With Small Beginnings, YouVersion Grew to Reach Millions Globally

An Idea in an Airport

It started in 2006 when YouVersion Founder and CEO Bobby Gruenewald was standing in a long security line at O’Hare Airport. He was thinking about how the technology available in this unique time in history could change the way people engage with the Bible.

Back then, Web 2.0 was taking off and people were starting to see themselves more as contributors than consumers of content. YouTube was in its early stages. Facebook was becoming more publicly available. Blogging was continuing to gain popularity. Suddenly, everyone could distribute content much more easily, similar to the revolutionary moment in history when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.

At the time, Gruenewald described his Bible engagement as inconsistent, and he wondered: How could new technologies change the way we engage with the Bible today? He knew that if he could find a way to help him engage in the Bible more consistently that it would likely help others who had similar struggles. That’s when he had the idea for YouVersion.

When YouVersion Didn’t Work

YouVersion launched in September 2007 as a website that allowed people to read and personally annotate the Bible online. Even though 20,000 people visited the website in the first three months, it didn’t get the kind of traction YouVersion had hoped. People visited the website, but they didn’t come back regularly. So, YouVersion planned to shut down the website.

During those discussions, the team began to explore why the website had failed. They realized that even though the Bible was available online, it didn’t change people’s Bible engagement habits because they still had to access it from a set location on their desktop computers.

Mobile devices were becoming more and more integrated with people’s daily lives. The team wondered if they could modify the website so that it was optimized for a mobile device, would people more naturally engage every day? The team decided to try it.

Into the App Store

The mobile website launched in Spring 2008. Right away, YouVersion.com traffic went up. Even the YouVersion team found that they were reading the Bible more than ever because it was on a device that was with them all the time. It became something they naturally used throughout the day because of its proximity.

Around that time, Apple announced that they were opening up the opportunity to develop apps for the iPhone. YouVersion quickly built an iOS version and submitted it as “Bible.” When the App Store opened on July 10, 2008, YouVersion’s Bible App was one of just 200 free apps available that day.

Gruenewald hoped to see 80,000 iOS installs in the first year. Instead, the app was installed on 83,000 devices in the first three days, and the team was blown away!

Throughout its first 15 years, YouVersion has seen God use the Bible App in really special ways, connecting hundreds of millions of people to His Word. The team believes this is only the beginning of what God wants to do through YouVersion.