Meet François Mari: The Self-Taught Creator Behind One of France’s Biggest Apps


François Mari is a 20 year old BBA student from France. Early on, he developed an interest for politics; his passion later motivated him to create Elyze in 2022 – termed by the media as “the tinder of presidential elections”. Its aim was to match voters with their ideal candidate. Needless to say, the project had exuberant success in a short time: it became the top app in the App Store and Play Store in France, with over 3 million downloads. Since then, François has been working on other projects, furthering his skills as an app creator. 

What is your process when developing a new project? 

It depends on the project. My friend Grégoire Cazcarra and I had the idea for Elyze while we were on a call, so we decided to work together on it. However, I didn’t have the knowledge on how to make an app – we had the concept, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. After that, I started to learn how to code, and we designed the app. Later on, we built a team for communications and marketing to create the best launch. 

Sasoru was different: we had the idea and I was better prepared. It was easier to develop since I already had those skills and knew the relevant steps – creating a design, coding the app, brainstorming and searching for new features to adopt. 

What is your experience with coding?

My dad had taught me about programming when I was young, but I didn’t know anything about making an app. I basically learned by creating Elyze last year.

How did you cope with the response to your projects? 

Elyze was a big surprise because, fun fact, our goal was to have 20 thousand downloads by the end of the year; but we got 1 million downloads in a week! I was somewhat paralyzed at first. The first journalist called and I hadn’t talked to a journalist in my life; next thing I knew, I was on TV. Emotionally, it was a rollercoaster, but it ended well. 

What have you learned from your projects?

I learned a lot, especially from Elyze: how to make an app from scratch, find journalists, do marketing, leadership. I am also learning a lot from Sasoru because it is a completely different subject. It is a social network, which brings new challenges and learning opportunities.

Presentation 1
François Mari presenting his app to HEC Montreal students (2022).

Why did you choose BBA?

My first goal was to study politics, but I ended up studying BBA. Maybe in the future I will do a masters in politics or international relations. For now, I can learn politics on the side. Nonetheless, I find it practical to study BBA at university where classmates and teachers can help me develop my projects. 

In relation to that, why did you decide to study in Spain when most of your professional life takes place in France?

Before coming to IE, I studied in Montreal, but I decided to move back to Paris while making Elyze. However, I didn’t stay in France because I wanted to experience a different culture and language, and take advantage of an international space. Spain was a good option: it is 2 hours away from Paris so I can easily travel back. I go back around once a month, to meet relevant people regarding my projects, and to simply see friends.

How do you balance student life with work?

My day-to-day can get stressful, but this is indispensable. During my day, I try to complete academic responsibilities, then work on my projects. The hardest part of this is the stress, and getting little sleep – sometimes I have very short nights. However, I always make time for friends, and to socialize.

How do you stay motivated to carry out these projects as a university student?

It is difficult. However, when you see results, it is really stimulating: new users, updates, etc. Also, I have good friends in the team to push me, which is essential for me to stay motivated.

Team 1
François Mari and Grégoire Cazcarra with Elyze team at the launch event for the app.

What are you currently working on? 

I’m working on a new app, called Sasoru. It is launching in a few weeks. The app is for users to share their night and see what friends are doing.

I am also working as a developer on Extra Student, created by a friend, Jules Simiand. It’s a social network for students, where they can post questions and notes about every subject. For me, it is more of a side project when compared to Sasoru or Elyze.

Finally,  I’m also creating an app for La Mairie du Paris 17ème (the mayor of Paris 17th). 

How do you see your future? 

For the short-term, I plan to remain in university while creating projects on the side. First it was Elyze, now it is Sasoru, maybe next year it will be something else – I have no idea. I just like to create new things. Further in life, I would like to do politics. I’m not sure what is to come, but I hope to do a lot of things!

It is impressive to see how François turns his ideas into realities: something many may fail to do. He was especially keen on encouraging people to pursue their ideas as well, “take them on as a challenge; as a learning opportunity. Create what you have been so afraid of, and do not be discouraged by the technical side of things: there is so much to learn!”  

Cloe Chapotot
Cloe Chapotot
Segovia Managing Editor, studying BBA+BDBA. Enjoys writing about interesting people and events, as well as matters that concern the student community.

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