Your mobile app’s quest for individual value

During a recent episode with Yobongo founder Caleb Elston, he said something so simple yet so profound that I have to share it here.

A little background on Caleb and Yobongo. It was a location-aware chat app that they launched at SXSW in 2011 during a very competitive time. Eventually most of the competition were acquired and incorporated into some of the largest digital companies on the planet – Facebook and Google included. This left Caleb and his team in a place where they needed to make a decision about their own future. They eventually decided to sell the company to Mixbook (full story here) and have been embedded as a team building new product for them ever since.

So what was the profound statement that Caleb shared? Here it is:

If you are building an app it MUST have individual value.

Huh? Think about it this way:

When you use apps like Instagram or Path or Foursquare or Facebook or my latest fascination Moves, what keeps you coming back? If they were completely disconnected from the network would you still use them daily? For the most part your answer will be yes. If no one else is using these apps they are still useful to you – that’s what individual value means.

Take the app Moves or the app I use as a sleep tracker called Sleep Cycle. These apps may be connected to the network but they provide incredible value to me every single day. Even if they were never connected to a network or socialized, I would still use them because they are providing me with incredible, daily value. If you’ve ever used a FitBit or similar device, you understand.

This statement is so profound – it is your “why would someone use this everyday” reason. If you can’t answer that, if you can’t come up with your non-connected individual value for your app, you aren’t done thinking the idea through. When Caleb looked back, a year after the Mixbook acquisition, he had the realization that there was no individual value to a Yobongo user, it needed the network (a BIG network) to work.

Answer this question now: Can 1 user find value in your app or do you need 1,000,000 users to succeed? You can focus on finding 1,000,000 users but to succeed you need to satisfy 1 at a time.

What apps do you use that fall into this category? Here are mine:

1. Moves
2. Sleep Cycle
3. GAIN Fitness
4. iCatcher for podcasts
5. Instagram

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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