Lapse is a photo sharing app that evokes the old school disposable camera. The catch of the app is the photos you take can’t be re-taken and they, just like back in the 90’s, take time to develop. Your snaps are a mystery to you until they are revealed later in the day. It’s a fun idea, with the purpose of letting people capture the moment – but still stay present in it – and not glued to their phone. The app is invite only, but has still managed to propel itself high up the app charts, with what some are calling a controversial method.
Invitation only is nothing new for emerging apps, and can help create buzz around the product, such as we have seen with Clubhouse and Bluesky. And of course such methods can be useful to scale up and test before a full launch. Lapse approach to invite only however has sent it flying up the charts. You need an invite to use the app. But in addition, to use the app and make use of all its features, users have to invite five more friends from their phone contacts. Those friends will then get a text message inviting them to join the app.
Some are calling such tactics a bit nefarious – equivalent to a pyramid scheme to achieve higher download numbers. Dan Silvertown, co-founder of the app told TechCrunch:
“Our onboarding process is divisive, there are a few detractors but also many fans. We are top of the charts because Lapse is resonating with young people, who are sharing millions of photos per day in our app. They are exhausted by existing photo-sharing apps and Lapse is a way for them to live in the moment and share memories pressure-free.”
The app works best, when your friends are also on there, and that would be true for many of the emerging social discovery platforms we see. It’s a risk however to employ such a strategy. While growing numbers quickly is naturally enticing, first impressions are everything. The last thing you want your new social discovery app to do is feel spammy. Start-ups should proceed with caution with such tactics.