Ina Fried

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Mobile Start-Up Hopes to Build a Business That Lasts on Apps That Don’t

While many app developers are focused on creating apps that people want to keep on their phone, Joshua Merrill is more interested in the kind that can be used for a time and then thrown away.

Merrill is the founder of a start-up called TapCanvas, which focuses on helping people easily create apps that can live on a smartphone for just a short time, like for a conference or other time-limited event.

“With TapCanvas, we’re creating a category of apps that hasn’t existed before,” Merrill said in an interview.

Merrill said TapCanvas offers several advantages. Its HTML5-based creations work on almost any mobile device, can be created without any coding knowledge, and are far cheaper than alternatives.

“It will be like $20 instead of hundreds or thousands,” Merrill said, adding that there will be a variety of pricing options.

Its apps aren’t actually native code, but rather HTML5 Web sites that closely mimic the behavior of an app.

Merrill, whose previously worked at mobile ticketing company MogoTix, said he started to realize there was a need for apps that didn’t require the time and expense associated with being submitted to various app stores for approval.

“I realized that a ticket on a cellphone could be a throwaway app — only useful for a finite period of time,” Merrill said.

While its initial efforts have centered around creating event apps, Merrill sees lots of niches that are well-suited to the TapCanvas approach. Merrill, who is in the process of selling the house where he and his boyfriend live, noted that his listing was delayed by four days because they were waiting for physical brochures to be printed.

“I would love to replace that,” Merrill said.

TapCanvas, currently a two-person outfit based in AOL’s Palo Alto offices, has raised $200,000 so far from K9 Ventures, 500 Startups, and a few angel investors.

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