Pasadena-based IconApps has announced the establishment of a development center in Yerevan.
“Economic development in Armenia’s technology sector has been gaining steadily since the late 1990’s and IconApps has established an Armenian Branch to leverage Armenia’s capabilities in cutting-edge technologies,” said Al Eisaian, Co-founder and CEO of the company.
IconApps also announced the availability of four iPhone and iTouch applications, known as “Apps,” designed with busy mothers in mind from Apple’s iPhone AppStore. The company’s Giftster, FamilyVault, iPassword and KeyDates are now available to help working parents save valuable time from their busy days.
“Any working mom or dad understands how tracking gifts and key dates and blood types and website passwords can steal valuable time away from the people and activities that really matter,” added Eisaian.
Asbarez caught up with IconApps technology lead in Armenia, Michael Valasanyan and discussed new applications, as well as the challenges and benefits of working in Armenia’s burgeoning technology sector.
Below is the interview.
Asbarez: What are the application features of the four apps?
Michael Valasanyan: The four applications released by IconApps include:
Giftster tracks the people to whom you give gifts, their sizes and gift dates, then serves up reminders—just the facts you need at just the right time
Key Dates keeps the right dates right in your face, but only when you need them. It even shows you which ones are most critical at a glance.
iPasswords tracks every last login and password so you can save your neurons for witty human interaction.
FamilyVault tracks seriously critical data like Social Security numbers, blood types, passport numbers, and birthdates and locks them up for quick retrieval in the emergency room or wherever they’re needed.
Asbarez: What are the price points for the apps?
M.V.: The applications are available for download and purchase in the iTunes App Store and on the company’s website at www.iconapps.com. For iPhone users, downloading these apps is an easy way to promote Armenians and support technology in Armenia.The Giftser is 99 cents, Family Vault is $1.99, Key Dates is $2.99 and iPasswords is $3.99
Asbarez: How did you get into IPhone app development?
M.V.: As a developer I try to stay current with the latest technologies via the internet and staying in contact with friends. In the fall of last year, we learned about a new US-based-company that was hiring for Apple iPhone developers in Armenia. At that time there were no companies in Armenia that were focused on Apple Technologies. Seeing iPhone’s amazing capabilities and growth rate, we decided to jump right in and apply. And it has been an amazing journey so far. This week we have two people from IconApps attending the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. This event which was sold out in less than a week brings together 5200 people from around the world to learn about all the latest core development technologies that Apple has been working on. Our team members then will spend the next week or so teaching what they learned at this conference to the rest of the team. iPhone application and technology development is absolutely the hottest area of software development currently and we are delighted to be a part of the pioneering group that will bring Armenia to the forefront of this movement.
Asbarez: What were the development challenges working from abroad? What are the benefits of working with programmers from abroad?
M.V.: There are only two minor issues. One is the internet connectivity issues in Armenia. And the other is the 12-hour time difference between Yerevan and California. However we must say that, over the past 5 years the internet services in Armenia have radically improved and they continue to improve, but we still have a lot of work to do there. The time-difference issue has been handled brilliantly by using collaboration technologies like Assembla, Skype Video/Call, and other such technologies. We have frequent online and less frequent in-person meetings that have made it very smooth to work with the team in the US. The other great benefit of working at IconApps is that it is really just one team but two different locations. We continuously learn from each other and build together. We believe this model of collaboration is absolutely great because we never feel isolated from the cutting edge technologies; we learn state of the art product design and development practices and are able to contribute at the core level. And one other huge benefit is that we don’t have to immigrate to be able to work on projects we love! Finally, being close to family and friends here in Armenia we can teach what we learn to others.
Asbarez: Describe the technology landscape of Armenia? Has there been much advancement in the past five years? If so, what?
M.V.: The technology landscape in Armenia is truly dynamic. With every positive development in internet connectivity there are huge improvements in the diffusion of high technologies in Armenia. The young people are very keen in getting educated in these fields and there is a high-level of attention from the government in improving the environment for the growth of these sectors. Armenia has great potential in the high technology sector due to its strong heritage in analytical/critical thinking, creative/innovative problem-solving and heavy focus in math and science education. With the diligent participation of companies based in California, France, Armenia has been able to leverage its global network of high technology professionals to guide the development of this sector aggressively. Pioneering organizations like the Armenian High Tech Council which recently merged with the Armetech Congress and Union of IT Enterprises based in Yerevan have been essential in facilitating in growing and developing this sector in the past 5 years.
Asbarez: What’s the day to day like in Armenia?
M.V.: If your question is regarding life of a software developer, not that much different from the life of a software developer anywhere. We are singularly focused on doing cutting edge work, making our company successful, hiring more of friends to join us and constantly improving and moving forward. This is truly a very enjoyable and exciting field and we feel fortunate to be a part of it. The only downside really is the speed of internet connectivity that all of us feel must be rapidly improved and we are hopeful that this will be resolved soon with the recent investments and focus by both foreign and domestic companies.
Asbarez: What are your plans for future apps?
M.V.: We have several great applications in the works all focused on serving the busy mom/busy parent concerns that will be coming out over the next several months.