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Houseparty App: From MVP To Household Name

| June 4, 2020

Unless you’re building a niche app for business, the ultimate goal for most apps is to gain notoriety like the Houseparty app to become a household name. Many apps have come and gone from Google Play and the App Store over the years with little to no recognition – when an app shoots to the public eye, there is usually something that can be learned and applied to other endeavors.

Even if you haven’t used the app (or just don’t care for FaceTime-like software) Houseparty has a great story behind its development and evolution over the years. Let’s take a look at what it means to be a household name before discussing the history of the Houseparty app where we can learn what it took to shoot them into the limelight.

A quick recap on another household name: Uber

We recently covered how the Uber brand went from an idea to a household name. They started with a simple notion for an on-demand limo-type service that evolved over the years to become the business it is today. Today, the concept of “calling a cab” is now basically associated with Uber and its competitors, rather than actually calling a local cab company.

To say it takes a lot of planning is an understatement – you can plan away on your keyboard until your fingertips are as calloused as the most revered guitar players in the world. Houseparty, like the age-changing FaceApp that quickly went viral last year, underwent several changes until it became something the masses it could sink its teeth into meaning a lot of different plans were thrown into the mix over the years.

The history and success of the Houseparty app

The Houseparty app is a social tool built around the concept of live video streaming. To be brief, on the surface, it’s a seemingly simple app that users can download for Android or iOS and set up an account to video chat with contacts – depending on how you set up an account (i.e. if you choose to use a social account like Facebook) you can easily find users, add them as friends, and host video chat “parties” for up to 8 people.

Houseparty started under a different name – then known as Meerkat – at a time when larger video chat rooms were typically something you would only see in business. Originally, the Meerkat app aimed to bring people together by using live video over the web, much like Facetime and other popular video chat solutions.

Initially, Meerkat was a lot like Periscope (now owned by Twitter), TikTok, or WebRTC-based video solutions where the idea was simply to use existing technologies that could connect users to streamers at low cost, partially removing the need for backend servers to handle the heavy lifting of processing the same way most popular business solutions work such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Cisco Webex, among others. 

The idea was marketable enough that it caught the attention of investors back in 2015 which spurred some major shifts in the direction of the product.

The Meerkat app was a huge hit at SXSW 2015 which helped CEO, Ben Rubin, carve a path for future developments of the platform. Making a big splash at the event helped the company secure $12 million in venture capital funding from a variety of sources, bringing the company value to around $14 million not long after the event. With this amount of capital on hand, it enabled decision-makers to “think bigger” which lead to expansion of the app beyond its initial capacity.

The company shifted toward personal meeting rooms – instead of users launching a live video feed that they could Tweet out or share via other social media platforms, it evolved into something more personal.

During this incarnation of Meerkat, as well as its predecessor, it became apparent that users were making “meaningful content … but not meaningful connections.” This generated further thought as the company explored its time as a 1-on-1 meeting service, eventually driving the company to look at the bigger picture.

By keeping a portion of the old model, where anyone with a link could view a live stream, and merging this concept with the more intimate “chat room” model, users could have the best of both worlds. Without making a big scene, the Houseparty app was launched in 2016 which attracted almost a million users in just 10 months.

The company paid close attention to both direct user feedback as well as the data collected from user interaction with the app that solidified the direction of the Houseparty app and the momentum it had been gathering. It became popular enough that they landed a segment on the Ellen Degeneres show in 2019 where it was positioned alongside the charades-style app, Heads Up! (available on Android and iOS), which fueled more development that can be seen in the app today.

Since appearing on the show and gaining additional funding, they were able to remove the “duct tape” work that comprised the fabric of the original apps, as Rubin put it, allowing it to become a full platform. The company also put a lot into advertising as some of us have observed while scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

It’s been observed that those who truly achieve success are often mimicked by others – today, this is the reality for the Houseparty app. In recent times, Facebook launched its version of a multi-person video chat solution with its new feature, Messenger Rooms, miming competitors that offer free-to-use apps like Houseparty and Zoom. 

Thankfully for Houseparty, they’re still in the game – they offer some unique features such as the ability for users to “sneak” into their friend’s “houses” (i.e. chat rooms), there are games to play, including the Ellen game, Heads Up!, and much more. As part of Epic Games, the platform has solid backing and the sheer synergy that comes from being a part of a bigger community.

Partnering with Epic games has allowed the platform to circulate through a broader network of channels, helping to improve the popularity in recent times. Too, the COVID-19 pandemic has also helped the platform grow as social distancing measures have prevented many from gathering, adding value to face-to-face features that Houseparty provides. In fact, the pandemic is largely responsible for the platform gaining an additional 50 million users since lockdown.

It doesn’t seem that Houseparty is going to slow down anytime soon. It will be interesting to see where they go with future developments.

Blue Label Labs can take your app to the next level

Almost every app hits a glass ceiling at some point which was the case with Meerkat before it was reimagined into the Houseparty platform. We know that it takes a lot of creativity and technical chops to get over a lull in growth and expand an app to its full potential. Feel free to get in contact with Blue Label Labs to learn about how we can help bring your app to the next level.

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