketing needs the kind of flexible computing power that can only be found "in the cloud." Ideally, a popular event will sell out in less than five minutes. That means that, while most apps are built to handle a steady flow of users, ticketing apps somehow have to handle thousands and thousands of users at once, all busy clicking "refresh" over and over, without crashing – and then, when the rush is done, sit mostly idle. The only way to do this economically is through the giant data-processing centres that only a handful of companies – the likes of Amazon and Microsoft – make public.
That's where Revvly comes in. Since ticketing apps spin on similar fundamentals, Revvly is an industrial-strength toolkit (or, in the jargon, an API) that handles these behind-the-scenes staples, allowing programmers to focus on the features that differentiate their products, rather than re-programming the wheel.
"A lot of the ticketing solutions were built by front-end people, who'd say 'just build me something that sells tickets,'" says Ms. Muzaffar. "The result has been very mish-mash solutions that keep breaking."
Revvly's solution still requires programming, but not much: Instead of having to hire a developer to write thousands of lines of code to drum up common ticketing functions, they only need to write one to call upon Revvly's pre-written functions. This ranges from customer-management, to connecting to banks, to storing and accessing all that data on those "cloud" server farms.
Starting at $5,000 a month, a cost that recurs for as long as the resulting ticketing app is in service, it's not cheap. But Revvly is pitching the product as an economical replacement for hiring developers, and a significant time-saver for companies wanting to get to market. The company, which is preparing for an angel investment round, says that by building on Revvly, one client cut a 13-month development timeline down to just six weeks. It's a model it calls "platform as a service."
"Everyone is wanting to build an end solution from scratch," says Ms. Muzaffar. "Nobody's abstracting and saying, let's make this efficient."