Thursday, Sep. 09, 2010

Ilja Laurs

GetJar, based in San Mateo, Calif., offers more than 70,000 free downloadable mobile applications to cell-phone users of all stripes. It has quickly become the second largest mobile application storefront, behind only Apple's iTunes mobile-app store in terms of downloads. "You don't even have to know the name of your phone," says Ilja Laurs, the 34-year-old brain behind the site. GetJar detects the phone, model and platform of your phone and then offers the apps that are compatible. (Owners of iPhones and other closed platforms are out of luck, though.)

An economist by education and a mobile-games programmer by trade, Laurs conceived the idea for GetJar while developing games from his studio apartment in Vilnius, Lithuania. "Consumers spend much more time with mobile phones than their desktops, so it was easy to see that mobile as an industry would take off and be really big," he says. With less than $10,000 in his pocket and the help of his cousin and three friends, he launched a beta site in 2005. There, developers could try out their latest mobile apps on a variety of handsets. But Laurs soon discovered an avalanche of interest from developers wanting to distribute apps to consumers as well. He opened the doors to consumers, and the site exploded. "It was a crazy time. Traffic would double every two weeks until the end of the year without any marketing. It was purely viral promotion," he says. About 300,000 developers in 200 nations have signed up to submit apps; another 130,000 have registered as beta testers. The site now offers 73,000 apps, can handle 2,500 kinds of phones and has seen 1.05 billion apps downloaded to date. Laurs expects to hit 100 million downloads a month before the end of the year.

by Janet Morrissey