Kiip Puts Down $100K for Better Designs from Indie Developers

By Devon Glenn 

You know a great interface when you see it: the “like” button on Facebook or the image boards on Pinterest. These are the designs that stick in our minds and change the way we interact not only with technology, but with each other.

Mobile rewards platform Kiip has announced its second annual Build Fund to give independent mobile developers the tools they’ll need to build and market their apps and reward their users. Ten winners will receive $10,000 in cash, $5,000 in services, and mentorship from industry veterans at Facebook, Path, and other companies.

For Kiip founder Brian Wong, it’s the special details, like the fan menu on Path and the swiping motion on the to-do list app Clear, that get him excited about what’s next for mobile, he told us.

Wong said he made “creation” the theme of the contest to put the focus back on the independent developer and inspire innovation in design. Larger companies that dominate the landscape are beholden to investors and can become too focused on revenue to have the luxury of designing for design’s sake, he said.

Last year’s contest got such an overwhelming response from the community that this year, Kiip decided to split the prize among 10 winners instead of 20 to be able to do the most good for the right amount of people.

In addition to the cash prize, the winning developers will also get a credit for services from Amazon Web Services, Localytics, Parse, Crittercism, and Urban Airship. These services cover things like analytics, crash reporting, push notifications, and backend infrastructure.

An all-star list of mentors includes Clear and MacHeist creator Phill Ryu, Jon Jordan of Pocket Gamer, Phil Black and Adam D’Augelli of True Ventures, Lee Linden of Facebook Gifts (previously of Tapjoy and Karma), Lars Leckie of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Kevin Talbot of Relay Ventures, Mario Wynands of PikPok Games, Scott Kveton of Urban Airship, Matt Van Horn of Path, Matt Hunter of Jawbone, Derek van Vliet of Get Set Games, Markus Kassulke of HandyGames, and Robby Kwok of Crittercism.

True Ventures, Hummer Vinblad, and Relay Ventures are also investors in Kiip, which has raised $15.3 million to date.

In addition, Pepsi’s Propel brand has agreed to sponsor three apps in a special category for fitness and health and is the first and only brand to participate in the program.

Kiip has worked with Propel on rewarding running and other fitness app users with bottles of water and other perks that mobile users could redeem in stores after they completed a goal or logged a certain number of miles. Competition winners will be able to use these rewards on their own apps through Kiip’s platform.

Finally, the winners will all meet up at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) 2013 for a party headlined by the LA Riots.

But for Wong and the rest of the community, innovation is its own reward.