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Photo-sharing app Lapse hits top of the App Store by forcing you to invite your friends

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Neglect invite-only social apps, Lapse is testing a brand new approach to amass its customers: It forces you to ask your mates as a way to get in. The reinvention of a social digital camera app first launched in 2021, Lapse is now king of the U.S. App Retailer after having jumped from No. 118 General earlier this month to achieve No. 1. The app affords the same expertise to different cellular apps that tried to recreate the disposable digital camera expertise, like Dispo and Later Cam, with some tweaks. However some say its new success has been achieved by ill-gotten means.

Development-hacking methods are frequent nowadays, with many apps counting on TikTok social movies to assist their app go viral, then climb the App Retailer charts. Others create demand by limiting entry to their app like Clubhouse as soon as did throughout its heyday or now the Twitter/X competitor Bluesky is doing, which noticed its invitations promoting for a whole bunch of {dollars} on eBay.

However Lapse is doing one thing totally different with its invitations. As an alternative of simply gating its app to solely these with an invitation, it’s really requiring customers to ask buddies as a way to begin utilizing its options.

Picture Credit: Lapse screenshot

This idea comes from co-founders and brothers Dan and Ben Silvertown, who mentioned they have been initially impressed to construct Lapse following an expertise that they had when touring utilizing a point-and-shoot digital camera to disconnect and unwind. They needed to deliver the same expertise to the cellular app market with an app that recreated that concept by permitting customers to take footage with delayed viewing and share them with a bunch of buddies.

Nonetheless, the model of Lapse that launched in 2021 is not any extra.

Dan tells TechCrunch the crew observed the app’s most avid customers had begun to make use of it as extra of a photograph journal somewhat than the disposable occasion digital camera they supposed. In order that they labored on a brand new model of Lapse over the previous yr and and a half that works to handle that want.

The app retains its disposable digital camera mimicry, the place snaps “develop” at random later within the day, however the focus is now on curating pictures into albums and creating person profiles that includes your month-to-month photograph dumps.

The corporate trialed the brand new model of the app utilizing TikTok advertisements throughout its stealth part after which launched it to the general public in June 2023. Dan claims that 100% of the app’s current development is natural. However we’d argue that depends upon your definition of the time period.

Picture Credit: Lapse screenshot

The app incorporates a slick onboarding expertise the place it presents a reasonably prolonged mini-movie with haptics to get you enthusiastic about its capabilities. It additionally verifies customers with a telephone quantity, asks for permission to your contacts and digital camera, after which forces you so as to add at the least 5 buddies earlier than you’re ready to make use of Lapse.

An informational pop-up within the app explains you have to ship out invitations as a result of Lapse solely works with buddies, and that your invitations will give your mates early entry.

Nonetheless, not everyone seems to be a fan of this format.

Explains Sheel Mohnot, a VC at Higher Tomorrow Ventures, this course of will ship a textual content message to your mates to obtain the app. “I felt soiled,” he wrote on X. “It obtained to the highest of the App Retailer on a pyramid scheme.”

He’s not alone with that criticism, as others have known as out Lapse’s onboarding as “fairly annoying to spam my buddies.”

Even Dan admits that Lapse’s onboarding is controversial.

“Our onboarding course of is divisive, there are just a few detractors but in addition many followers,” he says. “We’re prime of the charts as a result of Lapse is resonating with younger folks, who’re sharing hundreds of thousands of pictures per day in our app. They’re exhausted by present photo-sharing apps and Lapse is a means for them to dwell within the second and share recollections pressure-free,” Dan added.

Picture Credit: Lapse

The truth is the text-your-friends invite mode is an previous development hack and one that is still controversial. TechCrunch was writing about SMS invite spam seven years in the past when the then-culprit was one other photograph app known as Everalbum. The next yr, customers obtained performed once more by one other social app, Collect. These things is previous hat!

Extra just lately, one other photo-sharing app, Poparrazzi, hyped itself to No. 1 on the App Retailer in 2021 utilizing a mixture of development hacks, together with those who comprised person privateness by requiring full deal with e-book entry, then instantly matching your contacts’ telephone numbers to present customers after which having you mechanically observe them. As customers discovered themselves following exes that they had blocked, they weren’t comfortable.

Poparrazi shut down earlier this yr. 

The place Lapse differs is that it doesn’t spam your mates with out your consent, in contrast to some older apps. Once you faucet to “invite your mates” what you’re getting your self into, so to talk.

The system, for no matter it’s price, seems to be working within the close to time period. In response to knowledge from market intelligence agency data.ai, Lapse has near 1.2 million installs worldwide, with the U.S. accounting for 92% of these. The app has additionally climbed to No. 1 from its earlier General rank of No. 118 since September 10.

Lapse in 2021 introduced a mega-seed spherical of $11 million from traders together with Octopus Ventures, GV, Speedinvest, and people, together with an early Fb designer Soleio Cuervo, who was on the crew that constructed the “like” button. Speedinvest tells us the app has raised $12 million to this point and confirms the brand new model of the app is seeing unbelievable development “with out spending any advertising and marketing finances.”

However now that Lapse has acquired customers and a spotlight, it faces a a lot more durable take a look at — convincing its customers to remain and stay engaged. It stays to be seen if it might flip its hype right into a enterprise when others haven’t.



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