How to Succeed/Fail at Making a “Me-Too” app

A small Belarus company with a Growth Hack

Eugene Leychenko


One of the most talented, yet overlooked actors in Hollywood today is Leonardo DiCaprio. The ongoing joke is that even though he has starred in some of the best films, the Academy constantly overlooks him and gives the Oscar to someone else.

This has happened 3 times in the last 9 years.

  • Lost: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role — The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
  • Lost: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role — Blood Diamond (2007)
  • Lost: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role — The Aviator (2005)

Meanwhile, at the end of November 2015, during a 48 hour hackathon in Minsk, Belarus, the MSQRD app was designed and created. MSQRD allows users to record video selfie animations, change the way they look and send it to friends via their favorite messengers and social networks. One of the first filters they came out with was the Leonardo DiCaprio filter which can fulfill the fantasy of any fan to pretend as if they were him, accepting the Academy Award in 2016.

This made the app go gangbusters. By March 2016, users downloaded the MSQRD app 15 million times and used the live filters over 1 billion times.

Snapchat Lenses

In the Fall 2015, Snapchat bought Lookersy, a Ukrainian based live filter app. They then turned it into Snapchat Lenses. Lenses let’s people modify their face live with silly filters and send it to their friends. This habit has been so popular that in November 2015, Snapchat rolled out a Lenses Store where users can buy and keep Lenses.

Lenses help Snapchat in two ways. The first is bring in revenue to the company. Snapchat generated $3.1 million in 2014, for a company valued at $20 billion this is far from being profitable. In addition, it gets it’s usage numbers up. There are 7+ Billion video views every day on Snapchat. This seems very threatening to Facebook, which is not growing at the same rate.

So what did Facebook do? They purchased MSQRD to compete with Snapchat’s Lenses. Will it work out? Our prediction is NO*.

History Repeating Itself

Snapchat launched in late 2011, and grew at a rapid pace with disappearing pictures and messages. A year later, after seeing Snapchat’s rapid ascend, Facebook revealed Poke, a clone app with the same functionality. Not too surprising that 1.5 year later, the app was shut down. Could Facebook have beaten Snapchat with Poke?

Share of Mind

In marketing, top-of-mind awareness (TOMA) is a brand or specific product coming first in customers’ minds when thinking of a particular industry. Snapchat did a great job making itself associated with disappearing….everything.

Adding Value

An argument can be made against Instagram and why it won the shared photo wars. Hipstamatic was a very popular photo app which allowed users to apply filters to their photos. They did this way before Instagram was around. However, sharing them with your friends was not as smooth.

Instagram came around and did things backwards. It treated the social experience as a priority and the filters as a feature (secondary). By repositioning the focus, to created a better/faster experience for the user and ultimately won.


There were a dozen search engines before Google. What set Google apart was the quality of the search results because of it’s focus on backlinks. By being better than the previous guy (Adding Value) and learning from their mistakes, you can become the leader and win Share of Mind.

Share of Mind — easily done by first movers and Adding Value — by definition, a second mover strategy are the ways to win out in a me-too fight. Simply copying the other guy’s features will not entice users to make the jump onto your platform.

If you liked the overall message of this post, feel free to get in touch with us. We do speaking engagements —



Eugene Leychenko

Writing about business strategy and well executed development. Running (web & mobile development from NYC/LA)