Hunched over his laptop in a hotel lobby, empty coffee cups and water bottles piled up on the table beside him, Jaoued Ahmed’s energy and excitement about his upcoming new product launch is infectious.
“Airbnb failed five times before they got the product right,” he says. “That’s why I don’t give up. We know we’re developing something that’s really helping developers.”
Ahmed is the CMO (chief marketing officer) behind Myappconverter, a Moroccan-British startup that aims to instantly convert the code of an iOS app into a code usable on Android.
Currently a conundrum that affects app writers everywhere, there is no simple way to make a native app work on both systems.
Mobile developers have to wait months for apps to be launched on Android, because they have to start writing the whole thing from scratch in a new native Android language.
Myappconverter uses artificial intelligence (AI) based on semantics. Their algorithm works out the meaning and objectives of the app rather than translating it word for word.
“Our product makes it possible to upload your code and within minutes you’ll get a translation of about 90 percent to download, clean and bug free,” says Ahmed.
The remaining 10 percent of the code has to be translated manually by the team and can take up to five weeks. This is different to other products on the market which include Objective C and Swift which are more traditional alternative coding languages.
“The product has been a really great way for us to quickly get our application cross-platform and into the market,” says Ben Crouch, chief product officer at Myappconverter’s client Essensys Tech. “Only having iOS skills available to us, we were able to focus on getting this app complete, then letting Myappconverter take care of the rest.”
When you can’t scale
Myappconverter was set up in 2013 by a team of three Moroccans who go way back. Seasoned entrepreneur and the technical brains behind the project, Kamal Youbi, the CEO, met Ahmed, the CMO, while working at IT company Logica in Paris in 2008. He met Karim El Mazouni, the COO (chief operating officer) when they were kids.
Ahmed convinced John Pluthero, former CEO of Cable and Wireless in the UK, whom Jaoued knew from his days at the English company, to put in money as an executive investor, taking the chairman position.
Last year, they started to generate revenue. “We generated over $1 million in orders since we launched, but we found that we just didn’t have the capacity to convert all the code,” says Ahmed. Because the remaining 10 percent of the code still needed to be translated manually, the company found they didn’t have the capacity to deliver all the orders.
Refining the product
“Customers told us that they loved what we were trying to do, but they said we were just trying to do too much by writing it all ourselves,” Ahmed told Wamda.
So the team has decided to rethink their approach to let clients write the last bits of code themselves.
The new version of the product is a native iOS UI to native Android UI porting tool which provides customers with a ‘template’ of the app they’re trying to write which enables them to write the remaining 10 percent of the code.
This new service is being tested with friendly clients in the coming weeks and then will be launched publicly in November.
Between London and Casablanca
Myappconverter is registered in London because the team originally met and lived in London, but its main center of operations is Casablanca, where work force is cheaper. They employ about 20 freelance coders there.
Customers, who are mostly application writers and app development houses, come from all over the world, but are mostly from Europe and the US.
“As long as we deliver the services, our clients are not interested in where we’re from,” said Ahmed.
The company has over 40,000 registered users with no PR or marketing budget spend, only word of mouth and online marketing, said Ahmed. They’re currently seeking further investment from the US, ideally from software companies.
“We plan to grow big and fast so we’d like to form some key strategic partnerships. We want to build something mobile app developers will want to use and pay for,” said Ahmed.
Feature image, rebuilt Bombe machine at Bletchley Park, a different kind of code, via Bethlikes.com
Celeste Hicks is a freelance journalist with a focus on North Africa. Former BBC correspondent in Chad and Mali and Editor on BBC Africa service news programmes, she is now based in Casablanca, Morocco.