How to BUST the “App of the Year”

How Important is to Plan Ahead? Ask the “App of the Year”

By now you’ve probably heard of a little app called “HQ”, and if you haven’t, you should probably look it up. HQ is a world of fun, it’s a digitally innovative take on the gameshow concept but capitalizing on functions relevant to mobile. It’s an app where you can play a live hosted trivia game, twice per day and win cash prizes. Essentially, it’s what the TV industry has been after for many, many years: An effective interactive piece of content. By creating an environment where HQ’s Trivia allows group participation and competition, HQ’s growth has skyrocketed. From awarding it’s 5000 early adopters a $200 game-winning prize to the now largest prize of $18k being awarded to an active 500k+ user base. Those are numbers most TV shows can only dream of nowadays – not to speak of the fact that they’ve nailed appointment viewing. With the wealth of data that can be collected from anonymized application usage, even with differential privacy on iOS, this show is a game changer in the world of entertainment.

HQ was developed by some of the creators of another well know innovation that spawned off one of the biggest trends in tech “Vine”. Unfortunately, Vine failed to monetize and retain it’s influencers which alas, led to it’s demise. Although that was more Twitter’s fault than anyone else.

With its meteoric rise, HQ has started a trend in interactive show apps. The issue here is one that is common to innovative startups. The focus seems to have been on the concept to the detriment of much-needed planning and testing. This has resulted in an inability to handle the impressive user growth curve of HQ. Although they have been quick to adapt, their speed is not fast enough for the unforgiving Millennial.  The slew of issues, which have led to shows cancelled mid-play and cancelled at the scheduled time of play, have opened the door to clones. App clones are basically blatant copies of the concept that can quickly eat into an innovation’s market share and user base. If the right conditions are in place and the innovator fails to plan appropriately before and during its meteoric rise, chaos ensues. In the case of HQ, this seems to be slowing its momentum. There’s even word now that Facebook, which it would seem has no shame in copying the functions of popular ideas and integrating them into their environment (See SnapChat stories), is in the process of launching it’s own clone.

Clones can quickly stifle any innovative app by divesting it’s audience into smaller groups which prefer one experience over another and thus reduce the amount of interest and interaction that drive meteoric rises through word-of-mouth. There are many ways in which a clone can eat into the market of an innovator or competitor. Some are more blatant and abrupt, as was the case when Twitter bought Periscope and cut off Meerkat’s access to it’s API (basically condemning it to death). Others however are self inflicted, as in the case of HQ. Infrastructure planning is not novel; its lack is what brought down Friendster in the era of mySpace (which to the Millennial means nothing because it was a long, long time ago). What’s even worse is that given the advances in technology since then, the amount of out-of-the-box services provided by the likes of Amazon through AWS and Google, it’s not simply a matter of time and delays; but improper planning.

Startups have to get smarter, especially if they think they have something innovative on hand that can really change the landscape. The two main things that can help these startups alleviate any challenge during their growth period are planning and awareness. Planning we’ve already established the ‘why’ but by awareness we mean that Facebook is not the only one that can copy an idea. Once you have the lead as the innovator and you are presented with a clone that does something better, then you need to adapt and potentially pivot quickly to stay ahead. That is what iteration is all about. Drop that sprint and adapt. Of course, you’ll only be able to do that if you’re not using precious resources to constant fix issues you missed in planning.

That’s why for us, at Wicked, when we mentor and work with startups, we reinforce the need for proper infrastructure planning. There’s nothing worse than having something brilliant and useful and being responsible for the demise of your own success…while others profit from it. Be smart: plan, learn, adapt, iterate and innovate.