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More mobile business apps have an industry focus. Here’s why.

Courtesy of DoximityCourtesy of Doximity
Courtesy of Doximity

Most mobile app popularity lists are heavy on games or consumer-centric offerings. Take heart: more funding is chasing titles and software solving business problems.

The number of companies focused on mobile enterprise technology expanded by 20% last year to 313, according to annual view on mobile enterprise tech trends published Tuesday by Emergence Capital. Many of the app-centric ventures are focused on very specific business sectors.

For example, approximately three dozen mobile startups boasting a prescription for healthcare have raised a collective $300 million. The funding harvest for 10 serving the needs of restaurants: $140 million. Another four retooling manufacturing processes have assembled $30 million in backing.

“There are almost as many industry-focused apps as there are horizontal apps,” said Kevin Spain, general partner with Emergence. Overall, his firm figures approximately one-third of mobile enterprise technology companies boast some sort of sector specialty.

Many of these startups see big money in serving “deskless” workers like nurses who spend their days visiting patients, construction crews who need to consult blueprints on-site, and repair technicians that make up vast maintenance or service teams.

So far, at least $855 million in funding has been dedicated to these sorts of companies. Examples include ServiceMax, which has garnered a total of $204 million for its field collaboration software; Doximity, a messaging service for physicians that has raised close to $82 million; and PlanGrid, a cloud service for sharing construction documents ($19.1 million). “This is an inherently mobile part of the economy, one that has been deprived at technology,” Spain said.

There’s also substantial money chasing mobile enterprise “enablers.” These are providers of technology that brings existing processes into the mobile world, such as payments companies like Stripe ($190 million for its latest round), analytics providers such as Mixpanel ($76.5 million), app “discovery” platform providers like Tapjoy ($51 million) or development tools such as Appcelerator ($78.1 million).

Another company that I’m watching closely: Capriza, which “modernizes” existing applications with simple mobile interfaces. The company’s latest technology establishes alerts based on specific triggers, such as when someone logs too many hours for a specific project or reaches a predetermined sales milestone.

There have already been quite a few acquisitions among the enablers. That’s likely to continue as more Fortune 500 concerns develop their own branded apps, often by consulting with external experts. One of the biggest examples, so far, is the July 2014 acquisition of analytics company Flurry by Yahoo. “A lot of large companies are deciding that it makes sense to build their applications mobile-first. … Many of these enablers will be picked up as a result,” Spain said.

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