App Only And Buying Fake Downloads? Google Just Delisted An App Startup

App-only startups are the flavor of this season. While investors are pouring in shitload of money, the real game begins once the startup raises funding.

There is suddenly a massive pressure to execute, drive downloads and importantly, drive retention. The truth is that whether you are app-only or whatever avatar you are committing to, you still need to:

(a) Build a great product (which solves a problem or does something magical)

(b) Drive people to use it regularly.

(c) Drive WoM.

(d) And hopefully, build a business around it.

Funding can only buy you fuel. The hard work of balancing between speed and control still needs to be done.

Many startups have taken to *black hat* hustling in order to drive downloads.

The Black Hat Hustling /Growth Hacking

Google recently delisted an app from play store.

Reason? Fake downloads.

The Delisted App
The Delisted App

The app had more than 100K+ downloads and importantly, the startup had raised pre-series A funding from well known investors*.

While we are sure that the company will figure out a way with Google, this is a warning to all those app-only startups who are under pressure to deliver download numbers.

The web world was different (black hat SEO has hurt a few startups – but they always had another option of using social media to drive traffic), the app only world is as good as putting all eggs in one basket. If somebody decides to ‘move your cheese’, well you just lost your cheese.

What all *black hat* techniques have you seen by app startups to drive downloads?

For those who are looking for the ‘useful’ techniques, this is a good read.

* : If you are wondering what’s the company name etc, we are bound by our 10 commandments. The point here is to keep the main thing the main thing.


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  1. I relish, result in I discovered exactly what I used to be taking a look for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  2. Author should clarify more about the type of fake downloads he mentioned. I am sure it is not about buying incent downloads but can be related to people using imei changer and other tricks to install multiple times. Can it be a bot? Google is really smart, the bot has to be very sophisticated. I request Author to comment.

  3. Thanks @anonymous511 I didn’t know such sweatshops existed. I was thinking something on the lines of AWS Device Farm that Marketing companies might have setup in house by now to Fake downloads. But how would one catch the downloads these sweatshops might be doing? IP could be one way, but I am sure people running these shops are smarter than that 🙂 So I am still guessing Incent AD apps or bots. @Author any comments?

  4. Usually more rudimentary than that: sweatshops with bunch of phones put on shelves with people manually downloading. Bots might be involved in more sophisticated ones as well, but usually easier to catch.

  5. This is interesting. What do you mean by fake downloads? Is it some kind of automated bots downloading OR buying downloads on incent AD apps like ladooo, pokkt etc?

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