Poparazzi – how to land #1 spot on App Store in 24 countries in a day (and get valued at $135M in less than a week)
(11 min read)

Poparazzi – a social network that allows you to set up your profile, but only your friends can post photos to it. This counters the ideal photos of Instagram and should bring more authenticity to people’s online presence.

The app went viral and became a top download. 

?Strategy & Tools

Poparazzi History Timeline Highlights

  • Mar 15, 2021 - the app is first published on the App Store. 
  • April 2, 2021 - a TikTok campaign starts, promoting the app beta and pre-order. The beta’s 10,000-user limit has been reached within just a few days.
  • May 24, 2021 - The pre-order has already gathered over 500,000 users.
  • May 25, 2021 - Official iOS release. The app gets downloaded by all who pre-ordered it automatically, taking it straight to the top charts on day 1 – top 10 in 53 countries and #1 in 24 countries. At the peak, it has been downloaded 2,000 times per second.
  • May 27, 2021 - Benchmark allegedly topped Andreessen Horowitz on Series A founding, closing at $20 million. Forbes says it’s been at $135M valuation.
  • Jun 1, 2021 - over 1 million downloads (in less than a week!). #poparazziapp has been viewed over 15 million times on TikTok.

The number of worldwide downloads could be at 3.3M now.

Limited functionality

Poparazzi doesn’t try to tick all the boxes. It’s core feature is photo tagging and making photos of others which can be abused but profile owners have control over what is posted to their profiles–they can delete what they don’t like.

Apart from that, the platform focuses on sharing and doesn’t allow comments, nor sending DMs nor showing followers. You can only like a photo or add any emoji reaction to it. 

Content built on GIFs

You can only post a photo or a set of 9 consecutive photos within a set timeframe that will be posted as a GIF. It seems that all the users are using the platform to post GIFs 99% of the time.

Also notice that the content posted to Poparazzi will be unique to the platform as it gives that 3rd person view of a user. It won’t be replicated across Instagram or Facebook.

Poparazzi Great UX

Poparazzi has a great user experience of just playing around with the app. It welcomes you with an effective intro with haptics and vibrations. It then continues to use that effects when you interact with the app or shoot photos. It also recreates a red carpet photoshoot effect as the flash shoots only for a fraction of a second. Making GIFs with this effect could make the person on the other side of the camera indeed feel like being the object of paparazzi shots.


The target audience of Poparazzi is Gen Z, of course who are less attached to Instagram and have proven to look for its more authentic alternatives. It seems that TikTok is a vital part of marketing to that group. To make the ads more relevant, they were recorded by an unknown teenage girl that makes faces when headlines about the app appear. 

This type of content is new to the audience. It’s quite clear it stands out

Poparazzi Pre-order campaign

Since Apple has introduced app pre-orders in 2017, they allowed new apps to build demand before they officially launch. Pre-ordering an app means that the users will be notified when the app becomes available and it will be downloaded automatically within 24h from the release. Hence - 500,000 downloads could happen on the day of release.

Poparazzi capitalized on that through TikTok campaign that built demand and drove users to sign up for a pre-order. The first post on the Poparazzi account that promoted the app got over 1 million views and many comments and likes. It probably had been promoted, as not a single post repeated such success later on. Although they get a good 15-25k views.

There are accounts talking about the app set up entirely for promotional purposes.

Poparazzi Closed Beta

Following Clubhouse’s success, Poparazzi let a few people in to a closed beta on AppStore’s Testflight, to build demand for those that weren’t invited. The user limit on Testflight is 10,000.

Poparazzi Influencers marketing campaign

Many TikTokers were hyping up the Poparazzi beta. One of them posted the video with #ad hashtag which could mean some influencers were paid to talk about the app beta.

Poparazzi has definitely worked with some influencers with small-to-mid accounts as, for example, a girl named Esra Nova with over 139,000 followers seems to have multiple alt accounts named as „esranova50” , „esranova22”, etc. that all talk about the app.

