We talked to Richard Rabins of Alpha Software Corporation about building offline-capable mobile apps and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Richard Rabins: It’s been a challenging time for everyone. I certainly miss seeing employees, customers and partners face to face. However, our organization has long embraced remote work, so collectively, we’d adapted to going fully remote relatively easily.
Having more time with the family, and my Irish Setter during the summer months has certainly been a plus.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Alpha Software Corporation.
Richard Rabins: I’m originally from South Africa and came to the US to study at MIT.
My brother and I founded Alpha Software Corporation over 10 years ago with a focus on developing an easy to use platform that could help developers build complex desktop WEB applications. As mobile technology emerged and became ubiquitous, we evolved the platform to serve experienced developers and citizen developers who needed to build sophisticated offline-capable mobile apps that can run on any smartphone and tablet.
How does Alpha Software Corporation innovate?
Richard Rabins: We believe that the best way to innovate is by listening to our customers and their current and future needs. For example, we first identified the need for intelligent offline apps years ago when our customers started to face challenges delivering applications to employees in the field. Analysts and other competitors weren’t even talking about offline needs at that point – it wasn’t on their radar. We immediately started to build robust offline features into our products that we were able to patent and won the Company the InfoWorld Technology of the Year Award. Without listening to our customers and working to solve their problems, we would have missed that opportunity. For instance, it became clear that to fully “solve” the offline challenge we had to address not only the requirement to collect data when there is no signal but also access reference data (lookup databases and media files) when there is no signal, as well as offering developers the ability to intelligently deal with conflict resolution when data needs to be synchronized.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Richard Rabins: I don’t believe there’s a single company that the pandemic hasn’t affected. Like us, our customers and prospects are having to make decisions to refocus efforts, re-allocate spending and take advantage of new opportunities that have arisen from the pandemic.
For example, we’ve focused on releasing a number of healthcare solutions that respond to COVID needs screening apps for schools and businesses to help employees return safely to the office or campus, as well as a MyCovid19Risk.com – a free health assessment tool available free to the public.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Richard Rabins: I think that to lead through difficult times, you must make well-informed decisions and remain positive. While we had to take our annual face-to-face user conference virtual this year, we used it as an opportunity to engage more attendees around the world who have not had an opportunity to attend an event in the US before.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Alpha Software Corporation in the future?
Richard Rabins: I find that spending time with my Irish Setter, Winston, is incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. During a time when many people are stuck in their houses, I get out for walks and spend time playing in the yard more than I would if I was in the office full time. I’ve encouraged my employees to make the most of increased family (and pet!) time. I’ve also shared how I’m using the time to do more reading and have encouraged employees to use their commute or increase home time to take online classes or listen to seminars.
At our recent Alpha DevCon user conference, we featured a keynote by Richard Marshall of Concept Gap. He discussed “Forces of Change” and becoming a resilient enterprise at this challenging time. That’s what we believe: helping our customers find their way during this difficult time by fostering trusted business relationships and finding new opportunities and ways of working.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Richard Rabins: We operate in the highly competitive low-code development market, so it is very important to be clear to prospects where we excel. We know that it is important to be able to articulate the USP (unique selling proposition of each of our platforms. In the case of Alpha Anywhere – it is the only “tier 1” general-purpose low-code development and deployment environment that is affordable for all sizes of organizations and SaaS entrepreneurs. In the case of Alpha TransForm, it offers unique power that others cannot match to ensure that mobile data capture requirements of any complexity can be met.
How do we remain competitive? By focusing on serving our customers with outstanding customer service. Our customers can talk directly to our engineers, head of product development and CTO. We work hard to understand at the highest levels of our organization what customers like about our software and where they need it to go next. We pride ourselves on our responsiveness to customers and the resulting product innovation and the outstanding product and company reviews on Gartner Peer Insights, G2Crowd, TrustPilot and other review sites.
Your final thoughts?
Richard Rabins: Benjamin Franklin said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity,” and I couldn’t agree more. We may not enjoy missing our friends or curtailing our travel, but the pandemic has afforded us more time to think, reflect and talk to employees, customers, partners and prospects and explore how we can solve new and different problems. Sometimes taking a step back and applying your resources to new problems or in new ways can reenergize companies and identify new opportunities.