PROVO — It takes a lot of moxie to launch a product into a market dominated by companies with names like Google, Apple and Microsoft.
But the CEO of Cake, a Utah company that has fundamentally rethought and redesigned an internet browser and optimised it for use on mobile devices, isn't even mildly intimidated by the competition.
"I think we have an opportunity to win because we're disruptive and they're fat and happy and addicted to their revenue model," said Kendall Hulet. "If you think about the way web browsers work, they really haven't evolved much since the ’90s."
Cake engaged its David-versus-the-Goliaths battle in January with the release of its Cake Browser and has already made inroads, albeit it small ones, on this very-occupied business space. In just five months the free app has been downloaded by nearly a quarter of a million users and, in the same time, has earned the highest browser rating among iOS (Apple product) users, according to Cake.
But the trek to topple the titans runs steeply uphill with the Big 3 browsers dominating nearly 90 percent of the market. A May 2018 report by data website Statista found Google (Chrome), Microsoft (Internet Explorer, Edge) and Apple (Safari) are used by approximately 60 percent, 19 percent and 9 percent of all users, respectively, to browse the internet. Nevertheless, Hulet and his team are counting on what they believe is an utter lack of evolution since the early days of the internet, and a failure by the behemoths to recognize and respond to the rising use of mobile devices as the premier tool used to engage the World Wide Web.
"If you take a screenshot of Google from 1999 and compare it to Google today, they look almost identical," Hulet said. "Almost 50 percent of the queries done today are done on a mobile device, and yet the browsers most in use are still just the desktop experience crammed on a phone and you have to scroll even further to get to the first organic result."
The Cake approach, Hulet explained, capitalizes on the gestures that have become commonplace for mobile device navigation — like the swipe, reverse-pinch and finger-scroll — combined with a fast, visuals-rich user experience that drops paid and promoted results out of the results. What's left is something that looks and feels much different, and fresher, than what most digital users have become accustomed to. And that, Hulet said, is how he believes Cake can lure users away from the big boys.
"A study done recently showed it takes 87 percent longer to get to the first organic result on a phone than a desktop, which is lame because that's where most people want to go in the first place," Hulet said. "What Cake does is bypasses all that and gives you what you're looking for, the first organic result, at the top.
"If you were designing a browser from scratch, optimized for how most people are doing their browsing now, you would do something like what we did, making it a swipe-able experience. You get that first result, and you swipe to get the next one, swipe to get that next one."
The idea, as reflected in ratings and reviews for the Cake browser, seems to be hitting the mark.
Jasen Busselberg is a student at Utah Valley University's Woodbury School of Business. In a statement, Busselberg said he began using the Cake browser ahead of its public release early this year and has been a fan from the outset.
"I have been fortunate enough to be a Cake user since the early stages of beta testing," Busselberg said. "I didn't try out Cake because of any complaints I had about my previous browser, Safari, but rather I just wanted to see what it had to offer. I am so happy that I did. Cake changed the way I use the internet on my iPhone for the better."
Busselberg said he's particularly keen in how much faster he can get to the content he's looking for when using Cake.
"The main thing that I use my web browser for is to stay up-to-date on the news and on sports," Busselberg said. "Cake offers amazing features that allow me to consume information by swiping through the result, rather than constantly hitting the back button and clicking on a new story."
Cake appears to be winning huge points with users both for its ease of use and quick response times. Hulet said targeting, and solving, issues people have with older browser systems in Cake was helped along by lots of work gathering information from focus and user groups.
"When we asked people what their favorite apps were, browsers didn't even register," Hulet said.
Cake's browser is registering, however, on the radars of investors who believe the disruptive approach to rethinking the realm of browsing is on an arc to success.
The company has so far raised around $5 million in funding, with about $2.75 million coming in the form of SAFE deals (simple agreements for future equity) and another $2.25 million from a seed round led by Provo-based Peak Ventures.
Peak managing partner Sid Krommenhoek said Cake is situating itself to take a bite out of a market that generates billions of dollars every year.
"When you stop to think about it, it's hard to believe how much the browser has not changed in the past two decades," Krommenhoek said. "Our smartphones and desktop computers have come so far, but you wouldn't know it by looking at mobile browsers like Safari and Chrome — and those are the heavyweights. This lack of progress has given Cake a massive opportunity to steal market share. They've created the first swipe-able mobile browser, and people love it."
Hulet believes Cake can, and will, earn fans by continuing to focus on creating the best, and most fun, user experience in the browser universe — an approach that mirrors in some respects how messaging software developer Slack was able to upend another well-occupied digital market space.
"We can have an attitude and be playful and cool," Hulet said. "Slack isn't doing anything that revolutionary. It's messaging, but they did a better UX (user experience) and they branded it well.3 comments on this story
"We have the same opportunity to build a better UX and build a brand around that."
And, if Cake can produce more customers like Busselberg, the company may have a fighting chance against the digital giants.
"(Cake) just makes me feel like all the information in the world is at my fingertips, which I had never truly felt with Safari," Busselberg said. "If you choose to use the Cake browser, you will never regret it."
Cake is available to download for free at all major app sites.