By Thomas C . Nash
PASADENA, Calif. — Two years after its debut, the iPhone is showing no signs of fading from its position as a game-changing technological advance. As part phone, Web browser and MP3 player, many say it has fulfilled the promise of the cell phone.
Al Eisaian, who entered the emerging computer technology business out of college in the ’80s, has shown his confidence in the tool by starting a company that creates add-on software for it. In doing so, he says, he’s also out to prove Armenian programmers can compete in a global marketplace.
Eisaian, a founding member of the Armenian High Tech Council of America, has worked to increase Armenia’s technological competitiveness since 1999. Integrian, his largest ongoing Yerevan-based enterprise is a firm that manages performance for data centers.“
Over the last ten years Armenia has come a long, long way,” Eisaian said. “I can say with pride we’d put our developers against anybody in the world. Our kids are extremely aggressive in terms of wanting to win on a global scale, not just an Armenian scale.”
Eisaian, who moved to Oklahoma from Iran at 13 before moving to California to work in the computer technology field, first went to Armenia in 1996.
“I noticed economically the country was in pretty bad shape,” he recalled. “I started thinking about what I could do to help. At that time I was in the hardware business, and I looked at the geography of Armenia and figured it would have to be something with intellectual property or software.”
Since then, Eisaian has made it a point to use his technological and business sense to help develop Armenia’s capabilities. Nearly 10 years after starting Integrian, Eisaian launched his latest venture after observing his wife and her friends while vacationing.
“The conversations my wife was having with her friends all revolved on the complexity of running a household and how much anxiety there is about what they have to handle,” he said.
“I figured there was a solution to that, to be a bit more organized and having tools to allow you to not be so frenzied. I noticed how my wife and her friends related with the iPhone. Being the entrepreneur that I am I thought it was an interesting reaction.”
The company Eisaian launched, IconApps, has released four add-on programs for the iPhone (a market which currently includes 65,000 available to iPhone users) aimed at helping people stay organized. Among them are “KeyDates,” which reminds users of events they have scheduled, and “FamilyVault,” which holds private information for each family member.
Since opening IconApps in November 2008, Eisaian has worked to again use Armenian talent to steer the company. He rented out space for it in the same Yerevan office complex as Integrian, and the 25 employees there have helped IconApps’ nine-person staff get started.
This time around, he said, the process of starting a business in Armenia has gone relatively smoothly. Ten years since beginning business operations in Yerevan, the thousands of miles that separate his office and his employees’ has become less of an obstacle — especially with services like Skype, a free Internet service that works like a phone.
“In the early 2000s it was sort of difficult, we had to rely solely on e-mails, faxes and phone calls,” he said. “Now with Skype calling and Skype video, you don’t really notice the ocean apart, if you will.”
So far, Eisaian says, the company is doing well. It’s planning to launch a fifth application in the fall, although he won’t reveal what it is just yet. Going forward, however, he has set his sights higher.
“The long-term goal is to be the recognized leader in life management software,” Eisaian said.
“Today we’re focused on the iPhone because we’re only an eight-month-old company. But the goal is that when someone is thinking about chaos in his or her life, that they’ll get some sanity back by thinking about IconApps.”
On a larger level, Eisaian says he hopes the company will serve as a stepping stone for his young employees.
“Part of what we’re doing is training people to be competitive on a global scale versus just (being)Armenia focused. The goal is that down the road they’ll have opportunities to open their own companies.”
The IconApps are available at www.apple.com/iphone.