Can WhatsApp help startups scale?
Assessing WhatsApp as a tool for scaling

Key questions this article answers:

  1. There is a new trend of startups delivering products and services via WhatsApp instead of a mobile app. Why is WhatsApp an attractive platform?

  2. As more startups embrace WhatsApp as a primary user touchpoint, what challenges will they face?

Before WhatsApp, few platforms offered real-time communication globally. Between 2005 and 2008, Blackberry's BBM was popular in Africa, and 2go was quite the rave in Nigeria. Still, none achieved widespread ubiquity, an essential feature for social networks.

So in 2009, when WhatsApp came onto the scene, there was still a large appetite for an instant messaging platform. In four years, WhatsApp reached 200 million active users globally; for context, it took Facebook five years to hit this number (founded in 2004, it reached the milestone in 2009). It is no wonder Mark Zuckerberg shelled out $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp in 2014.

This move proved far-sighted as WhatsApp has become the third most used social media platform, with 2 billion Monthly Active Users (MAU) globally as of 2023. And today, not only does Whatsapp let people share messages and multimedia, but it’s become a distribution channel for startups as they integrate Whatsapp with their service and product offerings.

I get my favourite periodic newspaper via WhatsApp. Every Saturday, with a prompt to click a button, I get a pdf copy of the latest issue. The last time I had this much convenience was when I used WeChat—China’s first super app to read news, order food, hail rides, and manage my finances while staying connected with my friends.

Why are startups choosing this approach, and why is WhatsApp attractive? This article will answer these questions. Suffice it to say that if you are considering building a product, you can decide whether WhatsApp is for you at the end of today’s article.

Are you on WhatsApp?

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Nnamdi Ifechi-fred

Nnamdi Ifechi-fred

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