July 8, 2019
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Ionic 2019 Business Update

Max Lynch


We’re halfway through 2019, and I thought it would be a good time to take a step back and share a bit about what is going on at Ionic the company.

We don’t often talk about the “business side” of Ionic, at least not in the way that we do our open source stuff. Part of that is because we don’t want to confuse people into thinking we’re becoming all-commercial and stopping our open source efforts, but a big part of that is because our commercial offerings are largely focused on bigger teams which make up a relatively small part of the community, and all of our business is fueled fundamentally by our open source work anyways.

Making money and open source are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we think that open source projects that are sustainable and have a real business model on top are one of the best project structures in the ecosystem. For Ionic the company, our open source software powers a huge chunk of our top of funnel, not to mention the core fabric of our product offering, meaning most of our customers started out by being users of our open source projects, and we are known best in the community for our open source work. For the community, that means our open source efforts are the most important thing that we do, so our interests are highly aligned around creating the best open source app development platform in the world.

We’ve always been driven at Ionic not solely by traditional business metrics, but by usage, adoption, and quality metrics first, with the belief that you have to get those right first in order to get the business metrics right. At the same time, investing in open source is difficult, expensive, and time consuming. We realized that if we could crack the nut on an innovative and strong business model on top, we would have our own nuclear reactor of sorts: a reliable supply of resources to build out the open source platform, with a natural and compelling hook to introduce commercial offerings to teams that need them on top.

So, I would like to talk today about that open source business model we’ve built, how it works, how it’s working today, and where we plan to take it from here.

The long tail dynamic

Ionic today has millions of developers in its community, and those developers created over 3.5M apps just last year alone.

However, there’s a natural long tail in this business where there are many students and indie developers building apps, kicking the tires, or just learning about the technology, and there are relatively fewer teams building enterprise apps (what we call Business-to-Employee, or B2E) or major consumer-facing apps. That’s just the shape of the app market in general.

One of our core beliefs when we started Ionic was that you have to embrace the long tail if you want to be truly competitive in the very top of the critical app development arena. Students and indie developers can quickly become your biggest, most vocal fans, and they often go on to work in larger companies or fast growing startups. We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for developers from across the industry sharing Ionic with friends, delivering meetup or conference talks, creating online content, and building awesome apps (if that’s you, thank you!).

So we treat the long tail as the most important part of what we do and we constantly remind ourselves of its importance, even when most of our commercial business is at the top of this market.

Software for teams

Ionic is a business, and not only do we need to make money but we want to make money. In order to do that, we sell valuable software to teams that need more than what they get out of the box with the open source Ionic Framework. The long-tail then helps surface teams that are doing critical app development and need more.

Today, the Ionic platform has a variety of enterprise-specific software available to teams building critical apps with Ionic. Some of these include:

  • Identity Vault – a highly secure, best-practices based local authentication and user security solution. This solution ties together a number of tricky native APIs into a really easy JavaScript API for authenticating users with biometrics (face/finger scanning), along with securely storing session tokens using the highest levels of encryption available natively.
  • Auth Connect – a generic oAuth/OpenID connector solution that works with a wide variety of authentication services like Auth0, AWS Cognito, and Azure Active Directory 2.0, to name a few.
  • Storage with Couchbase Lite – A powerful storage system powered by a partnership with Couchbase. Ionic’s Couchbase Lite solution uses the latest version of Couchbase Lite to provide a powerful API for embedded storage, including encryption at rest, full text search, and advanced queries.
  • A growing collection of supported native plugins for enterprise use cases.
  • Appflow – Ionic’s official Mobile DevOps service that enables teams to deploy updates to millions of users in real-time, and add repeatable, consistent native app builds to their CI process
  • Studio – an upcoming IDE for rapid app development, with features for visual development, device testing, app project management, and more. All based around best-practices for large scale Ionic app development

Software for entire organizations

While a big part of our enterprise business is selling software to app development teams, increasingly we are working across the entire organization to help bring a unified UI, or Design System, to every development team in the organization.

These teams have struggled in the past with building reusable components that match brand guidelines, cut down on code duplication, work with any technology or framework development teams choose to use, and can integrate easily with legacy products.

When we started building our latest version of Ionic, we created a tool called Stencil which solves this problem by generating framework agnostic, web-standards based UI components. These components work in any modern web browser and in any frontend framework developers choose to use. They can even be used in an existing CMS or web design product that does not use a framework at all.

Stencil also comes with some powerful features for teams building Design Systems, including documentation generation, UI testing, accessibility verification, and more. We call this product suite Stencil DS.

