x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

AppsArabia lines up mystery 'global' pop star for phone app

Winning a contract to develop an app for a star with a global fan base would be a major coup for investment fund backed by twofour54 in Abu Dhabi.

AppsArabia is set for a big debut on the international music scene, having reached an agreement to develop a mobile phone application for a global superstar.

David Ashford, the general manager of AppsArabia, the investment fund backed by the Abu Dhabi media free zone twofour54, told delegates at its first annual convention the pop star app would be created for Nokia by a developer here in the UAE.

The identity of the star is not yet being revealed, with Mr Ashford even refusing to give away the gender.

"This is very exciting for us. We can't say who it is at this stage but it's big," he said.

Winning a contract to develop an app for a star with a global fan base would be a major coup, as the industry in the UAE is still in its infancy.

Mobile phone apps are becoming increasingly important marketing tools for pop stars. Justin Bieber, who shot to fame after being discovered on the internet, racked up 355,000 downloads of his iPhone app in its launch week this year, and as of October the country music star Taylor Swift had accumulated 600,000 downloads of her app in the US alone. Other big names such as Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have all embraced apps.

Mr Ashford told AppsArabia's Imagination Convention in Abu Dhabi: "We have just reached an agreement with an anonymous global pop star who has millions of fans around the world. This is to develop a Symbian app for Nokia for its OVI online store. Fans were asked what device they wanted an app for and they chose Nokia."

AppsArabia was established in June to increase the number and quality of Arabic apps entrepreneurs and developers. It hopes to achieve this by putting up the working capital needed to develop new mobile applications, which can cost anywhere from US$15,000 (Dh55,095) up to $1 million, according to industry figures.

The fund's aim is to take the financial risk away from entrepreneurs who dream up ideas, meaning they stand to lose nothing if the concept flops. However, if the app is a success they keep the intellectual property and 70 per cent of the net profit after AppsArabia recoups its development costs. The fund keeps 30 per cent of the net profits.

For AppsArabia, the agreement with the superstar represents its second active project with a major brand, the first being with a global media company to develop an Arabic news app.

Since its launch, AppsArabia has received 45 investment applications and now has five active and four pending projects with entrepreneurs, plus another seven pending projects with brands to be delivered across Nokia, Research In Motion and Apple platforms.

sarmstrong@thenational.ae