What is the half-life of your App?

An immediate result of the rapid rollout of LLM tools like ChatGPT, ChatGPT-4 and Bard is that application development has accelerated. Acceleration leads to faster execution and, just as significantly, it leads to lower-cost execution. Anyone with an idea for an app can generate an app. Anyone with an idea for an app but with no money can also generate an app. Furthermore, you don’t need to know how to code. There’s a marketing arms race for attention and we are already at DefCon No-Code. But this is a problem for app half lives. What is the half life of your app going to be?

Against this backdrop, app churn is going to go exponential. It’s too easy to create newer, better, faster, cheaper, shinier apps in an already crowded space and it’s getting harder to build moats: factors that protect you from competitors. The half-life of new app-based businesses is dropping, fast. ChatGPT and Bard have accelerated this trend.

If anyone can create an app then apps themselves, which are already fighting for attention-space in the app stores, are going to be impossible to defend from a marketing point of view unless they are supported by either extraordinary, existing brand power or by existing channels to market. Preferably both.

What this means for developers is that, even if you create an app that is outstanding in a given niche, it will be days or less before a competitor app does the same thing albeit with a little more magic dust sprinkled on it in terms of features. And there’s an app to spot new apps.

Two unstoppable forces are at play. The cost of app dev has plummeted. It’s effectively zero now and as apps are used to develop apps and apps develop apps that are themselves used to develop apps etc. there are parallels with the AI singularity. As a result, the number of functional apps vying for consumer attention is rocketing. But there is still a relatively fixed number of human attention minutes (HAMs) available. Consequence: an almost impossible to win, Pareto distribution, free-for-all fight. The cost of consumer attention, defined as the number of apps needed to get a single HAM is subject to almost Zimbabwean inflation.

Apps will need sophisticated, clever, fast-learning and intelligent marketing algorithms to get any significant attention at all. But there will be an app for that too, available to other apps. So developers are already in an attention-seeking arms race.

The second force is that app stores, already impossible to navigate easily, are crowded spaces and most apps, even excellent ones, are being crushed by sheer weight of competitor numbers.

With the cost of app development plummeting, app stuffing will be a growing problem. App stuffing, like keyword stuffing, is a brute-force method of gaining HAMs by developing large numbers of apps that operate in the same functional area. A consumer searching for a dieting app is already overwhelmed with options – I counted well over 100 diet apps before I got bored of counting – and if your 50 apps appear alongside 20 others from different developers, you stand the greatest chance of a download. App store curation does help of course but algorithms are busily analysing these too in order to game them.

A measure of how this is going is the half-life of an app as defined by the average number of days that pass before usage drops by 50%. There are, of course, many apps that never get used at all whilst others seem to dominate the market although they too are subject to decay.

So how to deal with this as an app marketer? You need to establish and build a brand. Successful companies know this and invest $millions in brand awareness etc. For individual developers, one method is to build a personal brand on Twitter.

If you are an individual and need to know how to do this, just ask ChatGPT. It’s a crowded space already.

Key concepts: App stuffing, App half life.

Using ChatGPT for pre-mortems

A pre-mortem is a powerful business technique where you take a leap into a future where your project has failed and you discuss where it went wrong. It helps teams identify potential issues and develop solutions before the project has launched. It involves critical thinking and some degree of creativity. But it can also generate some insights that in extreme cases can stop you from working on your project any further. Using ChatGPT for pre-mortems is an very low cost method of doing this without the need to convene any management meetings

Using ChatGPT for Pre-mortems

ChatGPT-4, the latest iteration (as of April 2023) of OpenAI’s powerful language model, is an invaluable business asset that can help reduce project management disasters. By using the right prompts, project teams can simulate failures before a project has started and use the analysis to identify and proactively mitigate potential risks. This method not only saves time and resources but also fosters a wider business culture of proactive problem solving.

Example Pre-mortem Prompt 1 – Product launch

“Assume that our new product launch has been a failure. The product was designed to do x and we developed it because we thought it would sell profitably in the y market. List the top 5 reasons why this might have occurred and suggest ways to address each of these issues.”

Why this works: This prompt encourages ChatGPT-4 to analyze and generate potential reasons for failure, helping the team identify potential risks and their corresponding solutions. By addressing the top 5 reasons, the model provides a focused analysis, ensuring that the most critical aspects are considered. Additionally, the prompt asks for ways to address each issue, allowing teams to develop preemptive strategies for success.

You can also ask ChatGPT to rank the reasons for failure in terms of likelihood, cost impact and so on. Use your description of what the product does to give ChatGPT as much background information as you can. Ask it follow up questions too.

Example Pre-mortem Prompt 2 – Marketing campaign

Prompt: “Imagine our marketing campaign for our new product x failed to achieve the goals we set in terms of sales and customer engagement. Our marketing campaign consisted of social media promotion, geo-targeted Google Ads and local mailshots. Describe four possible flaws in our campaign strategy and provide recommendations on how to improve each of them.”

Why it works: This prompt targets a specific area of the project, the marketing campaign, and directs ChatGPT-4 to evaluate potential shortcomings. Asking for a specific number of possible flaws helps ChatGPT to provide ran analysis that will have four separate elements which you can then rank. The specific request for recommendations for improvement will accelerate the process of finding solutions and help ideation.

Both these examples focus on product launches which is an important business process but there are many other areas where pre-mortems are helpful. Let’s look at one about recruitment.

Example Pre-mortem 3 – Recruitment

Prompt: “Our recent hiring process resulted in a high employee turnover rate within the first six months. Identify four factors that might have contributed to this outcome and suggest improvements for each factor in our hiring process.”

Why it works: This prompt focuses in on the hiring process and its potential impact on employee retention. By asking ChatGPT-4 to explore four contributing factors, the model is encouraged to delve into various aspects of the hiring process that might have led to a high turnover rate. This comprehensive examination helps the HR team pinpoint areas in need of improvement. By requesting suggestions for each factor, the team can develop a more effective hiring strategy to ensure they attract and retain the right talent.

The cost of doing pre-mortems

A typical business pre-mortem involves a meeting of your project team and a lot of discussion which takes time and therefore costs money. Of course, it can also save a lot of money down the line if it results in actionable outcomes that boost the chances of the project’s success. Using ChatGPT and similar tools to do a pre-mortem takes a few minutes and whilst not necessarily as effective as a full-blown pre-mortem management meeting, it can deliver results extremely cheaply. These results may deliver actionable outcomes on their own but just as significantly, they can be used as a business accelerant by acting as briefing notes for your own pre-mortem. Don’t forget too that you can ask ChatGPT to regenerate its response to come up with more ideas and that you can ask it to explain more about any aspects of its answers.


By integrating ChatGPT-4 into pre-mortem exercises, businesses can unlock innovative and efficient ways to identify and address potential project failures for negligible cost. By formulating targeted and focused prompts, teams can extract valuable and actionable insights from the AI, which enables them to make better decisions and reduce implementation risks.

Pre-mortem action point

Managers should do pre-mortems using AI tools like ChatGPT-4 as a matter of habit. Using ChatGPT for pre-mortems should be as habitualised as using Google for search used to be.