The 3 product principles Uber, Instagram, and Robinhood used to build a killer app

One of the things that we have been preaching to our clients here at Chop Dawg for years is that in order to build a great, success, and scalable application, you need to be able to accomplish one of the big three keys to success.

What are those keys?

They’re fairly simple and when you think about it, they are common sense.

1) Your application must save your users significantly more money than any of your competitors
2) Your application must save your users significantly more time in their day-to-day lives than any of your competitors
3) Your application must be significantly more entertaining than any of your competitors

That is it.

Nothing fancy, tricky or overly complex about it.

You want that next big idea, that next unicorn, have an idea that accomplishes one of these three keys.

Except… it is never that simple, is it?

We’ve written about it before, the common phenomenon that is asking for Uber for X.

That is, an iteration of an already existing idea.

Just a slight variation.

Something that is perhaps better than what is out there, but the reality is, even that slight increase of value would never convince a user to jump ship once they have already invested in another infrastructure, another platform.

In order to have an application that becomes the next Uber, Airbnb, Instagram, Robinhood,Reddit, Facebook, and the list can keep going on and on, you need to solve one of those keys.

Let’s break it down.

The First Key: Save them Money

Robinhood is the perfect example, is it not?

Robinhood has completely flipped the investing marketplace, for the better.

Instead of charging a transaction for every time you wish to sell or buy a share in a company, it is now free.

Hear Robin Hood’s founding story from Vladimir Tenev, cofounder

If you’re an active trader, that is huge. Imagine how much money you’re saving in a given year, hell, in a given lifetime!

How have they accomplished this? How have they terrified major brands, such as TD?

They realize you can take someone’s money, require them to deposit it into their application, and profit off of the interest of storing that money.

They didn’t need transaction fees.

That is called disruption.

They are saving their users more money than anyone else in their marketplace.

In this situation, they took a model depending on transaction fees from their customers, and instead, with no changes to their customers except for storing money directly with their app vs. their bank account, made their application free for all.

Starting to see how this wasn’t just an iteration of an existing application?

Let’s keep going.

The Second Key: Make it Faster

This one should be a no-brainer.

Almost everyone now uses Uber.

Uber has changed the entire mobile landscape forever, as being one of the first major success stories to not only use a mobile app to change the way we do things but using a real, physical infrastructure as well.

If it wasn’t for Uber, we may still be wondering how mobile will disrupt the real-world outside of convenience.

Uber saved users an incredible amount of time.

No more having to wait outside, trying to hail a cab. No more sitting outside, waiting what could be 15min-30min to grab a ride to where you need to go. No more walking to your car, turning it on, driving, finding parking, paying for parking.

Uber made it easy and most importantly of all, quicker than ever before.

Now, some of you will be telling me, Uber also made it more affordable.

You’re right, they are on Key #1 now… but remember, they only offered black cars in the beginning. They were much more expensive early on. It’s only been in recent years they have focused on that.

They had their start focusing on Key #2.

The Third Key: Make it More Fun

Entertainment is perhaps the hardest of the keys to crack, but can pay the same amount of dividends when done successfully.

A great example of this is with Instagram. Up until this application came to the market, most photography websites were cluttered or stuck on the web. The biggest one around at the time was Flickr, who if they went mobile, perhaps would have disrupted before Instagram arrived. They didn’t. You then had the cluttered giants at the time, such as Photobucket.

I’m sure a lot of you forgot that name, eh?

Instagram came out with an easy to use user experience, which more importantly was fun.

Instagram Cofounder Mike Kreiger on How they Beat Photobucket & Flickr

Easy to search.

Easy to comment.

Easy to like.

Fun and engaging to edit photographs.

Simplicity to focus on its core. Uploading, sharing and interacting with photographs (and years later, video) became entertaining. Much more entertaining than it’s predecessors and much more intuitive too.

Notice, you can begin crossing into multiple keys as you grow. Robinhood could be argued to use the first and third key to success. Uber could be in theory, all three. Instagram is quickly becoming two and three. Facebook, well, they have already been all three for a while, haven’t they?

Providing one of the three keys isn’t the issue. It’s figuring out a problem to solve, a marketplace to disrupt, an experience to be made. Ideas are worthless. Iterations of existing ideas are meaningless. Disrupting through execution is worthwhile.

Which one of the keys above do you plan to use when you disrupt your industry of choice? That’s the real question you need to be asking yourself, daily.


Are you or your company looking for a talented development/design team to help build + scale your app? Email me personally at Joshua@ChopDawg.com for a free consultation!
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