FreeHour’s Road to Success: Malta’s Favourite Student App

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If you’ve been a student in the last three years, you’ve more than likely heard of the app FreeHour. What started out as a simple app to keep track of your timetable in a much easier format than what the schools gave you, and the ability to share that timetable with other friends to meet up during free lessons, became an app full of student offers, job opportunities, and so much more!

This is an app that has successfully gathered the right information about the student market and built their content around catering to those needs. Zach Ciappara, Founder and CEO of FreeHour, started this at the age of 18 three years ago, and Gadgets had to speak to him to see what it’s like getting into the business game at such a young age.

Starting the Business, Funding, and Inspiration

As everyone might know, starting a business requires financial capital. You need money to make money, as the saying goes. Zach was a student at Junior College, and as a student himself, he knew exactly what students wanted and needed when going through the trials and tribulations of studying. This gave him the perfect opportunity to lay the groundwork for his app idea. He started off by drawing diagrams, thinking about how it would work, lots of what-ifs and how will it happen. Then Zach did what is probably the most important and hardest thing to do when it comes to creating something like this.

He took the very first step, said “Okay, how are we going to do this?” and started contacting developers to see the viability and workability of his idea.

After carefully presenting his ideas and prototypes he managed to gather funds from friends, family, and other investors, to successfully create what Zach likes to call “FreeHour Version 1” since the FreeHour app today has so much more than what it had before.

Initial Response, and the Resulting Success

It started with 700 downloads on the first day, which as you can imagine, 700 of anything on the internet when it’s your own creation, be it comments, views, shares, or whatever, you’re gonna start getting excited at the possibility that this just might work. Then, 3,000 downloads after the first few months, then 10,000.

Finally, today, FreeHour is being used by 90% of all the students in Malta. Which basically means if you’re a student and you’re not using it, you’re part of the small percentage of students that don’t have it.

Internationalisation

This was obviously a huge success, because if you release a product aimed at a certain market and get 90% of it, it’s safe to say it’s ticking all the right boxes. The FreeHour team, that’s now expanded to ten people, with it being only three initially, had to think outside the box and see if it would work in other countries.

After six months of extensive research, they gathered that schools in Italy have a similar system to Malta, so they decided to launch their application in Rome and similar cities in Italy, and what do you know, they got 20,000 downloads in a day.

Starting up a business is a difficult task, and TechMT is there to help you get the right contacts, the right investors, and deal with tech-related issues to get your project off the ground. Dana Farrugia, CEO of TechMT, has recognised the importance of having a solid idea, because getting your friends, family, and even the bank itself to believe in your idea (and more importantly, the returns on that idea) is hard. There’s never a guarantee of success, so you need to show that your idea is thought out, viable, and the passion for it needs to be constant.

Zach Ciappara enlisted the help of TechMT in the process of creating this successful app and is now dealing with getting the app to different countries, and in ten years time, be an application that students are familiar with all around the world!

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