Cost and time to build an Instagram-like app from scratch?

(Jonathan) #1

I’m trying to figure out how much it would cost to build an Instagram-like app from scratch. For example, the app would enable users to login, build a profile, follow other users, upload photos/videos, capture photos/videos directly from the app, write comments, “like” photos/videos, and message other users.

In some discussions I’ve had with developers, it seems the discussion revolves around: (i) number of engineers, (ii) time to build, and (iii) average monthly cost per engineer. Is this the right way to think about it?

Separately, if I were to go to an outsourced (but U.S.-based) agency, how much more would it cost?


(Stephen Willis) #2

This is kind of a broad question and hard to answer.

For a low-end single page app(not Instagram) you are looking at a base starting price at $15,000 to $20,000.
This is for a team completely giving you a turn-key application.

There are a lot of factors that play into “having an app”.
Performance, scalability, maintenance, support, etc.

An app like Instagram is content-driven and is pretty much automated. However, who is going to maintain issues and who is going to give support. Are you going to have a team in place?

Let’s break it down in math. Looking at the bottom rate of $50 per hour in the US for web developers and engineers and designers. So say you have one app developer, web developer, and graphic designer.

That is roughly $8,000 per month for each person.This is not including the project manager, etc.
Each project that big takes a minimum of 6 months with a 3 person team who is highly skilled.

That is $24,000 per month which is $144,000 for the 6 month period.

To have a site built such as Instagram that is professional and scalable will cost a minimum of $200,000 just to get the MVP. This stuff is really expensive. I am a developer myself and can outsource projects on because I know how to manage a project and understand all aspects from concept to implementation. Although having something built remotely is slower.

Now, you can hire some amateur PHP developer who can give you all the features, but the performance will break when you have more than 500 simultaneous users on simple hosting. There is so much that goes into this and that is why professionals charge the big bucks.

When you have an app built, there is more than the app built. So you are paying for the app, web development(API, front-end, back-end), and database dev.

Then again, there is the other side of the table. The creator of “Yo” developed his app in 8 hours…
Having the original Yo app developed by a company would probably cost $10,000 from a local small app company in Denver, CO.

(Andrew Chen) #3

The devil’s in the details. But I think a rough ballpark for a mobile app that’s well-designed, with a few iterations built in, would be a few hundred thousand bucks. That’s for an “A-Team” that you might hire out of the Bay Area, for instance, that’s mostly high-end tech folks, from a shop sort of like Pivotal.
If you want to do iterations over the course of 18-24months, which is the amount of time you need to launch, collect feedback, do an iteration or two, then relaunch, then that might be about $1M.
IMHO it’s better just to have a technical cofounder who builds it for a mix of cash/equity. Cheaper plus you get a partner in the whole mess. I don’t think the tech side is easily outsourced these days.

(Joel) #4

Serious question here from a nontechnical person:

There have been SO many photosharing apps that died. Would it be possible to just acquire one for a few $K? Or just acquire the rights to use their code as an MVP? And if this idea is crazy, why is it crazy (I’m talking MVP here, not 100,000+ users)?

(Stephen Willis) #5

I also wanted to add this good article that describes in detail the process so business people can understand the amount of time and work that goes into making an app. The article is from 2012, but it still has merit.

(Andrew Chen) #6

Here’s a good article arguing why you shouldn’t outsource your development:

(Jonathan) #7

Thanks a lot man. Breaking the math down helps a lot.

(Jonathan) #8

Thanks, Andrew. This ballpark range is helpful.

(DanDillon) #9

What do you think about automated development platforms for creating apps? I’ve been looking in to these and many of them seem simplistic and not up to par in terms of app management, testing, etc. But I’m curious to know if they really do save time and money. Any perspectives on these?

(Stephen Willis) #10


Are you referring to app makers that allow you to DIY?
If so, I would only use those for a mom and pop website. In the end, you get what you pay for if building a CMS, CRM, or full fledged platform. These automated platforms are not at that level yet. Maybe in 5 years…
Unfortunately, there is not a way to save time and money in true professional app development. You have to either bite the bullet and spend some high cash, build it in steps as you get funding, or outsource it. I do not recommend outsourcing anything unless you know what your doing.

Tip: It pays to make friends with developers who will go the extra mile and not charge you as much as it would normally cost to build :smile:

(DanDillon) #11

Thanks, Stephen. I appreciate your perspective. Sound advice.

(Stephen Willis) #12

I did want to add another option. If you have an app built on multiple platforms such as ios and android, you would have to have double the coding done since there are two platforms. However, there is a framework now called Phonegap that lets developers build the app with HTML, CSS, and Javascript. The code just decompiles down to the correct builds for each platform. This would save money in the long run because your app developer would only do one update vs two updates.

