App launches are everywhere these days. We all know someone who’s working on developing an app, or at least dreaming of making one. But what does it take to create and launch an app that actually works for the market?
My Salaam spoke to Hussein Shirwa, the 31-year-old London-based founder of FajrUp, for the lowdown on how to create a successful app. His four-month-old brainchild has already notched up 7,000 downloads and is being downloaded by new users over 100 times a day. The unique app allows Muslims the world over to wake each other up with a real phone call in time for Fajr (the first morning prayer).
Somalian-born Shirwa, who originally came to London as a refugee when he was just 10 years old, got the idea for FajrUp 15 months ago.
“I was thinking about an agreement I had with a friend a few years ago. Essentially we were quite religious boys and we wanted to catch the morning prayer, which is arguably the hardest prayer of the day. We often had trouble waking up because we were studying and working too. We were absolutely shattered.”
“The agreement was that I would call him one day to wake me up and he would call me the next day. It could be any time between 3 a.m. and 4.30 a.m.”
Shirwa said that his market research has found that people are much more likely to respond to and wake up to a call from another person rather than an automated alarm clock.
“It’s about the human quality behind it; you know that someone has made an effort to wake up and call you. You try to respect that effort and at least comply.”
With FajrUp, users can either choose to be called and woken up within a particular timeframe or select another user across the world to wake up. The app runs on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology and keeps all user details private.
Shirwa said, “Essentially you’re trailing the sun from east to west following people as they wake up, so you’re working across time zones.”
The FajrUp founder said that he’s gained traction so far with an extremely limited market budget of just $100 a month. Shirwa said that, based on company projections, the app will reach about 10,000 Android downloads by November 2016 and around 40,000 downloads when the IOS version of the app is launched in February 2017.
So what are his tips for success?
THE MARKET DOESN’T LIE
“Get your app out there and see the results before you spend a lot on developing it. Take screenshots, print them and just ask people what they think. It’s better to spend £1000 on cool screenshots and questionnaires rather than spending money on building the app and then finding out that people don’t like it.”
DOES YOUR APP SOLVE A PROBLEM?
“There are many apps out there that are clever, but do they actually make people’s lives easier? Fajrup didn’t have to create an audience because we already fit into a way of life. We mesh into it and with a potential market of 1.5 billion people it’s very easily relatable. Do your research, ask around and try to make an app that fits into people lives.”
TRY AND PLAN FOR TOMORROW’S TECHNOLOGY
“Last year, smartphones and tablet sales overtook desktop sales. We’re beginning to see a generation that isn’t familiar with desktops and only uses smartphones. Every year, smartphone purchases are proliferating, so try to plan for the technology that is coming as opposed to the technology that is already there.”
USE SOCIAL NETWORKS FOR MARKETING
“Fajrup has been very active on Muslim social networks and everybody is essentially sharing our posts on Facebook and [among] Muslim groups on LinkedIn. Social media has become a marketer for me. I’m literally doing everything for the business off my smartphone. I registered the company on my phone; I take calls on my phone; and I manage all the social network marketing on my phone.”