How do you build a billion dollar app?

“Do you have a billion dollar app idea?” our development team are fond of asking people (they’d quite like to build someone a billion dollar app, you see). Often, they’re met with blank faces. Received opinion seems to be that a successful app needs to be overloaded with complicated functionality, that it needs to be incredibly technical or solve some kind of mind-bending problem. In short, people tend to think a billion dollar app is a bit beyond them. 

But let’s look at WhatsApp.

First launched in 2008, WhatsApp is essentially a clever implementation of texting, allowing people with caps on their messaging to communicate for free. It was developed by a team of 32 engineers. Its name is a terrible pun. It is not complicated by any stretch of the imagination, and yet it’s just been bought by Facebook for $19 billion.

So why has WhatsApp been so successful?

It’s simple. We learned to text well before 2008, so getting to grips with the app was incredibly simple. We already knew how do everything it asked us to, which meant there was no learning curve to put off nervous new smartphone owners.

It’s cross platform. WhatsApp’s developers managed to get it on every major platform quickly, meaning that when it started getting great word of mouth reviews, users didn’t have to twiddle their thumbs waiting for it to appear on their platform of choice. They just downloaded it, used it, and told everyone else about it. This has helped the app clock up over 400 million users, with an estimated 1 million signing up every day, and 70% of those users WhatsApp-ing each other on any given day. (For comparison look at BBM, which took several years and a series of highly publicised delays to get onto Android and iOS, and has lost ground as a result.)

It makes life easier. Another obvious reason for WhatsApp’s popularity is that it saves people money. Why shell out for a better phone contract when you can just message people for free? And while you’re at it, why commit the social sin of mass texting when you can simply message a group? It’s a very simple problem, solved simply. And it’s a $19 billion dollar app.

Got an app idea that could change your business? Give our team a call on 03332 409 306 or email For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook

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