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How to Build a Billion Dollar App

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'A must read for anyone who wants to start a mobile app business' Riccardo Zacconi, founder and CEO King Digital (maker of Candy Crush Saga)

'A fascinating deep dive into the world of billion-dollar apps. Essential reading for anyone trying to build the next must-have app' Michael Acton Smith, Founder and CEO, Mind Candy

Apps have changed the way we communicate, shop, play, interact and travel and their phenomenal popularity has presented possibly the biggest business opportunity in history.

In How to Build a Billion Dollar App , serial tech entrepreneur George Berkowski gives you exclusive access to the secrets behind the success of the select group of apps that have achieved billion-dollar success.

Berkowski draws exclusively on the inside stories of the billion-dollar app club members, including Instagram, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Candy Crush and Uber to provide all the information you need to create your own spectacularly successful mobile business. He guides you through each step, from an idea scribbled on the back of an envelope, through to finding a cofounder, building a team, attracting (and keeping) millions of users, all the way through to juggling the pressures of being CEO of a billion-dollar company (and still staying ahead of the competition).

If you've ever dreamed of quitting your nine to five job to launch your own company, you're a gifted developer, seasoned entrepreneur or just intrigued by mobile technology, How to Build a Billion Dollar App will show you what it really takes to create your own billion-dollar, mobile business.

480 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2014

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George Berkowski

3 books43 followers

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5 stars
537 (42%)
4 stars
463 (36%)
3 stars
188 (14%)
2 stars
49 (3%)
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24 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 81 reviews
Profile Image for Karel Baloun.
398 reviews34 followers
September 1, 2015
While rehashing some epics eloquently (square, instagram, whatsapp), and highlighting powerful quotations (McClure/AARRR, Jobs, Grove, Zuck), I don't see so much value created. Perhaps the early chapters inspire startup creation, but the growth and investment chapters could only help C-level execs or investors, and include enough errors or dated material to just reflect the authors level of access and experience.

Unfortunately, Hailo isn't a great lens through which to view the industry, and the author is more self-promotional than infectiously helpful, compared to McClure, Graham or Andreesen's writings.

Berkowski does appear to be well connected, and this book will lead some people to some wins, so I wish him and all much success. Writing any book is a tremendous time and energy investment, and he's added a nice tome to the body of startup advice.

Having worked in the industry as an engineer and entrepreneur myself, I had higher expectations of this book.
Author 7 books45 followers
January 3, 2019
This is one of the most impressive books I have ever read.

Like anyone, I've kicked around ideas about apps with friends of mine. But 30 minutes into this book I realized I would never be the kind of person who wanted to bring an app to fruition.

If you want actionable advice on creating an app in excruciating detail, Mr. Berkowski discusses everything in this book, soup to nuts. From creating the thing in the basement to being valued at a billion dollars. The whole deal.

It's mind-numbing how much work these creators and developers put into these products.

While I never intend to make an app, I took the time to read through this because I felt George Berkowski had a lot to say, and I wanted to listen. I learned an incredible amount about managing resources, online business, and the app industry through this tome. I have applied a good deal of the information to my own business, even though it's not close to an app.

It's not easy reading, but it's worth it. I'd recommend it to anyone who is building a business online, and I'd highly highly recommend it to anyone who wants to build an app.
Profile Image for Ryzal Yusoff.
14 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2018
First and foremost, I must give George Berkowski a big applause. He has written such an organise guidance book for building a billion dollar app/startup. To fit everything, a step by step guidance, in one book about building a billion dollar app/startup, isn’t an easy thing to do. This book is sort of a cheat sheet for building an app/startup and really is a beginner-friendly. It does so by explaining every single important technology or business terms that might be unfamiliar to ”normal” people. For instance, this book even explains what is “app” actually stands for.

But, as far as I enjoy reading the first half of this book, it becomes less relevant for me for the second half of it, as it revolves around stuff like hiring, scaling marketing, people, meetings etc. All are still great pieces of knowledge, but for me which still on my early stage of building my startup, I don’t really see that I need these just yet.

