As internet and technology penetrate their way more and more into people’s everyday life, even the most traditional businesses are now thinking of having their own website or mobile app to promote their businesses. But not everyone has the technical knowledge to build their desired website.
Camva, an Iranian cloud-based web development platform, is trying to aid these kinds of people in Iran to fill in the gap that has existed here for a while.
Users can register on Camva and start designing their own website for free with a 45 days trial account. After that they can pay 250,000 Tomans ($75) yearly to maintain their website. Users don’t need to have any technical knowledge and they can easily put together different blocks of content just by using the drag and drop tools.
Hadi Farnoud and Vahid Taghizadeh are the co-founders behind Camva.
Vahid is a senior software developer with a lot of experience in design and web application development. He has worked for international companies such as Hyperoffice, Simplydesk and programming.com.
Hadi, the co-founder, is one of the well-known community builders in Tehran. He has co-organized programs like Hamfekr networking event and he co-produces a podcast named Karya where they talk with prominent entrepreneurs inside Iran.
Camva is not Hadi’s first startup. Back in London he worked on an app for parking where the user booked his/her parking spot near the airport right from the app.
Another startup he had there was Acamedium. A software as a service for researchers and PhD students that connected the industry with university. Users had their own website with all the research papers, publications, CV and bio. Then they aggregated all these data and made a research repository for publications. “It never got big enough because we didn’t have enough data to do that”, Says Hadi.
Here is TechRasa’s interview with Hadi about Camva.
- What is the story behind Camva?
I met my co-founder, Vahid, for the first time at startup weekend. At that time we just bounded together. He was very technical and I was very business oriented. So we decided to do something together. We worked on some ideas and we finally settled on Camva. It took us 4 months since the moment we talked about it (which was at Hamfekr event) till we launched the website.
- Was the startup ecosystem here something that convinced you to come back to Iran?
Yes. I saw a huge opportunity here. Basically the country is opening up. The community is getting really big with a rapid pace. The wealth of the country is high enough that the average user can pay for services like Camva easily. There isn’t a big competition for anything. Any idea you have, you can do it here easily, because of the sanctions [which don’t let foreign companies to get in here]. The needs are there but there’s no one there to fulfill that need. So I saw this opportunity and I saw a higher chance of success here rather than London. The competition is fierce in London. So that’s why I came back and started Camva. The risk is much lower here.
- What makes Camva unique compared to the other competitors inside and outside the country?
We have a number of competitors inside the country. The thing is, inside the country we don’t have a market leader. Other competitors are too small, their users aren’t technical and their product is complicated. So basically they don’t have a product market fit. What we have is a very simple solution with a rich design and the pace of our growth shows what we made is what the customer wants.
And for the competition outside the country, none of them support right to left languages. The Arab countries don’t have any options either, so that’s one of the areas we can expand to. Website builders targeting North American and European countries don’t have an easy to use product either, but their users are more technically aware compared to the users inside Iran.
The users here are less technical so we had to design a very simple product at the beginning. Right now we grow as our customers learn how to use these services.
If the sanctions get lifted, and the competitors come to Iran, their product is not fitted for this market. That’s what makes us confident. On top of that, their product is heavy in terms of size and loading times.
Also not all of our competitors’ have products that are responsive and mobile ready, but we are. We are full responsive and our product is very light weight because of the internet speed in Iran is not that high. So even if they fix everything else they have to change their product significantly. It’s a lot of waiting times for users if they want to build a website and the editor alone for that website builder is 15 Mb.
“I saw a huge opportunity here. Basically the country is opening up. The community is getting really big with a rapid pace.”
- What challenges did you guys face when starting Camva here in Iran?
We are still facing these challenges. The talent recruit is really hard because the technology we’re using in Camva is cutting edge and not everyone can join the team so we have to find the exact guy that has enough technical knowledge and experience that can fit in. That’s the biggest challenge we have right now
We still have to work on the trust to make the purchase decisions easier for the customers. One of the problems we have is that the banking system here doesn’t allow you to deduct any sort of money from customers account. They have to basically log in and enter the password to get the money, so we can’t charge them monthly. Our subscription plan is annually so the enterprise is deeper, but for example a competitor like Wix can charge a small monthly fee and the customer can cancel the contract anytime they want. On the other hand we gave customers money back guarantee for 100 days so they can trust us, if the service is not good they can leave. They also have 45 days trial as well.
It’s been four months since we launched. Right now we have 1100 users and more than 1500 websites and we are growing by 6% per week. We didn’t spend anything on marketing; all this growth is organic and about 90% of our users are coming from Google. Aside from that we have 5% conversion rate.
- Camva is not your first startup and you and your co-founder both have had a lot of experiences before. My question is why did you chose to take your startup to Avatech startup accelerator?
We actually left Avatech. Because right now Camva is in growth stage and we have the product that the market needs. So, our pace of growth didn’t match Avatech program, that’s why we left. The reason we came here originally was because of the value of synergy. Working with others in a co-working space is hugely better than working in an office alone. You get the synergy by consulting with other people there and it’s also a lot easier to recruit if you are in an accelerator.
- You’re a well-known community builder in Tehran. Almost everybody here in the community knows you, how did that help you with Camva?
It helped me a lot actually, because when we introduced Camva to the community we got all the help we needed, we got a lot of publications about Camva. I think about 500 of the users are coming from the community and we got a lot of feedback from them.
Basically nobody said no to us. If we asked for a link in a blog or if we asked for a piece in a newspaper they gave it to us. A business like this needs to be connected to a lot of services, all the services we’re using are coming from the community and other startups, for example Zarinpal. We’re using their product, they’re helping us to improve and we’re giving them feedback to give better services to startups like us.
- What can we expect from Camva in the next 2-3 years?
I’m expecting Camva to grow to a million users and have 200 000 paid subscriptions. We’re going to get into the ecommerce market and add additional services like email marketing and anything that an SME needs. We’re going to launch services that improve our product with features that fit 80% of the customer’s needs.
Ecommerce is a big thing and a lot of freelancers are selling on Instagram, which is really big here. We have a very special plan for Instagram. We are going to build services on top of Instagram, Linkedin etc. When we launch our ecommerce section in the future, users can not only create a normal website but have an online store.
- Do you have any closing remarks?
A lot of people ask me why you started Hamfekr networking event or why you did something like Karya podcast and why you’re spending your time doing this stuff. If you hear our story you’ll know the value of the community and you you’ll understand that you can’t put a price on connections. If people like you they’ll help you succeed.