Interview with Robert Reich, Developers Cooperative

Last week, Boulder-based Openspace Store (, a new startup headed by Robert Reich, announced the launch of the Developer's Cooperative, a new service aimed at application developers and helping them to get better distribution and control over their applications. Robert is also well known for his work running the Boulder/Denver New Tech Meetup. We spoke with Robert to hear more about the Developer's Cooperative:

What's the idea behind the Developer's Cooperative?

Robert Reich: The core concept here came to us awhile back. There were two things which led up to this. The first, was if you look at app marketplace in general--looking broader than just iPhone or Android, but also to things like Twitter and Facebook--and the terms of use, you find that these businesses are putting out platform APIs, but then changing them almost at will. I saw that developers were having to constantly react to somewhat random changes. I thought, there is something wrong here. The second one, was about eight months ago I had an AT&T iPhone, which I think you know has had lots of issues. One day, I was not able to make a call, and I saw I'm done. I looked into switching to an Android phone, but doing the math, found I had $500 in music, $300 in applications, and another $200 in books, so that if I decided to switch to Android completely, they would be all gone. It was completely frustrating. I've called it the Apple tax. So, you've got that Apple tax, frustration in the developer community, and I thought that maybe we could create something more interesting to approach the problem. That's where the Developer's Cooperative came in, to figure out if we can empower developers to become part of the process.

How are you doing that?

Robert Reich: We launched the Developers Cooperative last week. It feeds what we call the Openspace Store. The idea is pretty simple, and breaks down into three things. One, is developers get a voice in the co-op, so they can login and make comments on the terms-of-service, software licenses, guidelines, and policies. Each quarter, we take the ten developers who have contributed the most users into the co-op, and put them on a panel, allowing them to vote on the policies of the store itself. It's really transparent, and allows the community to say--there are issues here--and have them vote on the solutions. That's number one. The second thing, is we looked at distribution, and the idea was that one user can help another user. You can contribute your users to the co-op, to try to solve the discovery problem.

Let me give you a concrete example. When a developer joins the Cooperative, there is no fee. Maybe they have a million users, and they can contribute those users into the co-op. The way they do that, is they can refer those users to the Openspace store. If on Android, you can recommend that to users through a plug-in to Android. If you're running a browser extension, you can recommend that through a browser extension. If a developer signs up to contribute users, we give them a referral code, which they can install along with their application. We love the long tail, and believe we can use the community of developers and users to make it easier for to find products. The last part, is there is a financial referral as well. When a developer contributes a user, if a user makes a purchase over the year, they will get five percent of whatever a user purchases, over and above their own product, where we provide 70 percent of their overall sale.

Both Apple and others have pretty big restrictions on what you can do with apps. How do you handle those issues?

Robert Reich: We deal with that through licensing. If something is sold through the store, we have a method of licensing the product.

You mention you have some funding for the company?

Robert Reich: We took funding at the end of September/October 2010. The lead is the Foundry Group, and David Cohen and Zelkova Ventures also participated. It's a competitive space, and the majority of those building app stores are larger and have raised a ton of money. GetJar has raised something like $42 million, Appia just raised another $10M. Building large infrastructure to support and open environment can be a costly figure. We think we've figured out how to do it by spending less money. We think the Developers Cooperative is an important way to bring developers into the process, rather than just being a distribution channel.