Overall, I found this book very useful and will surely read it again when I able to grow and scale my own startup soon.
7 reviews1 follower
February 10, 2019
An interesting insight by someone who's been on the ride to building a billion dollar app before. The book follows a logical approach to identifying the opportunity, formulating a team, prototyping the idea, building the MVP, testing, iterating, financing, growing, growing, and growing some more. These stages are broken up into the million dollar, ten million dollar, one hundred million dollar, five hundred million dollar, and finally billion dollar app.

Along the way are some golden little nuggets to make sure you’re keeping track, but most importantly keeping track of the right things. Chapters on analytics and KPIs put a laser focus on metrics like CAC and LTV. Formulas and industry standards are applied throughout to let you know exactly what is bad, good, and great at each level of the app lifecycle.

The author references those business that have cracked the big B in valuation and shares insights into each one as validation for a lot of his ideas. Companies like Square, Uber, Snap et al are names you’ll time again as he steps through each of the phases on the way to being a billion dollar app.

One of the best lines is a direct quote from Steve Jobs - “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use … shake off this erroneous notion that life is there are you’re just going to live it vs make your mark upon it”. It sums up the theme of the book. Follow a formula and build something people want.
Profile Image for Jose Papo.
260 reviews133 followers
October 28, 2014
This excellent book does an excellent job in walking you through the practical steps to building an app-based business. It starts in the very early stage part of an app startup and then goes incrementally with tips and tools until the billion dollar stage. If you have a startup based on an app you need to read this book!
Profile Image for Rahul Agarwal.
13 reviews
June 2, 2015
too general and as said the devils are in the details has not been addressed.
Profile Image for Abutharique.
28 reviews10 followers
September 8, 2019
You will learn how hard it's too come up with your app that's worth a billion dollar. It's such a difficult journey but people have made it to the end though, by persevering. Author himself was a part of making a billion dollar app. So, you can confidently listen to his insights and you will learn about the barriers involved in the entire making. You have to work with developers, lawyers and venture capitalists in the initial phases and it's something common people are not aware of. Author is dividing the progressing stages your app into $1 million, $10 million, $100 million, $500 million, and $1 billion and he explains what are the important strategies to tackle each stage. This book is the one that you might find as a long read, but once you complete reading, you will realize that it's truly worth reading.
Profile Image for Boni Aditya.
307 reviews886 followers
July 31, 2019
The Author has written his memoirs in Hailo and his experiences in building a billion dollar startup in the western hemisphere of the Globe and then spreading globally with the app to amass huge wealth during the process. Not only is this book very impressive, but it can be used as a rough guide for anybody willing to build a billion dollar company based on app.

This book is a must read for product managers - The book is set in stone about what to do and at what stage, carefully defined and sorted out for product managers. The author himself, served as a product manager for the team.

The book begins very well with talk about principles and strong theories of how to build your team and how to grow from a team of 10 people to 50 people and so on. The author has taken time to structure the book pretty well, from an app that generates no revenue to an app that generates thousands of dollars, to an app that generates millions of dollars and then progressing to Series round of funding. He also talks about scaling the company, the troubles faced while scaling.

The crux of the book lies in the first half. The first half of the book is extremely more useful, and more instructional than the second half. The second half of or the last one third of the book seems more like politics rather than a startup. The talk then moves to managing and controlling rather than inventing. The books meaty and juicy stuff comes to an end after the talk about the growth and retention metric discussion. After that it is just bringing the right people and getting the right funding i.e. proper delegation. Till that point everything on the book is hands on i.e. the founders have their fate more or less in their control, but post that road sign everything in the book is about serendipity i.e. getting lucky with funding, getting lucky with the hard hitters, getting lucky with the market and getting lucky with the customers and so on.

