Should you sell your viral app?

Congratulations! Your app went viral. Your traffic is growing exponentially. All the tech blogs are writing about you. Now what?

We live in amazing time when an application built by one or two people can quickly reach hundreds of thousands of users with no marketing budget. The applications achieving viral growth tend to be very simple and launch without a monetization plan, in most cases a side project gone horribly right. On the other side of the spectrum are highly monetizable products that don’t go viral. The question that remains to be answered is whether you can have both a monetizable product and viral growth.  Can a viral app become a business, or is it best to cash out early?

The most notorious viral app was ChatRoulette, which quickly reached 400,000 unique users, but traffic levels are now below ¼ the peak and dropping. Andrey Ternovskiy, the 18-year-old founder, turned down several million dollar offers for investments and buyouts. Last week, he admitted some regrets to FastCompany:

“After I declined the offers, I realized it was very difficult to execute something myself. I think I would accept the offers now, because I’m much more educated about it.”

So it was interesting to see threewords.me, a more recent viral sensation, go up for sale last week. The site’s for sale page boasted 259,000 users, 5.1 million visits and 1.5 million entries. It was sold for an undisclosed amount less than a month after it’s first coverage on TechCrunch. Mark Bao, also 18-years-old, claimed he didn’t have time to focus on the site, but it’s likely he saw a fad and knew when to cash out.

Those in Seattle are well aware of Cubeduel, an app launched January 12th which lets you vote on who you’d rather work with. 50,000 votes were placed the first day. They had so much traffic that they were temporarily offline due to LinkedIn API limits. Regardless of downtime, Co-Founder Tony Wright claimed “hundreds of thousands” of ranked users only 3 days after launch. I’m eager to see what happens to Cubeduel. Will it be another fad? Will they monetize? Or will they choose to cash in?

It’s almost like we choose an app to go viral every week.  While writing this, an article is published on TechCrunch about what will probably be the next viral app.  Donothingfor2minutes.com received 20,000 unique visitors in 8 hours.  Alex Tew previously created the infamous milliondollarhomepage, an example of a viral product that made money; it took a whopping 4 months to generate over $1 million.  He has some good insights into how the speed of viral growth has improved due to social media.“Ideas spread even faster because of social media,” said Tew, “Whereas before, the distribution power lay more with the news media and blogs back in 2005. If I had done MDH today, I might have made $1m in 4 weeks rather than 4 months.”

Should viral apps be sold? Did threewords.me make the right decision? What do you think Cubeduel should do?

 

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