After the release, the creators of top TIkToks with #poparazziapp hashtag are paid $500.

Word of Mouth

A large portion of the users came through word of mouth. Many TikTokers spread the word about the app on their profiles, inviting their friends and followers to install the app. You can also see that in TikTok comments with #poparazzi hashtag videos.

The app launches with a clever onboarding screen that uses haptics to buzz and vibrate your phone while the intro video plays. This is unusual enough that users will talk and post about how cool it was — another potential means of generating organic growth through word-of-mouth.

Collecting data

The app requires you to register with phone number which ensures that the users are real but doesn’t allow to use other login types if you prefer not to share your number.

It also requires you to share your contact list so you can find your friends and your friends can find you. If that’s not enough, it will ask you to enable location services to find people nearby.

Helping the network effect

After you allow all the permissions, you are automatically connected with all your contacts–if they were already Poparazzi users, they start following you immediately, and vice versa. The app also encourages you to invite your friends to download the app.

Referring to new users

Only your friends can post your photos. This means that unless you convince them to do that, your profile is empty. If they’re not on the platform, you’re more likely to ask them to join you, so you can share each other’s photos. That’s how you’ll do part of the Poparazzi’s marketing.

Poparazzi Snapchat integration

Sharing the app with your friends and asking them to post your photos is made easier outside of the platform through integration with Snapchat. You can ask for photos or share what you find. That also enhances the reach of Poparazzi-related posts on the established social media.

Incentivizing pops

The profiles feature a „Top Poparazzi” section which can be enough of a reason to post more frequently and get the top poparazzi bragging rights.

Easy outside sharing

Poparazzi doesn’t fight the giants. It encourages you to share your profile link wherever you like as it’s the biggest button there. Apart from that, it allows you to share any photo you see to your Snapchat, Insta Story or Instagram profile, so an interesting content has the potential to live outside Poparazzi.


Authenticity is well received by humans and we prefer authentic experiences and brands over non-human ones. The anti-polished look of paparazzi shoots is therefore attractive enough to check out the app

When a product is referred to us by our friend or a person we have a connection with (like an influencer), we’re much more likely to check their recommendation. This is why smaller influencer accounts have higher engagement and are often preferred by brands to work with–they can provide better results through their personal relationships with their audiences.

Snowball effect
With such successes, there’s always a snowball effect that fuels its growth further. Getting to top charts on the first day after the release helped many others to see the app which is why the number doubled in less than a week.

User experience
UX can be a buzzword these days but it makes the difference from a psychological standpoint by lowering the barriers of using it and making it more entertaining. We like to interact with things and systems that are responsive or fun to use.

People value scarce items higher than those widely available. This aspect has fueled the pre-release hype since the 10,000 Testflights spots were quickly taken. 

The only thing other 500,000 people could do was watch the beta testers having fun and posting it to their TikTok profiles.

Sensory appeal
People engage more with things that appeal to multiple senses. Poparazzi adds haptics to the interactions which makes it slightly more engaging than other apps. 

Curiosity gap
People have a deep desire to look missing information. Many people loved the app in the beta phase but others wanted to know why are they hyping the app so much. That built demand out of curiosity.


The story of Poparazzi is very similar to David Dobrik’s Dispo. The same target audience, similar acquisition channels, a lot of hype from the users and investors, and in both cases–the same mission to make social media more authentic.

Even though Dispo has been valued at $200 million, it struggles now–but that’s a backlash from serious accusation in the Vlog Squad and David Dobrik losing ground on many fronts. He had to step away from the app but it seems to not change the situation at all.

?Window of Opportunity

If there are clever examples of how to make a product go viral, Poparazzi is one of the best recently. Every aspect of the app and the campaign has been designed to build hype, get shared, and go viral. 

The most lessons here are aimed at those who market to Gen Z. TikTok is the go-to platform for marketing. Scarcity still works but so does building apps around creating the network effect and working with influencers. After all, Poparazzi is pretty much useless without friends. The challenge now is to retain not only single users but whole groups of friends.

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