The book starts off pretty concrete telling you exactly what you need to. I am impressed that the author has decided to include various analytics, CRM tools that he loved using while building the startup. He stressed the agile development method and the need to keep the entire team at the same location. All the lessons that he has learned through direct experience or through indirect experience have been distilled into this book. The discussion about Square App, Uber App, Whatsapp along with his own Hailo app are impressive, but the later one third of the book is biased, sometimes extremely biased, with the typical western view, that billion dollar apps can only be made in one particular way. Unfortunately the author has refused to talk about the other parts of the world i.e. Russia, China, India, Brazil, only talking about markets in EUROPE and USA, which are the economic powerhouses of the globle. Now wonder billion dollar apps arise out of this over invested ecosytems. I bet that trying to apply the same lessons i.e. beyond a certain point in the book, would cause serious mental and physical issues to the founders and the company in another part of the world. Other than that the book is impressive. The author is definitely an expert at startup and making it big. I have no qualms about that but rules change and in IT they change extremely fast and new rules are written in eco systems in China. The dynamics are different. The author talks about business models, pricing models, about ad revenues, about the app that could help you place your ad perfectly in other apps. He discusses almost every aspect related to building an app, including the office space requirements, pay scales, scaling the app, the strategies followed by the finnish app rovio to scale clash of clans, the angry birds strategies while scaling up. If there is one thing I can say about this book, it would be that it isn't boring. All of it is extremely engaging and I just love the way author thinks.

The author also talks about how to hire, whom to hire, when to hire who, freelancers, agencies etc.. I just loved the entirety of the book, it is a coherent whole, never losing the underlying narrative, i.e. scaling the app, while keeping the finances stable.

Here is a list of books mentioned in this work:
Lean startup Eric ries

Venture deals and venture capitalist

Srartup owners manual

High output management

Scaling agile at Spotify with tribes squads chapters and guilds



Key words:

Product market fit

Growth engine and revenue engine


Incent networks


Mixpanel analytics
Profile Image for Sipho.
365 reviews45 followers
January 3, 2018
A solid how-to guide on building a scaleable mobile app business.

Without much knowledge in this area, I found this book to be a very practical, lay-man friendly read. The author goes through the stages of building an app from nothing to a billion dollar valuation. He gives useful insight into what is required from the team, the team leader, investors and the app itself at every stage. The book also provides, what I think is, some sage advice in building a business of any kind.

Although simple enough to read, I felt that the book went flat somewhat in the middle. The focus shifted away from the actual product to valuations and integers. I suppose these are important, but being mathematically disinclined, not my cup of tea!
9 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2016
Thank you George Berkowski for your comprehensive step-by-step inspirational guide and for diving deep into the world of billion dollar apps. I enjoyed the read very much and mostly liked the references provided which got me dive even deeper into the world of apps.
Profile Image for Saleh Almusallam.
4 reviews3 followers
August 4, 2015
I liked the book, written in a very easy language that can be understood by anyone even without deep tech background. A great insight, I recommend it.
Profile Image for Nikolaos.
100 reviews2 followers
August 9, 2015
This is an outstanding read for soon-to-be entrepreneurs who are looking for concentrated wisdom in app-entrepreneurship. Very thought provoking and stimulating.
Profile Image for Yigit Yilmaz.
61 reviews9 followers
October 14, 2022
There is no doubt, I'd give a higher rate if I read this in 2017 but, in 2022 some sections have been dated against the fast-paced mobile app industry. Even though, I believe there are lessons for everyone who wants to comprehend how mobile app business works.

Here is my top 10 takeaways from the book:

1) There are five types of metrics you should take care from day one. AARRR: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Referral, Revenue.

2) Your app's title is the most important factor in achieving a good ranking in AppStore. You want to include both what your app does and branding. Examples are `WhatsApp Messenger`, `Square Wallet`

3) Even if you're app, you need a website. If people Google you, they should be able to find you easily. Ideally, you want your site to focus on help people download your app - i.e. a crispy description - and then a clear download button that links directly to the AppStore.

4) LINK, LINK, LINK. SEO is all about linkages. So feel free to reach out to other businesses and ask them to include a link to your website on their blog or website.

5) Great Press Kit. Make sure you're at least a mini section on your website for press - and a press kit. Include all the info about your app and company photos, logos, screenshots, `about us` pages. The simpler you make it for journalists and bloggers to find information about your company, the more likely it is that they will write about you.

6) Reach out to journalists yourself. Just like the rest of us, they are lazy. If you present them with a good story, and personalized email outlining what you're doing, there is a good chance you'le picked up. In the process, pull together a list of blogs in your relevant sector as well as popular blogs that love reviewing apps, and then spend a few days writing a lot of emails.

