808STARTUP: ShakyPlanet

Apple and Google continue to fight it out over who has the bigger app store, with Apple claiming over 500,000 apps and Android lagging with only 320,000. Apple marketing seems to think that this “arms race” of app selection is a good thing for their consumers, but, really, there’s way too much choice.

Search for “solitare” on the Android Market and you’ll get over 1,000 results. Search for “project management” on iTunes and you’ll get over 100 results. This decade-old study showed how too much choice is actually demotivating, and it applies to technology as well. For app developers, unless you’re a VC darling or a viral sensation, your ability to sell in such a crowded marketplace becomes difficult, making traditional marketing so important to your success.

ShakyPlanet iPhone App
ShakyPlanet's "Island" snow globe eCollectible, with flowers in place of snow, from their iPhone app.

It’s refreshing to see, however, that there are still app developers who can find a niche, develop a creative product, and view the device itself as integral to the interaction. ShakyPlanet, whose founder and CEO resides in Honolulu, has staked a claim to the nascent digital collectibles market by building a world of collectible snow globes, termed “ShakyGlobes,” for your iPhone.

Digital Collectibles

How does this work? Well, think Beanie Babies. Wait…I’m dating myself, and showing that I’m not a collector…of anything.

“Collectors like the idea of ‘owning’ something,” says Michal-Anne Rogondino, founder and CEO of ShakyPlanet. “But digital items are easy to bootleg, making it difficult. The iPhone platform gave us an opportunity to create ‘own-able’ digital collectibles, which we call eCollectibles.”

With ShakyPlanet’s ShakyGlobes, they use the typical collectible hooks of limited editions, branded designs, and designs that can be retired. Even more, every collectible can be “flipped over” to show the description, artist, serial number, date collected, and more.

However, a smartphone provides additional, um, collectibility, with location-based services, a camera, and an accelerometer.

“Now we have eCollectibles where the collector has to be at a specific location, at a specific time, and only the first 25 people there can get it,” Rogondino says. “Add in QR Code scanning and the collector has to physically be at a specific point, making the eCollectibles very limited and very collectible.”

Rogondino, who also runs GUI design firm Rocket Communications, chose to build ShakyPlanet as a way to highlight her team’s software design skills. Currently, ShakyPlanet’s team consists of three full-time developer/designers and four part-timers.

Rethinking App Marketing

ShakyPlanet's iPhone App IconWith respect to marketing against 500,000 other apps, Rogondino understands that simply getting into the App Store isn’t going to help customers find your app. While that may have been a valid app marketing tactic a few years ago, it’s no longer effective.

“It’s like moving to Hollywood to become a movie star,” Rogondino says. “You can’t just show up and expect it to happen. But, on the other hand, no one is doing what we’re doing. Search iTunes for ‘eCollectibles’ and you get only one result: ShakyPlanet.”

Looking Forward

Rogondino kept most information close to her vest, choosing to remain stealthy about some of their next moves. She did talk about pending partnerships and ideas for creative uses of their collectible platform, but won’t be launching or announcing anything until well into 2012.

However, she did talk about the challenges of running a tech company from Hawaii, but sees their virtual structure—they are co-headquartered in Honolulu and San Francisco, plus have employees in other mainland cities—as a benefit to help overcome many of those issues.

Here’s the 808 on ShakyPlanet:

808STARTUP “ShakyPlanet is a free iPhone App where you can collect, own and share amazing eCollectibles”
STARTERS Michal-Anne Rogondino, Karen Kolonick, Calandra Cruickshank
LOCATION Co-HQ’s in Honolulu and San Francisco, plus a virtual team across several mainland cities
BUSINESS MODEL In-app sales of digital collectibles
COMPETITION Slim to none…
CONTACT Email: info@littlerickysoftware.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ShakyPlanet