Olivia Moore on Key Trends Powering App Stores | Summary and Q&A

February 18, 2023
The a16z Podcast
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Olivia Moore on Key Trends Powering App Stores

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This video discusses the power of user-generated content in driving app acquisition and the success of certain app categories in 2022. It also explores the concept of anonymous social apps and the challenges and opportunities they present for founders.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did the app "Talking Ben the Dog" go viral and achieve top status?

Talking Ben the Dog, a kids' educational science game, gained popularity after a YouTuber with a massive following started making videos of himself debating serious topics with Ben. This content went viral and sparked a meme, prompting other users to create their own videos about it. Despite being released many years prior, the app shot up to number one in the app store.

Q: Can user-generated content be a powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing?

Absolutely. User-generated content has the potential to create massive acquisition moments for apps, especially when shared by influential users. In the case of "Talking Ben the Dog," the content created by the YouTuber and the subsequent videos made by others propelled the app to the top of the charts.

Q: What is an example of an app outside of the social category that saw traction in 2022?

Widgets, enabled by a change in iOS 16 that allowed users to place widgets on their home and lock screens, became a trend in 2022. Apps like Noteed, Locket Widget, and Live-in Widgetable capitalized on this feature and gained popularity. This represents a tech shift that enabled new consumer behavior.

Q: How did AI play a role in the success of certain apps in 2022?

The availability of AI models like Stable Diffusion for mobile apps led to the dominance of AI-related apps in Q3 and Q4 of 2022. These apps allowed users to create beautiful art or avatars without needing their own AI models. This tech shift contributed to their success.

Q: What are some evergreen app categories that consistently gain popularity?

Anonymous social apps have consistently gained popularity throughout the years. Examples include Honesty Box, Ask FM, and Form Spring. In 2022, Gas App, developed by Nikita and later sold to Discord, became a notable example of this category. The human emotions of wanting to be complemented or understood seem to drive the success of these apps.

Q: Is it worth emulating successful apps from the past to create new ones?

There is value in combing through previous successful apps and creating updated versions. Nikita, the founder of Gas App, copied what had worked before and created a similar app that produced similar success. Human emotions and fundamental needs remain consistent across generations, making these apps potentially effective and evergreen.

Q: Can anonymous social apps build lasting social networks?

The issue with anonymous social apps is that they can gain popularity quickly, but if there is no "Act 2" or further development beyond the initial concept, they can decline just as fast. These apps tend to lack the ability to store relationships or facilitate direct messaging. However, some anonymous social apps have managed to sustain their success.

Q: Are people cycling through apps more quickly these days?

There seems to be a trend of people cycling through apps more quickly. This raises questions about the longevity of apps and whether it is necessary to last long in the App Store ecosystem. However, with the right approach, it is still possible to create viral sensations and build significant monetization within a short period.

Q: Is it beneficial to focus on creating viral sensations and early monetization rather than aiming for long-term success?

The opportunity to build and monetize mobile apps quickly has never been greater. Nikita has publicly stated that Gas App made millions of dollars in the months before the acquisition, proving that short-term success can be profitable. While it may not reach the level of multi-billion dollar companies, achieving success within a few months can still be considered a win.

Q: What factors contribute to the ability of apps to make money early in their lifecycle?

The shift towards increased adoption of Apple Pay, Google Pay, and online purchasing has made it easier for apps to monetize early on. As users become more comfortable with making purchases on their phones, apps have a greater chance of making money while still in their early stages. This, coupled with effective marketing and product offerings, can lead to significant profits.


The power of user-generated content cannot be underestimated in driving app acquisition. Apps that capture the interest and excitement of influential users can quickly rise to the top. In 2022, tech shifts, such as the introduction of widgets on iOS 16 and the availability of AI models, played significant roles in the success of certain app categories. Additionally, anonymous social apps, fueled by human emotions and the desire for social validation, continue to garner attention. While it may not be necessary to achieve long-term success, there is a growing opportunity to create viral sensations and monetize apps quickly in the current app market.

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