Interview with the App Developers Alliance's President: Jake Ward

By Ryan Stevens
July 21, 2016

Deepak Chopra Clearbridge MobileClutch spoke with Jake Ward, the CEO of the App Developers Alliance, about mobile app development, perks of the alliance, and the current state of the app development and mobile app marketplace. 

Learn more about the App Developers Alliance at appdevelopersalliance.org.

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Please describe the App Developers Alliance and your role there.

The Application Developers Alliance is a global professional association representing developers everywhere. I co-founded the Alliance in 2012 and currently serve as President & CEO, working with our board of directors to determine what needs to done to best support the growth and vitality of the developer workforce, and oversee Alliance staff in the US and Europe as they implement that vision. The Alliance is currently working to support developers through government relations and advocacy, developer research, events, and professional development programs.

What kinds of companies are members of the Alliance?

The membership of the Alliance is extremely diverse. We have two types of membership for companies: startup membership: a free membership exclusively for early stage companies, and corporate membership: a multi-tiered paid membership for companies of all sizes. Our startup members include custom app developers, app publishers, consultants, and service providers (including Clutch) from all around the world. Our corporate members run from mid-sized app developers to the true giants of the industry, including Google and Ericsson, and increasingly, non-traditional tech companies like Ford and American Express.

What are the benefits of joining the Alliance, and in your experience, which of those benefits do app development agencies find most valuable?

The Alliance provides a variety of benefits that reflect the diversity of our members and our programming. We offer all of our members research reports on their peers in the developer community and trends in tech, up-to-the-minute alerts about new policies, regulations, and policy issues that impact developers, free attendance at our events around the world, and the opportunity to be a part of a global network that connects everyone from industry giants to mom and pop operations. Typically, app development agencies tend to be most interested in being a part of our network, which provides them with the opportunity to connect and learn from their peers and to sit at the same table (so to speak) as companies like Google, American Express, and Ford.

What is your view of the current state of the mobile marketplace? Are there any trends you think people should be paying more attention to?

The mobile app marketplace has reached a point where it's becoming mature. It’s gotten a lot more difficult to just develop an app, have it blow up, and make a fortune than it was a few years ago. You have to carefully strategize and invest to get established in the market on the consumer side of things. What we’re seeing as that happens is a lot of the growth in the market shifting to enterprise development. A lot of businesses that would never have considered having an internal app of any kind just a few years ago are investing in multiple apps to support their team. Another trend I’m tracking is the proliferation of devices beyond the smartphone supporting apps. As the user base for wearables, smart TVs, connected cars, and alternative platforms expands, the app development world is expanding beyond the phone.

Can you share some recent success stories from members of the Alliance?

Certainly, we’ve got an exciting group of companies on board as members and we’re always happy to talk about what they’re working on. We’ve had the opportunity to tell a couple of really interesting stories about our members in the past couple of months that show some of the great work being done in this industry. We recently did a profile of Bae, a startup out of Brooklyn that is trying to spread the word about the difficulties that minority founders can face when finding funding in the US. We also told the story of how AT&T is successfully re-skilling their workforce to face the challenges of the new, more connected world.

There are a number of trade groups representing sections of the tech industry. What makes the Alliance unique?

The key difference between the Alliance and a lot of tech groups is that we don’t represent devices; we represent people. Most groups are based around a type of device or company, but we represent developers everywhere as a profession. This means that we not only have a membership that stretches from individual developers and tiny startups to multinational giants— we also cut across a lot of different kinds of industries. Not only do we count Snapchat and Spotify among our members, but we also have Ford and American Express. I think that the unique thing about the Alliance is that we’re able to bridge some of these gaps. There aren’t a lot of organizations who can say that their board of directors includes one of the world’s largest credit card providers and a startup that developed a top-selling health and fitness app.

What’s on the horizon for App Developers Alliance, and what about the future of the Alliance are you most excited about personally?

Right now, we’re working on continuing to expanding the diversity of our membership, continually improving the level of service we provide our members, and working to help promote the growth and recognition of the developer workforce. I am particularly excited about our Developer Workforce Initiative. This project encompasses a number of activities in research, professional development, advocacy, and other Alliance projects designed to help grow the developer workforce, and define different developer skillsets, and identify areas where we need to grow the workforce to meet the demands of our 21st century economy.

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