Sherif Kozman – Founder and CEO at AppaDeus

With so much to follow up on a daily basis and an extended to-do list, the one thing that makes me highly productive is working in an isolated space with minimal distraction.

Sherif is a business professional with over 16 years of experience in the tech and mobile sectors under his belt. As the founder and CEO at AppaDeus, Sherif puts his knowledge to work every day with a young team of talented designers and developers, with one goal in mind: Delivering high-quality digital products that add value to their users. The company’s products so far include Klyme, an online weather platform, and Homer Keyboard, an iOS/Android keyboard that lets you explore, plan, and share activities with others without leaving the conversation. He’s also the General Manager of Cairo-based Extreme Solution, a mobile app development company developing apps for popular brands that are currently being used by millions of users every month.

During his off-hours, Sherif has been married to Randa for 10 years, a father of two wonderful kids, and he makes one hell of a roast beef. Sherif believes in the goodness within people and building and maintaining long-lasting relationships personally and professionally.

Where did the idea for Homer Keyboard come from?

About two years ago I and the other co-founders had developed another startup project, Klyme, a personalized weather service that focused on personal recommendations based on weather conditions. It didn’t take off for a number of reasons, but since then we have been interested personalized recommendations. On the other hand, messaging and communication are cluttered with little attention paid to context and personalization. A lot of information is being shared between people in day-to-day texting; from talking about products or tv shows to places to go and things to do which got us thinking about how painful it is for two or more people to jump from app to app to find information about a place to go or something to do while texting and sharing it back. Initially we wanted to build a chat service where the context of the conversation mattered; it would suggest ideas based on what people are talking about. Later we realized that the messaging world is saturated and that it would be extremely difficult for any new service to compete with Facebook or Whatsapp. This is when the idea for a custom keyboard came to life. It would enhance the messaging experience without having to switch into a new medium or service. Homer Keyboard came to life to help people find more info, share it easily and take actions without having to switch back and forth to do something simple like plan a night out.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Managing different teams across different countries and time zones hasn’t been an easy task, especially when you have to start your day at 4 AM to be in sync with another team member in Cairo or London who’s 8-10 hours away. We have teams in Cairo, London, and the US so sticking to a strict schedule has been the most important thing to ensure everything is as smooth as possible, coffee (a lot of coffee) helps too. This also gives me more hours during the day to cover so I can accomplish a lot of tasks either by following up on production or business related activities.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Interestingly enough, after about 15 years of work, I came to realize ideas are like relationships; they’re exciting at first but only the ones worthwhile last. I get a lot of ideas every now and then, I write them down and keep them organized in a folder then I try re-visit them after sometime to share them with partners and colleagues. When enough time has passed, either the vanity wears off or the concepts still hold and that’s when I start taking them more seriously into market and product research to confirm how valid they are from a business and use case perspective.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

All the on-demand services and companies are of an interest to me especially the ones that generate new jobs and help people create an additional source of revenue while capitalizing on legacy markets, from on-demand rides to delivery and may be on-demand professional tasks in the future.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

With so much to follow up on a daily basis and an extended to-do list, the one thing that makes me highly productive is working in an isolated space with minimal distraction.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I can’t say that there was a job that was worse than the others but each job has its set of challenges and pains that did add to my learning curve and had a positive effect on the next job so each job regardless of how bad it is made the next job better.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Everything we have reached as a team is a result of a series of actions, successes, and failures; I wouldn’t change the course we’ve taken but I would’ve rather spent less time focusing on too many product features and tried to ship earlier to gain more market feedback that would help shape the product better as we go.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Persistence and patience. Nothing comes overnight and when things get really hard, that’s always the best time to push yourself harder and not back down. By the time the curve goes up again you’ll come out on top.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I’ve always believed in shipping the perfect product (or as perfect as the resources allow) and never give up on quality. You’ll never forgive yourself when things don’t go the way you like if you compromise on what you think the outcome should be. That way, in the end, you know you gave it everything I got.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

There isn’t a specific failure but maybe a mistake that I used to make with new products which is trying to build the perfect product from the get go which proved to be wrong and leads to a failing project. I learned the hard way that it’s great to have a full concept plan but focus on shipping the core functions, at first, get the market’s feedback to validate your next steps before you add more.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I come from Egypt and the Middle east which is a region that is full of problems and issues to tackle and with problems come business opportunities. one problem that I believe is very common and presents a big opportunity is day-to-day accounting and finance for small businesses in underdeveloped countries where lots of companies still use excel sheets to handle accounting, invoicing and taxation while the existing solutions either target developed markets such as the US or Europe or extremely expensive targeting enterprise. Cheap and simple cloud-based accounting, finance and taxation platform that is localized would be a great business opportunity for such markets.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

My Kids’ Disneyland ticket a few weeks back was by far the best $100 spent! The amount of fun and magic there is unbelievable.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use Trello both personally and for work. It gets easier when everything is stacked as cards, we use Slack for day-to-day communication between our team members, and Evernote for my personal notes and ideas, and is my everyday companion.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Given how my business is scattered across different countries, ReWork and Remote and Hooked are on top of my list.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Jason Fried from 37signals is a true inspiration given the similarities between how my business and 37signals have been set as distributed environments, and how he and his team managed to build a successful business with a great working environment even 1000’s of miles apart.


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Sherif Kozman on Twitter : @SherifKozman
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