(Basilis Kanonidis) #13

On the other hand:

(Mary) #14

The average development time is calculated as a sum of hours spent for each option plus extra costs. In our case it will be 643 hours. The salary of the team is calculated as a total project development time length multiplied by hourly rate of one employee. Thus,** $32K** is an approximate cost needed to create an app like Instagram for iOS mobile platform. Note, that the calculations were made by the lower boundary. The cost will increase depending on the number of social media to be linked, settings to be adjusted, filters to be applied, etc.
Average cost to develop an app for Android will be a little more due to the fact that a number of Android device types exceeds the iOS ones. Extra work will be required to adapt the app for each device. To get an approximate figure, you can add 5-10% to the above sum. Thus, the Android app is going to cost approximately $35K.
Both for iOS and Android apps you are going to pay $67K.
If you want to know more details about how to develop Instagram-like app, you can read

(Zoplay) #15

App charging is differs from platform to platform such as iOS, Android and windows. The App like Instagram for iOS gadgets offers with the development aspect of the procedure. The price differs on the devices for which you are going to create the App and also relies on the functions.

The basic cost for iOS & Android platform of an Instagram like Apps based on research part, designing and architecture, technology used, screens added, Business logic is between $6000 to $14,000 perplatform and for Windows it is around $7000 to $ 15,000.

Uber Clone

(Chandan Benjaram) #16

I wouldn’t chose to work for you if you have said you just want a clone. Why do you waste your time and my time by simply building something that would fail?

Anyways, to answer you question…
I run an agency, Maisa Solutions, Inc., 25+ engineers strong, working 6days a week to help entrepreneurs build better tomorrow.

i) number of engineers: 1 designer, 1 native app person for each platform (start with iOS), 1 API/backend services
ii) time to build: you might want to split this into first launch-iterate-second launch-iterate model. that way, you don’t end-up building no one wants…
iii) average monthly cost: our charges ranges from 25usd/hr to 30USD/hr. And 40hrs per week.

Hope that helps!
Feel free to reach me at:
Finally, our in house entrepreneurial minds work on cool things. Check them out at: Maisa Labs

(Radhika) #17

Instagram is the app to share the photos and videos with friends and families.

If you are looking for the development of the app through which any user can share the photos to the friends and in social media including some basic features like followers and following, adding other users as friend in the app, add tags and comments in the photos and all activity push notifications sent to the respective users then it’s not a big deal to develop.

I found that has developed something similar to that at very competitive costs.

The basic cost to develop something similar which I highlighted above starts from $2500-$30000, you can contact them directly at to get more realistic quote from their highly skilled Android, iOS, Web, iPad and iphone app developers depending on the features you have in mind.

(Dectar) #18

Roughly $500,000 to get started. Instagram had a team of ~3 people who spent ~8 weeks building the first public version of the app itself but more importantly they spent a year learning what the app should actually do. Read more here, Uber Clone.

(Stephen Willis) #19

Your company is a dime a dozen. What gives you the right to tell the customer what idea he/she should not build. Are you not the engineer? Yes, you should guide them in the process, but not tell them no because you do not like their idea. If you design for a specific industry then it would make sense to keep your portfolio consistent, but that is not the case. Assuming something would fail is to assume the entrepreneur is going to fail because it is the entrepreneur who executes the idea. I would not hire you because of that reason.

(Chandan Benjaram) #20

Dude, let’s not get into the business of trolling! By day-n-night, I am an engineer & entrepreneur myself. Personal stuff aside, if you know something is not right and you could see that clearly, what is wrong in telling client/prospect up front?

I do understand if you are an engineer and just working for money and do not care for success of client, then go for it. Just build something where you would succeed(simply by getting paid) and client eventually fails. That’s exactly what your freelancer/upwork type gig/job sites get you. No passion except for upfront bucks. They even offer something called resolution center which focuses around getting money related disputes resolved. Nothing on commitment/quality of work!

Anyways, bottom line is. You want client to succeed for a repetitive and on-going engagement. If you think of your job as just developer who charges by hour, nothing wrong with it. This is what was working until recently. Not in today’s lean era.

Take a look at my IT services company website once: MAISA SOLUTIONS

I was literally composing every bit of that 3 package model from my experience launching few start-ups and at the same time learning from successful executions while helping other clients. Here is the reference to my dream workspace: R&D Labs

Before I finish, I would like to tell you a success story from one of our clients in recent years, HireWire Inc., founder of this company approached us to run by idea. Our first reply, hey Chau, this may not work! but, he proved us wrong by working with us from inception to a massively successful launch. Recently raised 1.8M just after getting listed as TOP10 fastest growing start-ups in Atlanta, Georgia. We built HireWire iOS/Android apps along with email campaigns, various virality reports, AWS hosted stack, etc. So my point is, it’s OK to raise your concern upfront and accept you are wrong if founder proves it!

I will close this out with a final funny incedent that happened w/t one of our prospects(never a client). He approached us to clone last year. Great. If I were you, we might have said that is absolutely a brilliant idea or you are a rock star in execution and what not and eventually banckrupt him or his investors. But, being in this industry, we asked him about his product value proposition and why would other professionals come to his, and he said, I would charge less than that of Then we asked, what if they drop the charge overnight, then he muted forever! you know what I am talking about brother…