This was originally a Twitter thread by app developer and viral marketing afficionado, Nikita Bier. We've shared it so many times to founders in our portfolio that we thought we'd post it here too.
Nikita Bier makes apps that grow really fast. He founded Gas app (acquired by Discord), the TBH app (acquired by Meta), and used to build new products at Facebook. Here’s what he learned from 10yrs launching successful B2C apps:
- A reproducible testing process is more valuable than any one idea. Innovate here first. All things equal, a team with more shots at bat will win against a team with an audacious vision.
- Most product ideas are Dead On Arrival because the conditions to derive value are impossible to orchestrate. Getting 7 adult friends to install an app on a reproducible basis is non-trivial. If you can figure out how to do that, that's a bigger idea than your original concept.
- Don't be embarrassed to have a narrow target audience. All big things grow from small wedges in the market.
- If you need to launch nationwide to test your product, it's not a good test. You will prematurely exhaust your audience's attention and limit future shots.
- If your product works in one community (like a high school), it should work in all of them. If your products fails in three communities, it should fail in all of them.
- Nothing slows down teams more than inconclusive tests. If you're walking away from tests & saying "maybe we needed more downloads" or "people needed more friends"—then your biggest priority should be fixing your testing tactics so you can decide to pivot with conviction.
- The people and content on an app always trump slick design & novel interactions. So focus more on getting network effects and solving the "cold start." You should be filtering your product ideas by whether you have a distribution channel and if they can grow.
- Excessively long sign up flows are fine if it leads to higher activation rates. Most people don't bail after installing something.
- Habit formation requires recurring organic exposure on other networks. Said another way: after people install your app, they need to see your content elsewhere to remind them that your app exists (e.g., Instagram photos on Facebook, TikTok videos on Instagram).
- If you can't use your app from the toilet or while distracted—like driving—your users will have few opportunities to form a habit. There is a graveyard of live video apps that didn't make it because of the attention they require.
- People download apps to solve core human needs (1) finding love, (2) making or saving money, and (3) play. People rarely take time out of their day for anything else.
- Never build an app to "meetup with friends."
- The only way to push through the noise of the App Store is to be unapologetic about marketing to your first users. If your first users are Berkeley students, go ahead & call the app Berkeley Memes. It's hard enough to get the flywheel spinning without being obnoxiously relevant.
- Great products take off by targeting a specific life inflection point, when the urgency to solve a problem is most acute.
– Facebook ➝ Starting at a school
– Linkedin ➝ Getting your 1st job
– Slack ➝ Starting a company
- Audiences that exhibit obsessive behavior tend to be the best beachhead for new products—such as gamers, teens, and hobbyists. You need this obsessive engagement at the beginning to get the flywheel spinning.
- The number of social products that took off among older audiences can be counted on 1 finger. Our habits become immutable as we exit our formative years.
- Don't worry about Facebook: incumbent advantage is frequently overstated. Well-crafted products that harness unique distribution channels can take the world by storm—sometimes in a matter of days. And if the product is retentive, investors will line up to bankroll your growth.
- Positive feedback loops are necessary to reach "escape velocity." One heuristic I've aimed for is for each app session to trigger 7 new people to open your app. The engagement loops on Tinder and Snapchat demonstrate how these loops can create explosive engagement.
- If your product offends someone, it's probably one version away from something special.
- If it's been 6 months and you still haven't tested on an external audience yet, you're probably in for a rude awakening.
- If your product requires a "partnership", run.
- Every blockbuster product is an outlier, breaks the rules and may have been the result of luck or timing. So all you can do is get to know your user better than anyone else and trust your instincts.
- Very few people have have seen the inflection point of product-market fit first hand. Even for the founders who have seen it, take their advice with caution—including all the suggestions in this list.