New App Creator Shines on Iranian Horizon
With smartphone penetration as high as 140% in Iran, the need for mobile applications is also on the rise. With that in mind, a new application has been developed to help the not-so tech savvy to enter the application market.
Financial Tribune spoke to Neishabur-native Mostafa Lotfi, 22, one of the four members running Puzzley, who explained how the online software was created and works.
After having attended several entrepreneurship events, the team started mulling over the idea of starting their own business.
“What we wanted to do more than anything was to share what we had learned,” Lotfi said.
“Several people have independent businesses wherein they devise a project and sell it to 10 clients by implementing minor alterations. The head of our R&D had a similar idea for mobile apps: To make a single mobile program that can be used by different businesses. We chiseled at the idea for a week before Puzzley was formed.”
After moving to Tehran, the team started working with Avatech accelerator for two months. But after completing the “pre-acceleration cycle”, they failed to make it to the actual program.
They now see the turn of fate as a “constructive incident,” as the team set out to work independently for nearly six months.
“After completing the two-month-long pre-acceleration cycle, 20 budding companies presented their business ideas, only half of which would make it to the next level,” Lotfi said.
“We were very confident of ourselves and did not doubt for a second that we wouldn’t make it. We had even made plans to go on a trip after we would be selected to relax after this very stressful period.”
However, Puzzley did not make it to the top ten.
“At first, when we weren’t selected, it came as a major shock and everybody was dumbstruck,” he said.
“We held a meeting in the evening of the same day and cancelled our plans for the coming days so that we could push Puzzley forward.”
With almost no technical experience, the team started self-training, developing the software and localizing the service.
“The outcome was very productive,” Lotfi says.
Now in their second week of launch, 1,200 users have visited Puzzley and approximately 500 apps have been made using the website.
According to the developer, the site averages 70 visits daily and nearly 50% of the users refer to the website on more than one occasion.
“Working with an accelerator has its own benefits in the sense that you can make a lot of connections,” he said.
“But moving from one of the cheapest to one of the most expensive cities was very challenging for us. After we weren’t chosen as one of the top ten teams, we almost had a meltdown. We just had enough money to sustain our stay in Tehran until selection day.”
However, as the team was running out of time and money, it had to act quickly and as efficiently as possible.
According to Lotfi, working independently has had its own benefits, “as we managed to improve both our risk management and technical abilities”.
The website currently features 11 categories, including travel, health and sports. For now, users can choose to make catalogues, news applications and content-based apps.
“We still do not offer services for making shopping apps, but we are working on it to add that feature soon,” he said.
“We are working with two guild systems: Iran’s computer guild system and the furniture and interior design guild system.”
These businesses display a gallery of products and a list of services. Sections on “News” and “Contact Us” could also be added.
“Technology news website IT Iran is one of our major clients in the news category,” he said.
Lotfi announced that sports centers, art galleries and hotels have also used Puzzley to create apps.
What sets Puzzley apart from foreign counterparts is that apps using Puzzley are Persian-friendly and create no problem regarding right-to-left alignment.
Lotfi explains that local competition is also on the rise, which shows the increasing market demand for such services.
“During only a short period, seven other groups started offering the same services as we do,” he said.
“The main difference between our apps and theirs is that apps made with Puzzley work offline and help businesses with viral marketing, as sharing of content has been made very easy.”
Price and Plans
For now, creating apps with the website is free of charge. However, users need to pay a fee for later updates and maintenance. The basic service offers 1,000 free push notifications, but when it crosses that level, users have to pay a charge.
Puzzley also offers outsourcing services. If, for instance, a person making the app does not know how to find themes and icons, Puzzley will have a team take care of it for a fee.
As one of their many services, when users need to upload their applications to app stores, the service can also help them go online.
Although the site started as an online application maker, the long-term vision is for it to ultimately become the WordPress for apps.
“Our ultimate objective is to become an open-source platform, so that no matter how much technical skill and knowledge one may have—as a layman, programmer, web designers—all of them could use Puzzley to create their own templates, modules and user interfaces,” Lotfi said.