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With DWNLD, online stars can build apps in moments

Kristin Cavallari
DWNLD launches $15-a-month service to build, host mobile apps. Early users include Hollywood stars, top blogs
Wish your website could have an app? DWNLD might give you that chance

What began as one fashion writer’s mission to build an app for her blog has morphed into an app-building tool that’s backed by $2 million in seed funding and being used by actress Kristin Cavallari, model Molly Sims, web magazine xoJane and about 200 others.

Unveiled Wednesday, DWNLD is the closest anyone has come yet to delivering something as simple for making a native mobile application as Wordpress has done for blogs. 

DWNLD allows users to import content from their websites and social media accounts and customize a layout to display that information in an app. When ready, DWNLD publishes the app to the Apple App Store. Much of the work can be done from an iPhone. The ability to create Android apps is forthcoming, DWNLD says. The initial plan is $15 a month.

Investors in the New York City start-up include the William Morris Endeavor talent agency, the Chernin Group and media industry veteran Gordon Crawford.

But it’s Fritz Lanman, an early investor in Pinterest and a former senior director at Microsoft Corp., who helped get DWNLD started. Or, at least, his wife Melissa did. 

After she created an app from scratch for her fashion blog, all of her friends also wanted an app, said Alexandra Keating, DWNLD’s chief executive.

Keating met Fritz Lanman while working on a deal at online media company Thrillist, she said during an interview on a recent visit to Santa Monica. She saw a need for an app maker because existing options such as Phonegap, AppMakr and Appy Pie lacked elegance or cost too much. And the Australian had experience in start-up culture, having developed and sold one of the largest crowd-funding websites in her homeland.

“Rather than have people try to build a custom app not knowing anything about coding or how much it should cost them, we try to do most of the thinking for them,” Keating said. “By giving this to anyone, I’m interested to see what kind of apps people create.”

Keating said she managed to pull together a long list of launch partners by using DWNLD to create apps for people ahead of meeting them.

“When I showed them their app, everyone said yes,” she said.

The Kitchy Kitchen, L.A. Taco and some YouTube stars are among early DWNLD users.

Chat with me on Twitter @peard33

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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