Blackberry opened its eighth software development center in Argentina earlier this month, as part of an ongoing campaign to build a closer relationship with developers across Latin America. Opened through Blackberry’s worldwide Academic Program, the center in Ushuaia, Argentina will operate in partnership with the National University of Tierra del Fuego.
“These centers are physical spaces within the universities where students and developers can reach somebody – not a Blackberry employee but somebody trained and certified as a Blackberry developer – and receive support,” says Bryan Tafel, Blackberry’s head of development in Latin America. The participants will work on all kinds of apps, including games and business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) apps.
“We explain to the developers that you don’t need to be an expert to create a quality app; you just need to identify any user need,” Tafel said. “The main goal is to promote entrepreneurship and create successful businesses. We want new startups to take advantage of the resources we offer in these centers.”
These resources include free training materials, workshops and access to Blackberry’s latest technology. “We try to provide them with the very latest hardware so they can be on the cutting edge of app development. We’re giving developers Alpha Devices and they had access to some devices even before we’d launched them. Their work is mainly all done on BB10,” Tafel explained.
So what does Blackberry gain from all of this? Tafel said that investing in education and expanding the way that Blackberry interacts with developers will bring many benefits in the long term.
“We believe that by improving our relationship with developers we will get quality apps in our store,” he explained. “The developers benefit most because the apps and the products that come out of these activities are their property, not ours. But we believe we will still benefit from this because we improve the product that we have on offer by having more quality apps created especially for Blackberry.”
Buenos Aires & Blackberry
Blackberry has now opened three tech centers in Buenos Aires and five others in different provinces of Argentina since April 24. Each tech center is affiliated with a local university, while all are inter-connected via a separate innovation center, which opened last year in Buenos Aires.
The advantage of having different centers across the country is that each can be tailored to the needs of the local community, Tafel said. The first center to open has 15 people working there every day, while others have just five or ten people working on a daily basis, but they also run training courses for another 20 developers, he explained.
Argentina was the obvious choice to begin Blackberry’s expansion in Latin America, Tafel said. “It’s an interesting country because it’s small in terms of population but it’s really active in terms of software development,” he explained, noting that the Argentine community has twice been named the most active of all the Blackberry communities in the world.
“You can experiment a lot here. We can try things and if they work we can replicate them in other countries in Latin America,” Tafel added. As evidence of this strategy, Blackberry now also runs several centers in Brazil and will be opening a new center in Colombia in August, followed by another in Mexico City.
Tafel maintained that the recent drop in sales and share prices has not affected Blackberry’s work in the region and that the Canadian firm will continue “investing more and more in Latin America.”
“Latin America is one of the emerging markets and it’s very important for us. It represents a huge part of Blackberry’s business and that’s why we’ve been investing heavily here,” he said. “There are a lot of success stories here, but we want more.”
The first such success story from the innovation center in Buenos Aires began four months ago when a group of developers started using the space as their office. “They came to the center every day and created a game. Two weeks ago they won an award and now they are presenting the app at the Gamescom (the world’s largest trade fair for interactive games and entertainment) in Germany,” Tafel said proudly.
Aside from opening tech centers, Tafel helps create more success stories in the region through his work as one of Blackberry’s “developer evangelists.” Along with two other evangelists based in Brazil and Mexico, Tafel is tasked with organizing events and engaging with different communities, including developers, universities and businesses in order to promote Blackberry’s latest tools and platforms. In one such event, Blackberry flew in 60 developers from different universities in six or seven Latin American countries for a two-day “Hackathon” in Buenos Aires in mid July. Not only did the participants receive access to the latest technology and advice on creating apps for BB10, but Blackberry is now also running an eight-week program so that they can finish their apps and submit them.
“This extra support makes a big difference,” Tafel said. “It’s something we learned from previous events – the need to continue the relationship with developers after the Hackathon and continue supporting them until they publish their apps.”