This Startup Could Literally Change The Way The Entire App Industry Works

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Parse is used by 20,000 mobile developers—and that number grows 40 percent monthly.

This phenomenal startup gives app developers a way to build an app that looks and feels great. Instead of wasting time time coding the technical necessities like Facebook connectivity and push notifications, Parse users can drag and drop the functions right into their apps.

Parse powers some of the most popular apps in the world, including Band of the Day — a runner-up for App of the Year on Apple’s App Store, in a batch of more than 400,000 other applications.

We caught up with Parse co-founder Tikhon Bernstam, a two-time graduate from Y Combinator, to find out what the company is doing. Here’s what we learned:

  • About 20,000 mobile developers are using Parse, and the number of developers grows 40 percent every month. That suggests Parse could easily add 8,000 developers by the end of the month.
  • Using Parse can lower your development time by 10x to 100x. Developers go from taking weeks to build an app to being able to build one and push it out in a matter of hours.
  • Even large companies are using Parse. Companies that outsource app development often tap into Parse for complicated functions, like push notifications.

Here’s a lightly-edited transcript of our conversation with Tikhon:

BUSINESS INSIDER: So, what’s your back story? How did you guys get started?

Tikhon Bernstam: I started in 2006, it’s now a top-100 site online if you look at the Quantcast International Networks. It’s a profitable company with 45 people, it’s still going strong. I left about a year ago because i wanted to get into mobile stuff. I saw just how difficult it was to build a mobile app: handling the server side, making it scale, all the things on the front end where if the users went offline, online, offline… what do you with that case. We saw all these Y Combinator companies solving the exact same problems over and over for every single app, so we decided to do it once, correctly, properly.

We make native app development fast and easy, We have about 20,000 developers on the platform, growing 40 percent month over month. One of our apps, Band of the Day, helps you find new music, it’s a gorgeous app that’s built on Parse that was second to Instagram as Apple’s app of the year. A lot of the companies doing mobile stuff, everything from Exec, Hipmunk, to Chime, are built on Parse. Then there’s a lot of apps that are obviously not Y Combinator — one of the top apps in the trivia section is built on Parse. There are a million more examples.

BI: How was Y Combinator the second time around?

TB: It was interesting, for me being a second-time founder through Y Combinator. It’s so much bigger this time. In the first batch it was 11 companies, now it’s 63 companies. I’m really impressed they managed to scale it up really well, with full-time and part-time partners. It was actually a really great experience. I would certainly do Y Combinator again a third time. Justin Kan holds the record for three times now. I’m hoping to beat his record one day but it might take time.

BI: So what does it mean that an application is “built on Parse?”

TB: We are the infrastructure for these tens of thousands of mobile applications. Parse provides everything from push notifications, which is very common, like alerting users that a TV show is on, all the way down to social integration with Facebook and Twitter. If your user logs in with a Facebook account one day and then Twitter the next, they should know it’s the same user. We make it easy to store your data in the cloud, like Hipmunk logging data on how long each hotel search takes. We can tell you who all your friends are, what all the restaurants are within 6 blocks of you. We can store files and photos, we can handle all that stuff, storing a ton of data.

You just download our library from our website and you drag and drop it into your project. If you use xCode to make an iOS app, you drag and drop and all of the sudden you have all this functionality available to you right away.  There are two ways to use Parse — you can build your entire app on top of Parse or use certain parts with your existing apps, like push notifications.

BI: How much does Parse actually help developers?

TB: I’ve had dozens of testimonials about how it’s sped up mobile development by 10 to 100 times. We’re knocking out all these hard problems for app developers, so they can focus on making a beautiful user interface and experience. We’re a big believer in native apps, let us focus on all these techie problems that are common to all mobile apps. We have folks who tell us that they finish entire apps in a single day, or in a few hours. We’ve never had an app go up and leave, they are really happy to not have to worry about servers falling over or scaling up or adding more servers or worrying about the middleware and the networking layer. We are the plumbing that’s holding all these apps together.

BI: What does your average user look like?

TB: It varies from larger enterprise customers, some of them have outsourced the entire app development. There’s a car company that outsources an entire app development process and they’re using Parse for all their apps. A common use case for us are these agencies that are pumping out an app a day or a week. We also have a lot of independent developers and we’re also supporting push notifications for larger apps for even larger companies. Even push notifications can be a very difficult problem. Folks want a lot of data and analytics over how effective it is.

BI: What’s the next step?

TB: We just released a JavaScript software development kit, that allows for HTML5 apps. If you want a web presence, suppose you have a great iOS app or a great web app and you want it to work on say PCs or on BlackBerries, you can use that. We are seeing a lot of apps expanding into that. We’re gonna support Windows 8 down the road, and we’re announcing some pretty big partnerships soon with large companies that you guys are familiar with.

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