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Many startups are cashing in big time on apps, are you one of them?

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In case you didn’t know, Australians are cutting a huge slice off the cake of the multi-billion dollar apps industry. From broadcast media to start-ups, the nation is taking advantage of the booming apps market to create more jobs and attract million-dollar businesses. Ka-ching!

The IBISWorld Survey shows that there are 364 apps companies in Australia creating apps in all areas including games, finance, books, education, health and maps. The industry employs 1,500 people, generates $295 million every year and has a 177 percent annual growth. Impressive huh?

What is the secret behind the growth of the app industry in Australia?

“It’s something that both companies and individuals can do. You don’t need a large development studio to be in the business. There isn’t a ‘typical’ apps entrepreneur – they come from different backgrounds, such as software development, marketing, design, investment and venture capital. Some are just very gifted kids,” said Dr Ben Goldsmith, a media researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

However, the industry isn’t just about designing and developing applications for mobile phones and tablets – companies have begun to specialise in areas such as mobile marketing, advertising, security, testing users’ experience and developing templates for others to build their own apps.

Take Westpac for the example, the bank currently has 70 people on their internal apps development team, which isn’t a huge part of their workforce of 36,000. However, they also subcontract a lot of work to outside firms in different stages of the development, including those that specialise in mobile security.

There are also services that nobody imagined we needed before apps became such an important part of our lives. For instance, Apple just bought an Australian developed search engine for apps called ‘Chomp’, and has incorporated the search service into their online store.

How is broadcast media in Australia using apps?

Broadcast media is boosting its chances of survival in the digital age by jumping into the growing apps industry. Traditional broadcast media are beginning to recognise that the apps industry isn’t competition, but a way of expanding their businesses.

For example, ‘ABC iview’ started as an internet service for people to watch ABC programs on their computers. But they have since developed an app so people can watch the programs on wireless devices, and they found out that more people watch the programs on mobile phones or tablets than on computers.

Foxtel has also expanded into the mobile space very quickly. Their ‘London 2012 Olympics’ app as well as their new ‘Foxtel Go’ app that allow subscribers to watch live programs on the move have met with great success.

Goldsmith observed, “Networks have developed ‘companion apps’ that prompt viewers to fill in surveys, answer questions or access extra content while the program is running. So creating apps that cater to the viewers’ needs isn’t just a way to survive – it also encourages conversations between consumers and companies.”

Why is Sydney the hub of the Australian app industry?

Sydney is emerging as the centre of the Australian industry with a really vibrant start-up culture. Around 200 of the 364 app companies in the country are in Sydney. The software company ‘Atlassian’, started by two Sydney friends in an apartment, now sells $100 million worth of software a year worldwide and is worth $1 billion.

Another Sydney based company Gruden has also expanded internationally and have helped build the app store for China Mobile. With the growth of the mobile and tablet market, the apps industry is a diverse and rapidly growing area.

Clearly, there’s immense potential for Australian companies and I’m optimistic that we’ll continue to rise up to the challenge.

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