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An app developer’s recipe for success

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The diamond in the rough for app developers is an unmet need, the reason to come up with a product or service that's never been developed before. For all the other app companies, there may be a recipe for surfacing and staying at the top.

There are 1.5 million apps downloadable on Apple's App Store and 1.6 million available on Google Play for Android users, according to statistics source Statista.

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Being handy and easy to use isn't necessarily enough to make a successful app. Coming up with an app that's worth money is vital, according to Greg Cohn, CEO of Burner, maker of its namesake app, which generates disposable phone numbers that can be used for calls, texting and voicemail.

Despite the existence of billion-dollar, so-called "unicorn" start-ups with little to no income, having a business model that made money right away was important, according to Cohn.

"It's not necessarily an obvious choice in this frothy economy," Cohn told CNBC in an interview.

The Burner mobile app generates disposable phone numbers for calls, texts and voicemail.
Jeniece Pettitt | CNBC

"If I were advising somebody starting out today, I would definitely suggest that they think about something transactional," Cohn said, citing transaction-based business models like ride-hailing app Uber and on-demand delivery company as examples.

"It's just a very good barometer of whether you're actually creating value for people if they're willing to pay you. It's not easy to get people to do that," Cohn said.

Marc Benioff, CEO of, speaking at Dreamforce 2014.
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About a quarter of mobile apps are downloaded and only used once, according to analytics firm Localytics. But continuously updating and improving an app, not just with bug fixes, but actual functionalities, could keep an app from being a part of that statistic.

For instance, Burner has added a function that includes Burner in iOS spotlight searches to look up conversations, according to the company.

And while it competes with other disposable phone number-generating apps like Hushed, LineUp, YOONumbers and RingMeMaybe, it's connecting its app to other tools like DropBox, Evernote and SoundCloud for archiving and sharing, according to a press release.