Could $100,000 and the right developer skills make you an overnight billionaire? How much does it really take to build a product like Twitter or Instagram? With mobile development agencies and product incubators on the rise and more corporate “labs” spinning out each day, there’s no shortage of talent to help you build the next great Web or mobile app.
We interviewed the heads of the top Web and mobile development companies, incubators, agencies and labs to understand what it takes to design and develop the most successful apps of our generation. Here are their breakdowns of the costs and time investments to create 10 of the world’s hottest startups.
Henrik Werdelin, the Managing Partner of Prehype, a venture development firm based in New York City that has helped build companies like Tradable, Barkbox, FancyHands, Basno and Path, says recreating Twitter isn’t necessarily difficult, but the layered features will take time to get right.
“The short answer is that it will take 10 hours,” answers Werdelin, who built a Twitter clone in a one-day Ruby on Rails course. “But a good developer could make it quicker.”
This means — assuming you already have a laptop — the cost is almost nothing to build the next Twitter. Assume $160 for a Ruby on Rails course plus free Heroku, a cloud platform as a service that allows you to instantly deploy an app.
However, Werdelin is quick to qualify his statement. “It’s not that simple,” he says. “These days, it’s less an issue of creating a technology stack and more about creating the ‘experience layer’ on top, the interface that makes a product relevant and intuitive for people to use while quickly demonstrating its value.”
Still, a product is nothing without scalability. “You can’t just build a product today, you need to build a venture. And that involves processes, structures, feedback loops, analytics and a community.”
Therefore, if you want to bring an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to market, Werdelin approximates that you’ll need $50,000 to $250,000, depending on the skill sets of the developers and designers you hire.
Werdelin equates building a successful product to building a nightclub. “You need more than a DJ, a dance floor and a few bottles of alcohol,” he says. “You have to ensure that the right people come in at the right time, and you have the right decor, ambiance and music. And of course, the cocktails.”