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Fri 28 Sep 2018 12:08 AM

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Entrepreneur of the Week: Calio's Ramy Al Kadhi and Latif Baluch

A calendar app that combines functionality and fun with plenty of social features

Entrepreneur of the Week: Calio's Ramy Al Kadhi and Latif Baluch

In mid-September, Calio was featured as the “App of the Day” by the App Store, confirming that Ramy Al Kadhi and Latif Baluch were right to leave corporate careers in Dubai behind in the search of their own venture. With its unique “Host Accounts” feature, Calio is ready to become an essential smartphone accessory.

How did the idea come about?

Ramy Al Kadhi: Latif and I met in Dubai and were both very busy in our corporate jobs. Latif was working for Bank of America Merrill Lynch and I was working for Omnicom Media Group. We struggled to find time to meet up and often discussed the pains of social media; we felt that the technology built to bring us closer was taking us further away. We called this “The Social Paradox” and this is our guiding principle at Calio.

We began by designing a tool so Latif and I could meet up more easily. We would send each other time-slots, the other person would click “I’m in” and that’s how we began.

As we did more research, we noticed a surge in calendar adoption and felt there was a market opportunity for a new approach. Calio was born and is evolving into a company that serves consumers and businesses with unique calendar technology.

Why does the market need a concept such as Calio?

RK: Companies either solve a problem or build a product that brings joy to people. Calendars are so ingrained in our lives and we believe they should do more than help people stay organised. Research has shown that people are actively looking for a better experience: for instance, “calendar” is searched more than “news” “football” on the App Store.

Calendars are so ingrained in the people’s lives, we believe they should bring more joy

Calendars are also a sticky mechanism which can act as a central portal for all the things you love, whether it’s organising a catch-up, syncing all your work calendars or discovering and booking tickets to events.

How does your app differ from the calendar apps that are already available in the market, and what makes it unique?

Latif Baluch: Calio’s app is a more personal, more social approach to calendars. We have a modern and simple design which makes managing your week less stressful – and a bit more fun. It’s really easy to share events/reminders with friends and family.

What really makes us different however are our “Host Accounts”. You can follow businesses and communities you love such as the Premier League or your favourite art gallery to get events straight to your calendar. Some of our hosts also curate events in your city e.g. “wellness events in the UAE”.

What is the company’s business model? Where does the revenue come from?

LB: We essentially have two parts of the business: the app which is B2C and we also build B2B calendar tools for businesses. On the B2B part, we make it easy for businesses to create and manage lists of events which their consumers can sync straight into their native calendars (Google Outlook, etc). This is subscription SaaS-based.

Revenue from the app is a bit longer-term. Once we support more platforms (desktop, iPad, etc) and have customisable designs, we’ll launch Calio Premium on subscription.

As our user base grows we’ll also start charging businesses for host accounts. We’ll also offer event advertising opportunities.

How did you fund the project?

LB: Savings, initially. When we realised that wasn’t going to get us very far, we raised our first round of funds from angel investors in the UK.

For other entrepreneurs reading this, fundraising can be distracting; it can mean you can take your eyes off the product. One way around this is to keep overheads as low as possible and to find any way to make revenue.

What are your expansion plans for the app?

RK: In the short-term, we’re focusing on rolling out our B2B tool, leveraging our proprietary calendar technology. We’ll make it easy for businesses to create and manage dynamic lists of events which their consumers can get straight into their native calendars (Google Outlook, etc). We’re now planning to roll out Siri and machine learning to curate event recommendations.

Was there ever a time when you felt like giving up?

LB: Never. Our long-term vision hasn’t really changed – even if our concept has multiple times. As a start-up you’re constantly trying new things, pushing new features and getting feedback. It’s about iteration after iteration, digging deeper and deeper into what consumers want.

Naturally, this means some things you try completely fail. We just try to fail fast, learn and move forward.

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