Stencil is a fairly new product for us, but already has grown into a massive part of our business. We recently brought on some major customers that are using Stencil to build and distribute a shared set of UI components to their whole company, and this market is just getting started.

Support and Advisory

While Ionic sells a variety of software and SaaS solutions to teams building critical apps, we also offer Support and, optionally, Advisory services for teams that need long term maintenance guarantees, issue prioritization, and access to our team of app development experts.

For Support, that means long-term support for Ionic Framework, our native solutions, and any other software we sell. Imagine getting support guarantees and issue prioritization for an open source framework you’re going to make a huge investment in…that’s pretty rare in this industry!

Additionally, add-on Advisory services take Support to the next level, enabling teams to get direct access to the experience and know-how behind Ionic. Want help with best practices? Need an in depth code review from someone who has seen hundreds of major enterprise apps? Have some questions about an upcoming new native API? We’re here to help and can save you tons of time!

But we don’t do support just like any other company, we take it to the next level, offering customers the ability to have a direct Slack channel with our team. No more playing the Ticket waiting game or preparing a perfect support ticket, just ping us in slack and we will be available to respond much more quickly.

We’re proud of our relentless focus on customer satisfaction. Every customer has access to a Customer Success team that becomes your advocate across the entire company. This team works tirelessly to make sure customer questions and issues are addressed, and truly fight for you.

Some examples of how we help

To better illustrate how we can help your team, let’s talk about some of the problems we’ve helped companies solve recently.

Recently, we’ve helped…

  • A major fast food chain build out in store kiosks for millions of customers and navigate moving from a bifurcated native app development approach to a single web-based one
  • A national transportation company deploy a customer-facing rider app to millions of riders
  • A major auto company provide branded versions of their app to franchisee’s with real-time updates all from a single code base
  • A top insurance company build out a fleet of internal B2E apps with tight integration with Salesforce and secure enterprise auth across their whole employee base
  • A state government agency create a custom web component library and centralized design system to help teams build apps more efficiently, using their frontend tools of choice

And a whole lot more! In fact, one of the biggest trends we’re seeing with the customers we work with is moving from a classic native app development approach, to one focused around building out one web-focused team to build and support all their apps, and we have a ton of experience to help teams navigate this transition.

Our customers can often fill in the gaps in their native app development experience by working with us, while reaping huge efficiency and cost savings as they move to a single web-based development team approach.

State of the Business

Ionic started selling enterprise software and solutions in earnest in 2018. Since then, we’ve added nearly 100 enterprise customers from a variety of industries, including financial services, healthcare, logistics, food service, retail, and manufacturing. Take a look at some of our flagship customers for an overview of what teams are building with Ionic and how we help.

Additionally, Ionic has a healthy self-service SaaS business for smaller teams or individual developers, with enterprise tiers for teams doing more. These services include our Appflow and Creator products, and soon our upcoming app development product Studio. Ionic has nearly 5,000 self-service customers today with thousands being added every month, boosted by recent product launches like Studio.

On top of this, Ionic is financially healthy. While Ionic is VC-backed and growing fast, we’re well on our way to profitability. This is pretty rare in the VC world, and we’re proud that Ionic is on the path towards financial sustainability without needing additional capital. One of the features teams look for in a technology is that it will stick around, and we realized the only way to do that is to make sure Ionic the company is in a strong financial position and is not just burning cash hoping to raise that next round of funding.

The Web Company

Ionic is increasingly becoming a company focused on commercializing web technology. In fact, our long term vision is to become “The Web Company,” as we help teams that are building serious apps be successful building and going to market on the web platform.

In many ways, Ionic truly has the broadest experience with practical applications of the web platform, given that we work across device and OS maker boundaries, and power apps running on embedded Web Views, native desktop apps, smart devices, and browsers.

For teams that want to deploy web apps that target native mobile, desktop, web, and beyond, Ionic is here to help and make sure you have a partner by your side if something ever goes wrong, with top-quality software enabling your app to access the full capabilities of the device and platform it runs on.

Our plan for 2019 and beyond is to do more of all of this and help teams be successful with the web platform, all while building groundbreaking new apps on top. We are adding more enterprise customers every day, and continuing our mission to build a world-class support and product team around large-scale app development with web technology.

We’d love to work with your company, too! Please reach out and we can help make sure your next critical app development project is a huge success. And thank you to every Ionic developer that has supported the project and the team! We wouldn’t be here without your passion and support.

Max Lynch