7) Installing an analytics solution before you lunch your v1.0 is the golden rule. Your app is nothing without analytics -so make sure you get the code in there immediately. There is no debate on this one.

8) Put in two analytics solutions rather than one. (Author suggests Google Analytics and Mixpanel in particularly)

9) Suggested retention ratio of 30:10:10 for mobile: 30 per cent of customers should use the app daily and 10 per cent of the daily users will represent the maximum number of users using the app at any given time.

10) Find your app's fanatics, reach out to them, forge strong relationships with them.
February 1, 2021
Well, the title is everything but misleading...

The book did everything it set to do: explain how to build an app through all stages until the grand Billion-Dollar mark.

Admittedly, I was not expecting a so thorough look into what it takes to build a big company and how to scale it. I was more interested in what was the first half of the book, more related to mobile app building: what it takes, what are some things to take note, what to expect, how to proceed, etcetera.

I bought this book because I'm building an app with some potential and I was looking for some insight on how to scale it to great levels. I wasn't disappointed, it was a very interesting and research based read. A bit long because it delved deep into a more corporate/business stuff, but still very interesting and would vividly recommend to anyone looking to build something great!
Profile Image for Zi.
43 reviews18 followers
December 27, 2021
Though a little outdated (published in2014), some of the insights are still very relevant.

Originally an app idea to let people check into places (restaurants, hotels, places).
*Here comes the paradigm shift the founders had:* "Instead of doing a check-in that had an optional photo, we thought, Why don’t we do a photo that has an optional check-in?"

This book covered a lot, which makes sense because there is a lot to consider when building a 'billion dollar' app: the technical aspects (obviously), acquiring investments, funding and valuation, logistical and legal challenges, understanding product market fit (way more important than I had thought), business models, thinking about users, metrics of measurement, good design, customer life cycle, and more.

Now time to take this into action 😎
31 reviews
June 20, 2019
This book fully revolves around app building. Giving a lot of real time events. But to be frank this is not the thing that gives reader in depth Technical knowledge. which is the better coding language that kinda stuff. This book stage wise gives how to generally deal in various stages of app company developing.
It suggests best supporting software related services.
It provides who will be investing and supporting in Startup’s.
General Knowledge about Legal requirements (mainly USA).
Lists a few Books relating entrepreneurship and Good management.
Basic in general terminology related profitability
Helps none Tech entrepreneurs if read open minded.

Moderately Big book relative to the content.
Purely APP related but in general.
3.7 star

Profile Image for Kylie Young.
232 reviews10 followers
July 19, 2019
It teetered between a 3 and a 4 for me. It’s has everything you need to know about the planning faze of apps. Some failed apps thrown in as guidance of what not to do, although I kept thinking about their claim to success with Hailo, which perhaps since writing the book has become a distant memory. So with all the great pieces of advice, I kept reading with skepticism because their own app kinda failed too.
3 out of 5 stars and I consider buying a book. I gave it 4 because you really don’t need to know about any other app book if you have this. As a side note - this does not touch on coding. Rather recommends you pay someone to do that for you. So it’s not a how to build an app -by coding. It’s really just how to organise the build of one
Profile Image for syifagaida.
14 reviews6 followers
March 2, 2021
"Satu pendekatan untuk suatu ide besar adalah memahami apa yang orang suka dan apa yang dibutuhkan orang"

Buku ini ditulis George berkowski berdasarkan pengalamannya di mobile app hailo sebagai kepala produksi dan juga hasil wawancaranya kepada para perusahaan mobile app yang sukses dalam membangun app bernilai miliaran dolar.

Sehingga, buku ini sangat cocok bagi siapa saja yang sedang atau ingin membangun mobile app, pembisnis , atau kalian yang sedang membangun startup di bidang aplikasi mobile. Karna dari buku ini, kalian bisa belajar dari pengalaman para pendiri perusahaan mobile app yang sukses membangun aplikasi bernilai milliar dollar. Jadi kita tau bagaimana cara pandang mereka, pengalaman yang mereka tempuh.
Profile Image for Aaron Aoyume.
138 reviews
September 19, 2019
Dated but still very insightful

