Stories Behind 13 Top Apps and why they became popular


What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

For 84% of smartphone owners, it’s firing up their favorite smartphone app. Whether you stream music, scroll through your Instagram feed or check your morning commute, one thing is clear. Apps play an integral role in our daily lives.

Apps are big business. It’s projected that by the year 2020, the mobile app industry’s gross annual revenue will exceed $189 billion.

Use our interactive chart to visualize 13 top apps and their development, including the tech investors and rounds of funding behind each.

Apps and Investors

Click here to check out the interactive chart.

Tech investors are integral to the industry’s growth, even though they’re largely invisible to app users. Whether a business is in the idea stage, has a clear business model, or already has a proven following, investors help jumpstart an app and boost momentum to make a profit.

The app industry will turn just 10 years old in the summer of 2018. So how did it all begin?

Apple launched the App Store along with the iPhone 3G in 2008. There were 10,000 downloads from the App Store within a week.

Apple set the stage for mobile apps. Google launched the Android Market (now Google Play) in October, 2008, and other competitors followed. The industry has continued to grow, and today device owners have access to hundreds of thousands of apps.

The 13 apps and tech investors in our interactive largely dominate this industry. Read on for a more in-depth look at each of the apps.


  • Skype

    A communications app founded in 2003. It offers video chat and voice calls. Skype serves more than 250 million users per month and has generated 2 trillion minutes of video calls. The first major acquisition of Skype was by eBay in 2005 for $2.6 billion. After a loss of money and lack of integration, investors Andreessen Horowitz, Silver Lake Partners, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board bought 70% of the company for just over $2 billion in 2009. Following this, Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for $8.5 billion.

  • Slack

    Slack is a chat app for businesses and other groups. Users send messages and share documents, and the app integrates with many other third-party services. Slack grew quickly after its launch in 2014, reaching several thousand new users each month. Today, Slack has more than 6 million users and $200 million in annual recurring revenue. By the end of its first year, Slack raised $120 million in investment, and it raised $250 million from Softbank Group Corp in 2017, raising its valuation to more than $5 billion dollars.

  • Whatsapp

    Whatsapp, the messaging and voice call app, has grown exponentially since it was founded in 2009. The service has over a billion monthly active users. In 2011, Sequoia Capital bought more than more than 15% of the company for $8 million. By 2013, Sequoia invested another $50 million, at which point Whatsapp had 400 million active users. Facebook bought the company in 2014 for $19 billion, the biggest purchase of a venture-backed company in history.


  • Pandora

    Launched in 2001, Pandora was one of the very first internet radio services. While it helped popularize streaming music, Pandora’s growth today is being surpassed by one of its main competitors, Spotify, and their listener numbers and advertising dollars have declined in recent years. Despite this, Pandora currently has over 70 million monthly users and in 2017, SiriusXM invested $480 million with the goal to improve its services.

  • Spotify

    Available in 60 countries, Spotify is a music streaming service that offers free and paid subscriptions. The platform offers curated playlists and music downloads to its more than 140 million active users. Since its launch in 2008, Spotify has steadily raised funding, hitting $500 million in 2016 with various investors. This popular music app’s estimated value is now at $16 billion.

  • YouTube

    YouTube was the first video sharing website to exist on the Internet. Launched through a $11.5 million investment from Sequoia the platform grew quickly. So much so that, Google acquired the company less than a year later for $1.65 billion. Today, YouTube receives over 30 million visitors per day making it one of the most visited websites in the history of the Internet.



  • Lyft

    Launched in 2012, Lyft is one of the most used major on-demand transportation apps. It now operates in 300 U.S. cities and provides its users 1 million rides a day. They have received about $4 billion in fundraising from investors. As part of their $1 billion fundraising efforts in 2016, Lyft announced their partnership with General Motors for $500 million. Today Lyft is valued at over $11 billion.

  • Uber

    Uber is widely regarded to be Lyft’s biggest competitor in the on-demand transportation world and was founded in 2009. It is currently considered to be one of the most valuable U.S. startups. Uber is currently valued at $68 billion and they have raised over $11 billion as a result of 14 rounds of venture capital and private equity investors. In total, Uber has fulfilled about 2 billion total rides and at a “smaller” look, 40 million rides monthly.

  • Waze

    Waze is a GPS navigation app that combines a social community with turn-by-turn directions, live route and traffic updates. It launched in 2007 and has about 65 million monthly active users in 185 countries. By 2013, Waze raised $67 million from private investors and later that year was purchased by Google for just over $1 billion.

Illustrated in our interactive, in 15 years, over 140 billion tech investors’ dollars have been put behind the 13 major apps.

So much of our daily lives are encompassed by the apps we use everyday. Whether using your smartphone, tablet or computer, there’s seemingly an app for everything—to dictate our routines, decisions and purchases.

It’s evident that mobile app development, and the industry as a whole, are actively growing. Although the landscape can be ever-changing, with the amount tech investors put behind the apps we have outlined here, it is clear that things are not slowing down anytime soon.