Interview with BerryVine’s Araaf Razab-Sekh



Yesterday, a small initiative out of the Netherlands called BerryVine released a new application called BerryVine Survey – an app that let’s you create and administer surveys, as well as utilizing GPS technology to collect geographical data. Not really one for questionnaire’s, I wasn’t overly excited but still wanted to get in on the news.

I was lucky enough to (virtually) sit down with the CEO of RSIC (the company that owns the brand and product line) Araaf Razab-Sekh, and ask the hard-hitting questions that you all want to hear. He never mentions Indian food, but he’s got some good insight into where his company is headed.

Tell me about BerryVine and how it came to be.

Since its inception in 2001, RSIC has been a software development company with a specialization in wireless (and web) technology. The name BerryVine hit me when I was brainstorming some late night in 2004, while we were still working on the first version of BerryVine Messenger.

We wanted to have a catchy name and this was it: it sounded like “very fine” and berries hanging from a vine symbolized connectivity between the different berries, in this case the BlackBerrys. A good metaphor to go with our instant messaging applications and to establish as a recognizable brand.

Research in Motion (RIM) and the BlackBerry originate from the NorthAmerican market. What made BerryVine, based in the Netherlands, want to be a part of this “new” technology back in the early 2000’s?

Somewhere in 2002 we had our first encounter with the BlackBerry, which was still extremely exotic in Holland, but in use with a small number of early adopters. We started to develop some custom applications for a number of clients (C-based), but did not think too much of the device, especially compared to all the Palm OS, Symbian and then called Pocket PC devices.

Once the OS became Java based, this slowly changed and in 2003 we were finally convinced: the BlackBerry would be the most successful all-in-one mobile device out there. Once the BlackBerry hit OS version 3.7, a lot of things changed. The most important part was the availability of over-the-air synchronization of all relevant PIM data (i.e. calendar, contacts, notes).

Once this functionality was actually working properly, the BlackBerry became the most complete business oriented PDA out there: an all-in-one device for the professional on the road. The number of BlackBerry users in the world didn’t reach the 800.000 user mark yet, but we were convinced of its potential.

Not too long after that, we joined RIM Europe’s then brand new BlackBerry Alliance Program and started working on our new BerryVine BlackBerry product line, of which BerryVine Messenger was the first. Of course, the BlackBerry generic application market was still new for us and RSIC needed to go on with its other activities and a large part of our earnings came (and still comes) from our custom software development and consultancy projects.