Most or all the examples in this book are dated (which in itself tells a lot, since it was written as recently as 2014!) but the insights and very pragmatic recommendations for entrepreneurs and app developers are still very useful and interesting. It goes beyond superficial bragging and self-indulgence and deepens into key points at each phase for a tech startup. For most, it seemed to me a candid and honest discussion of Berkowski's own experience at Hailo, as well as a well-thought of compilation of the victories and failures of other highly-regarded techcos at the time of writing.
Profile Image for Tauri Laane.
350 reviews81 followers
February 18, 2023
While the advice from the book is quite solid and correct, the title should instead be "let's play pretend that you could build a billion dollar app - by a person who also dreams about it but gets nowhere near enough" (but at least he's trying, as seen by him joining a new company now every year). Because the real CEOs and Founders who are taking on this task need 1000x more in depth material to achieve their magical goals. This book is so so barely only scratching the surface of what is needed to do. And while it gives you the detailed paths of many successful apps, then the tomorrows big winners always come in new creative ways, not repeating the old ones.
Profile Image for Jose.
64 reviews
November 2, 2019
I've ended up this book, that explains how to build a successful app, that they call, "a billion dollars app", the truth is to make a billion dollar app, it will require a bunch of talented special persons and skilled and as app developer I could say that this reading broad my mindset about marketing and goals, of the bat I always thought that everything swils around code and commands but definitively all is marketing and goal, real goals, I myself in the past bet for web apps but I was wrong. I will try to work on this new visions of developing.
Profile Image for Michael Gunnulfsen.
47 reviews30 followers
July 15, 2019
Surprisingly good read, despite the horrible title.
Great wrap-up of sort of best practice ways to build and bring consumer apps to market, from the very early stage to the rare unicorn species. Even though lots of this stuff is pretty common knowledge, there are many educational things here to be picked up here. A great reminder of what things you should be spending your time on and to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t move the needle.
Profile Image for Lawrence Harte.
Author 119 books4 followers
October 13, 2020
If you are developing a mobile or TV app, you should read this book. George covers the key steps he used to help develop the Hailo European taxi cab mobile app idea into a billion dollar app. You discover key things to try during app development and how to learn and adapt to use in your app. He includes lots of success examples and business benchmarks from Hailo and other successful apps. Great explanation on how to get funding and key types of consultants to use and avoid.
Profile Image for Sara Ahmed.
21 reviews17 followers
March 20, 2021
Am only interested in the first part of this book which is how to build a "million" Dollar app.
It gives you a clear idea about the categorizations of the apps that will more likely succeed based on some real data. and tells the scenarios and stories of the current successful apps the dominate the market.
Its was a good read.

The rest of the book is overwhelming because it talks about some later stages of the app when the business grows more and more.
Profile Image for Fatimah Aljawi.
10 reviews
November 30, 2018
I like reading practical books so much, I would give an extra star for the reference the author made; the website. His book was mostly a workshop that people would spend thousands on to attend. I would recommend it as a book, not an audible as it is a must to have for any of the entrepreneurs. The website is Amazing and so much helpful.
Profile Image for Temidayo Makinwa.
19 reviews9 followers
July 9, 2019
This was a great book with detailed instructions on how to take an app idea to fruition. He conveniently staged the lifecycle of most apps providing several examples, tactics & advise as he goes along. There are a bunch of resources also available via the website. Great read. Will definitely refer to this again at some point!!
Profile Image for Aditya Mutaqin.
14 reviews1 follower
January 9, 2020
Panduan untuk membangun startup yang ditulis dengan lebih detail

Banyak istilah-istilah asing yg lumrah digunakan di dunia startup, tapi karena saya awam, awalnya banyak yang kurang dipahami juga sih.

Ada banyak kisah tentang startup dari mancanegara juga . Challenge yang mereka hadapi, prestasi yang mereka raih, dlsb.

Well recommended untuk siapapun yang ingin belajar membangun startup
Profile Image for Jawwad Zafar.
90 reviews
July 6, 2021
Good enough book that explains everything around forming an app startup, heck it even explains what’s an IPO. Good book but i’m afraid the people who’re going to build billion dollar app/companies are never going to read it but it’s good for others who want to know a bit. Although this book tells a lot but at times just skip over the important details.
August 15, 2022
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