Only 12 apps in history have made a billion dollars or more, but entrepreneur George Berkowski’s new book explains what they have in common – and why the next Facebook-sized hit could be a calendar.

“If you want to make a lot of money, you’ve got to come up with something that’s a human universal,” says app inventor George Berkowski. “Something fundamental. You reinvent the taxi, as Hailo and Uber did, or the address book. It’s got to work across all cultures and all languages.”

Only 12 apps in history have made a billion dollars or more – among them Instagram, the product of a conversation on a holiday in Mexico, and Dropbox, an online storage system, where just 4% of users ever upgrade from the free version. 

“It is horrifically difficult to create a billion-dollar app,” says Berkowski, “You don’t just have a good idea, then walk right into success.. Look at the guys who head up those firms – they’re not 21, or even in their twenties, with a few exceptions, like Mark Zuckerberg. On average, they’re 36. You’ve got to keep working, keep executing, fail, deliver. When you  create your own perfect storm.”

There are a billion people who use an app every day, and since the iPhone popularised the idea in 2008, we have downloaded 250 billion of them.

But 90% of apps only get opened once or twice, then are never used again. Berkowski says. There is still room for big ideas – and lessons from the big successes which could offer tips on 
how to create the next one. Many of the most successful apps are games: created by studios with decades of experience. But there is still room for a few simple ideas.

“I think we’re all getting bored of apps,” Berkowski says, “The fad will peter out in two or three years. We have started to expect functions we used to get from apps to be built into phones – and wearables such as watches are going to increase that. But before that happens I think we’ll see at least one app go from nothing to a billion dollars in a year. Instagram took about a year and a half. I have a hunch it will either be a calendar or an alarm clock.”

Rule 1: Think two to three years in the future

“There were already a few magazine-style apps, so Flipboard tried a few different things before they decided, “We’re going to nail our future to the iPad.” At the time, the iPad had just launched, no one knew if it was going to be a success. That’s where the skill comes in. Even if the basic idea has been done before, if you manage to think what things will be like in two to three years’ time and make something before, then you’ve got a chance.”

2. The first page of your app should make people happy

“More than 90% of apps are only ever opened once or twice. You need to engage people. I waved Photoshopped screenshots at literally thousands of people as we launched Hailo: I went round cafes and pubs, asking everyone. That’s why people keep using it: on that first screen, you don’t even have to log in, it just says, “Hail a cab”. It just needs a phone number and a card number: it’s a great first experience. Figure that out, Talk to 200 people. Talk to 500 people. Make a spreadsheet of what they say. That’s what great companies do.”

For rules 3, 4 and 5 keep reading the original article on Yahoo.