Hello Frens 👋,
6 months ago, one of my friends introduced me to his new favorite app. He was “obsessed.” He made the pitch, and I drank the Kool-Aid
The app would help us stay in touch; by posting a picture at a random time every day of whatever we were doing at that moment. No followers, likes, or anything of that sort.
It was intriguing enough to play around with for a few weeks.
Little did I know that this app would become a global phenomenon a few months later.
Today we dive into this company’s story: welcome to the ⚠️ BeReal ⚠️ First 1000 edition.
BeReal dominated the global top charts on iOS and Android in two short years. In two short weeks, I traced back this company's growth story. I documented (almost) everything the company has done from launch day until yesterday to acquire, activate, and retain users.
I reached out to the founders and employees of BeReal. They were 🤫🤐. But god bless the internet and the permanent traces it leaves behind.
In this issue, I divide BeReal’s growth into four chapters:
- Chapter 1: Brute forcing growth [Jan 2020 - Dec 2020]
- Chapter 2: Early recognition “The next gen of social media” [Jan 2021 - June 2021]
- Chapter 3: Building scalable engine(s) [July 2021 - April 2022]
- Chapter 4: Going mainstream [April 2022 - Present]
- June 2019 - December 2019: The idea
Two French entrepreneurs, Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau, conceive the idea for BeReal. The app borrows heavily from the design and mechanics of Minutiae.
Minutiae vs. BeReal
Minutiae had an interesting problem: people who downloaded it used the app every day, but it never broke through the noise.
Three years after launch, only 25,000 ever downloaded the app. ~40% of users used the app daily—some for more than 1000 days. Now that’s great engagement!
Alexis and Kevin captured the magic of Minutiae and added a small feature: a social graph: instead of being paired with a stranger to see your “in-the-moment random photo,” BeReal allows users to view their friends’ “BeReals”
This feature ended up being the difference between a sticky niche product and building the next big thing.
(The Minutiae app is still alive today & their recent growth 🏒 thanks to Tiktok)
January 2020: Lukewarm launch
Kevin and Alexis introduce BeReal to the world. The medium of choice? Linkedin.
The response was 😒.
Two weeks later, they followed up with a video explaining the concept: "A picture is worth a thousand words."
The video on Linkedin performs relatively better, a few friends start commenting, and it crosses 100 likes. Life is good; they got 50 users.
January 2020 - July 2020: Listing on app directories.
After introducing the app to their network, Kevin and Alexis continued launching BeReal on app directories (or any site with traffic that would let them post).
- Jan 2020: Blog post on the french brand agency blog “Soocial”
- 1.1m site visits/month
- Feb 2020: Announcement on Frandroid forum (350k site visits/month). This puts the company at over 300 downloads.
- 250k site visits/ months
- April 2020: Listing on Les Pepites Tech: the “official directory” of French Tech startups worldwide.
- 50k site visits/ months
- April 2020: Doing more growth hacky stuff. Commenting on a Media piece about “most downloaded apps during the pandemic
- July 2020: Listing app on 10words.io, a directory where people discover new apps and startups in 10 words or less.
10words.ioDiscover new apps and startups in 10 words or lessDiscover new apps and startups in 10 words or less
Chapter 2: Early recognition “The next-gen social media” [Jan 2021 - June 2021]
The next chapter in BeReal’s growth came at the heels of the “next generation social media” narrative.
Prominent publications became interested in the rise of anti-Instagram social media startups such as Popparazi, ttyl, clubhouse, and BeReal.
The venture dollars pouring into the space + the ever-changing consumer behavior brought by the pandemic gave an opening to the notary rise of a Gen-Z first cohort of social apps.March 2021: Featured on the iOS app store in France
- April 2021: Featured on Product Hunt. Founders ask for the post to be taken down.
- May 2021: First significant publication piece, the Financial times gives the nod to BeReal in Lessons for Big Tech from the ‘anti-social’ photo app
- May 2021: Small-time blogger Twenty two writes a blog post explaining how BeReal works
- June 2021: BeReal’s Subreddit created
Following the Series A raise, BeReal invested in building two primary growth engines.
3.1 University Ambassadors
- June 2021 - December 2021: The Initial Version
- January 2022 - May 2022: V2 of the Ambassador Program
Using Instagram direct messages, BeReal’s social team recruited ambassadors to promote the app on their respective campuses.
For every person an ambassador referred to the app, they would receive $30 for every person who downloaded the app. If they follow up with feedback, the incentive increases to $50.
- University Parties ( 2 examples)
Following the hiring of Bumble’s APAC & EMEA field marketing director Julian Hislop, BeReal scales its ambassador program's reach (and improves the unit economics).
The new ambassador program focuses on hosting parties, partnerships with student organizations(& greek houses), as well as placements in various student newspapers.
- On Friday, Feb. 4, the app sponsored a party in the infamous Tasty burger basement and offered free admission to attendees that downloaded the app and added five friends.
- April 2021: BeReal x Stanford [Admit Weekend]
- The event took place over Admit Weekend and was seen by many as an enticing alternative for students seeking weekend nightlife, given the restrictions on on-campus alcohol consumption during that weekend.
- To attend the party, students had to join the BeReal app, invite two friends and then pick up wristbands from Stanford’s BeReal ambassadors.
- Post in University of Iowa’s publication: The Daily Iowan (March 2022)
- Post in Yale’s publication: Yale Daily News (March 2022)
- Post in University of Alabama’s publication: The Crimson White (April 2022)
The other big scalable engine for BeReal was TikTok.
- May 2021 - November 2021: Users going viral
- June 2021: David Aliages gets 2 million views on his TikTok showcasing the app. A few months later, David is hired by BeReal to lead their social efforts.
- August 2021: Georgetown student goes viral on TikTok explaining the app's mechanics.
- December 2021 - April 2022: @BeReal account going viral
- December 2021: David Aliages is hired by BeReal and creates their first TikTok. The video receives over 100k views
- March 2022: First company’s official TikTok to hit 7 figures. The video was viewed over 3.2m times.
- April 2022: Second TikTok big hit. This time over 2.1m views
Chapter 4: Going mainstream [April 2022 - Present]
With TikTok hits, university ambassadors, word of mouth, and dethroning Tiktok as the number #1 app on the app store, BeReal enters a new era in its growth journey. The app officially goes mainstream.
A few moments in time encapsulate this transition
- April 2022: Chipotle joins BeReal
- April 2022: Crosses 6m downloads (315% YTD growth)
- May 2022 - July 2022: Repeatedly going viral on TikTok. 9 TikToks from the official BeReal channel receive 1m+ views.
- May 2022: Crosses 10m downloads. Raises $85m from DST Global
- July 2022: 20m downloads.
- August 2022: Brands start embracing BeReal for drops and limited edition items with E.l.f. Cosmetics were amongst the first to do so
- August 2022: Fiji becomes the first country to join BeReal
- August 2022: Best performing Tiktok recorded with over 13.4m views
- September 2022: 30m downloads
- September 2022: My mom asks me to explain BeReal
- October 2022: SNL sketch