As the news came in that popular student app FreeHour had won the ‘best app’ award at Tech.mt’s Malta eBusiness Awards 2021, Gadgets caught up with founder Zach Ciappara, who explained that the company is now looking forward to continue building on the unique position that it holds.
“We are now at a stage where we’re a team of more than 15 people. As a very young start-up that has a lot of attention drawn to it at the moment, we need to continue being relevant to our young audience. We need to continue building products such as the app, working on improving our content and generally giving a better service to our audience.”
Zach looked back at how FreeHour’s journey started in 2017. The app’s main function gave university and college students the possibility to share their timetables and find mutual free lessons. The extremely successful app had 700 downloads on the first day of its launch and 10,000 downloads in the first year. Now it is used by more than 25,500 people, which translates to 90% of students attending sixth forms, university and MCAST.
Zach said that the challenge back then was to continue building on that initial momentum by building the business in a way that it could sustain itself, and also developing the app further.
Zach told us: “The app evolved from a timetable tool to a holistic app that practically became the go-to app for students in Malta. We continued listening to our students, getting feedback and considering different suggestions on what our audience wanted”.
And then Covid hit and all educational institutions had to close down.
Zach explained that FreeHour immediately moved into seeing how it could be innovative and remain relevant.
This was when the company moved into the content space – primarily on Instagram since this is where students are mostly present – and within a year and a half, FreeHour grew from having just 5,000 followers, to close to 40,000 followers on Instagram alone.
Within a very short period of time, FreeHour started posting a lot of content ranging from local to international news, entertainment and educational material.
“Our content team has grown into a fully-fledged team of 8 people and we produce over 200 pieces of content a week. I’m proud to say that we are one of, if not the most engaged, Instagram profile in Malta at the moment. We have the highest engagement and a very strong community behind us – and these are Freehour fans, who love the story and the journey of a young entrepreneur and a young team building something specifically for students and being relevant in their life and solving some of their daily student problems.”