Meet the Developers: AJ of Marketcircle

Today’s interview is with Alykhan Jetha (“AJ”), the CEO of Marketcircle. Developers of popular applications Billings and Daylite, Marketcircle has a long-standing track record as a top-notch Mac software development company.

In today’s interview, we’ll be talking about the Marketcircle team, inspiration for their products, the Mac App Store, and some very interesting updates currently in the pipeline for Billings.

I hope you enjoy the interview!

Tell us a little bit about the Marketcircle team – where are you based, how many of you are there, and what motivates you as a company?

We’re based in Toronto, Canada and we are about 32 people with customers in over 100 countries. The thing that motivates us is helping small businesses (1-2 persons) grow into bigger companies (20-50 persons).

This is why we make software that helps you get new customers, get things done and then get paid. We feel that the small business market is where future growth is as opposed to large enterprises.

The Marketcircle Team

The Marketcircle Team

What does a typical day look like for you? Walk us through your usual schedule and activities!

Now that I have two young kids (7 & 3), my days are super busy and pretty “interrupted”. It used to be that my life was 90% work and 10% everything else. I could focus for large stretches of time. Now it’s 60% work and 40% family. I’m CEO and chauffeur at the same time!

I still code, but not as much as I would like and probably more than I should. My code days are Tuesdays, Thursdays and the odd weekend. My meeting/planning days are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’m not sure I like this combo, but I’m trying it for now.

AJ at work...

AJ at work...

As someone who uses your Mac all day, every day, do you feel the need to always be running the latest hardware?

I don’t feel that I have to have the very latest in regards to desktop stuff, but on the iOS front, I like to have the latest. I do have the excuse that I have to test stuff on the latest hardware…

What inspired you to originally create Billings and Daylite, and which came first?

This is the short version. Daylite came first, but it was an accident. We originally built Daylite as an internal app to help us grow our business and a technology showcase to get customers. We were looking to do development work for customers rather than actually sell our own applications.

Some people at Apple caught wind of what Daylite did and convinced us to sell it as a commercial app. So we did and here we are. It took a number of years and some really rough patches before we could give up our consulting business.

As someone who has been developing for the Mac for over a decade, how do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?

It has changed drastically. I actually started developing stuff in Objective-C back in 1991. I remember when you couldn’t even buy a book on Objective-C (unless you found some old NeXT book). Now you can find a ton of Objective-C and Cocoa books. 

How has the iPad and iPhone impacted the success of Marketcircle and your software?

Needless to say, the iOS devices have changed the landscape of business software. As you can imagine, most business people are on the road. The iOS versions of Daylite and Billings have been well received and has driven sales up.

The key thing to remember is that for our customers, the desktop and mobile apps have to be integrated, collaborative and continue to work whether there is a network connection or not. It took quite a bit of effort to get our backend and sync technology to make this happen.

Thankfully it has worked well and, in some situations, we are seeing customers buying more iOS licenses than desktop licenses.

What type of sales and customer response have you seen after launching your apps on the Mac App Store?

We’ve seen sales increase. Initially the Mac App Store and our online store where selling equally. Now we are seeing our online store sales diminish and App Store sales increasing.

Having dealt with physical box distribution, I can tell you that we were looking forward to the Mac App Store. We knew it would be a success. What we didn’t know is how soon that success would be achieved. So far, it is doing really well. Let’s see what happens when a bunch of apps have major upgrades.

The Meeting Room

The Meeting Room

Which websites, Twitter users, and magazines do you follow in an effort to stay up-to-date with the activities of other developers, and the Apple eco-system in general? 

I used to follow many people, go to many sites and be diligent with RSS. Then at some point, I just snapped. It was too much info from all over the place. I was reading more than I was working or getting things done.

Now I go to a few sites and follow a few people on Flipboard. Techmeme, Daring Fireball, GigaOM, Asymco and few others are high on my list, others are “compile time” fillers.

Do you have any interesting updates or apps in the pipeline that you can give us a sneak peak at?

Just a few days ago, we announced our new cloud based service and we are pretty excited about it because it will make the lives of our customers easier.

They won’t need to worry about servers and networking, yet will have collaborative, multi-user mac/iOS apps. We had all the server infrastructure in Objective-C (v2 no less) and had to find a way to leverage that in the cloud.

As you may know, there aren’t any Objective-C 2 based cloud services out there. We explored rewriting our backend stuff in languages such as Python, Ruby, Java etc. In the end we came up with our own architecture comprised of a bunch of Linux servers and a bunch of “disposable” Mac Minis. So far it’s working quite nicely I must say!

On the front end, our engineers are working on some good stuff, but we aren’t ready to talk about that just yet.

What are you most proud of achieving in your career as a Mac developer?

I guess that would be building a company doing mac business software, able to sustain a team of 32 people.

Marketcircle know how to have fun...

Marketcircle know how to have fun...

Thanks, AJ!

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience with us. I really appreciate you taking the time to contribute, and we wish you all the best with the future success of all your apps!