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Ziyak knows where the fun is

There’s nothing worse than missing a bacon festival. Ziyak President and cofounder, Randy Grommet learned that the hard way. His loss ended up being everyone else’s gain when a missed day of bacon spurred the idea for Ziyak, a mobile app for Android and iOS that shows users what is happening around their city.

Ziyak notifies users of everything happening around them from festivals to concerts, wine tastings, family events, charity events, restaurant specials and more. Users can specify a certain location or radius or filter by certain categories.

The app is useful for both residents of a city and visitors who can use it to find local events that are off the beaten path.

“When you’re traveling you don’t just want to act like a tourist and go see the Empire State Building and Central Park,” said Evan Holwick, Ziyak vice president and cofounder. “You get to actually see the stuff that makes New York, New York.”

How Ziyak works

Ziyak is using that thinking to change the way people find events in cities across the country. When their app went live in January, they used marketing teams, referred to as Ninjas, to start promoting Ziyak in the 200 most populated cities in America.

Ninjas represent Ziyak on social media and go out to local businesses in their cities to help encourage business owners to sign up on the app. As a result of so many feet on the ground, the app becomes busier and busier every day with new events.

Ziyak is powered through event sponsors. One of the app’s biggest appeals is its transparency in the way it functions. Grommet and Holwick know there are other apps out there with similar goals, but they think that by differentiating themselves from other services who use algorithm-based pricing or asking companies to give up large revenue shares, they’ll stand out from the pack.

“We don’t have these fancy algorithms, we don’t have these fancy boosting prices or [additional] pricing to reach customers. If you post something on Ziyak, 100% of the people around you who have Ziyak on their phone will see your advertisement,” explained Holwick. “There aren’t any tricks up our sleeves. We’re trying to be the best friend to the user, and the best friend of the business.”

Maintaining focus

The biggest challenge for Grommet and Holwick was doing market research to finding out what businesses and event sponsors like and dislike about other social media and listing services like Yelp, Google and Facebook.

They used that information to decide how they would develop an app that was different from everything else that they’d already seen.

“We wanted to be a company that was just [focused on] finding things to do,” said Holwick. “You go on Facebook to look at puppies and your parent’s pictures, we wanted to be the one place where you could shop for events and things going on.”

Seeing the vision

Twentyseven Global, a custom software development firm working out of Kansas City, Denver and Vietnam, was brought on to help develop the app.

Holwick and Grommet spent about a year planning out Ziyak, and 4-5 months in development. They said development would have been shorter had they not been constantly coming up with new ideas for the app.

“Evan and I are our own worst enemies because we think of something else cooler everyday that we want to try and jam in there,” joked Grommet.

There was appeal in working with Twentyseven Global because they were located nearby and could work out problems quickly when they arose, however it was Twentyseven Global’s ability to see the vision of Ziyak that led Holwick and Grommet to hire the firm.

“They got our dream, they got the vision from the get go, said Grommet. “We interviewed many, many tech companies and they were the one that really kind of jumped on and were enthusiastic about it.”

What’s next for Ziyak

Currently, Ziyak has over 1800 businesses using the app, 652 ninjas, and over 20,000 user downloads. They’re proud of those numbers but Grommet and Holwick have their sights set high for Ziyak. They want to be at 50 million downloads in the first 24 months.

“We shoot for the sky and if we didn’t do that, we’d be in the wrong shoes,” said Grommet. 

They are also planning to announce a partnership with a major ticket broker so users can purchase event tickets within the Ziyak app.

As of now, Ziyak has 10 in-house employees. Holwick and Grommet are guessing they will have to add 15 to 20 more in the next 60 to 90 days. They also have plans for future apps that they’re going to put in the hands of their new development team and Twentyseven Global.

But for now, Holwick and Grommet are focused on seeing Ziyak turn into a household name like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Holwick knows that sounds like a stretch but he’s confident in his and Grommet’s vision.

“We know we can get a lot bigger and badder, we just need to get the word out to the right people.”

Christine McGuigan is the Associate Editor of Silicon Prairie News.

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