SaaS Founder Interview with Jimmy Chebat, Founder of ZiZo
Hear from Jimmy Chebat, the founder of ZiZo, a Workplace Gamification & Business Intelligence Platform that helps organizations incentivize their employees. As a SaaS start-up founder, Jimmy shares his adventure with us in building a team, planning a product, raising capital and more.
Tony Zayas 0:05
Everybody, welcome to the SaaS owners show. It’s Tony Zayas. I’m joined by Insivia founder, Andy.
Andy Halko 0:14
Hey, I’m doing great, Tony, how are you?
Tony Zayas 0:17
I’m doing well. You know, just another day.
Andy Halko 0:21
A fantastic day, my yard is strewn with leaves and ballots, you know, and hopefully later I’ll be able to get out and just blow those into a pile and down the hill.
Tony Zayas 0:34
Yeah, yeah. So not a whole lot going on in the news. I think we’ll have a lot of people paying attention here to the show, because you know, everyone’s pretty focused. But yeah, so another SaaS Founders show here. Today, we’re excited to dive in. We got a great founder on today. So Jimmy Chebat, from ZiZo. And I’m gonna just bring Jimmy on. And we’ll ask him some questions here all about his story. So with that, let me go ahead and bring Jimmy on. So Jimmy, how are you doing?
Jimmy Chebat 1:07
I’m well, how are you guys doing?
Tony Zayas 1:09
Real good, thank you. So welcome. We appreciate you taking your time out to spend some time with us. And want to hear all about this, though, what I would love to hear just a bit about your personal story, you know, looks like you kind of that serial entrepreneur done a number of things and different industries. So what got you to this point?
Jimmy Chebat 1:34
Like you said it, I mean, it’s a it’s a long story, serial entrepreneur, and you know, one of those kids that had the lemonade stand, you know, always looking for ways to, you know, capitalize on any opportunities, especially when I was younger. As I got older, you know, that that continued, I think it’s, it’s one of those innate things in my DNA. My father, he’s, he was an entrepreneur, siblings, they’re all entrepreneurs. So everybody’s got their kind of own story. And my first business that I started to get into that kind of got me to down this, this path into this, and this journey is was an IT consulting, and I had a passion for computers and a passion for just information technology. And, you know, when I was younger, the internet really became prevalent. And, you know, it was around with the dial up modems, you know, and that slow speeds, and I had developed an application and partnered with somebody to create a 3d virtual world, multi user, and I had a big time because the bandwidth just couldn’t handle the speeds. And, and it was one of those experiences that, you know, people consider it failure. I consider it, you know, education. Yeah, you know, and it’s part of my learning experiences. So from from there, I had developed my own IT consulting company worked with a lot of small to medium sized businesses, in developing their IT infrastructure, as well as helping them with their web development, and web applications. And I just love creating solutions. One of my clients, became actually a partner. I helped a client of mine, who was also a friend of building collection agency and set up their network, and so set up your infrastructure, my passion for business, you know, I just started advising them on some of their business dealings, you know, from an accounting, HR standpoint, and, you know, they, they asked me to come on board as a partner. And, and I did, and that’s kind of the, where I started to pivot down the road where I am today. And it was in an experience where it was a bit of a culture shock, you know. My first role within the company was primarily backend, you know, back office operations, you know, vendor relationships, payroll, accounting, things of that nature, as well as IT. And then, you know, we started to grow substantially, and I got involved with operations and dealing with workforce. And it was a very different workforce. And, you know, this was, this was 12 years ago, and it was just a workforce of that they weren’t accountable, you know, they didn’t like to be held accountable, you know, come and go as they wanted. And, you know, for me, I’m a business professional. And I’m used to dealing with those sort of people. And that was just getting what I call talked off all the time. So every time I bring somebody in to have a conversation about why they’re not performing, at least to the level that we expect, they would just point the finger and blame somebody else. And that would believe that. So I created the first iteration of ZiZo. During this time, where there’s a traditional dry erase board on everybody’s office floor. I don’t know if you’re familiar with call centers, but it’s tradition in the call center space where if somebody closes a deal. They walk up to that board, they write down the features of the deal, and that just that walk up there is kind of that recognition. You know, that celebration. You know, hey, I achieved and I accomplished and look at me. And you know, we would copy the contents of this board every morning and file it away. And one morning, I was looking at this pile and I said, if there’s a way for me to harvest this information, there’s a lot of information here that I can use to help rebut some of the excuses. And that was the first iteration of ZiZo. And it was more of a data analytics, be able to uncover some truths, empirical truths through data, as opposed to talking to people and getting their story. And so it was from there, that this evolved into Cisco. And you know, over the course of the past 10 years, we evolved it to begin to add some gamification features. So one of the other traditions in call center spaces and collections is contests, you know, always incentivizing, you throw a TV on the floor, and you say, hey, whoever gets the biggest number this month is going to get this TV or you do blitzes where you say, the next hour, the first person that puts, that closes the next deal, here’s a $5 bill, you come up and grab it. And all of these things that are part of the tradition of call centers or collections. And you know, it, it started to waver. You know, as you kind of do this for years and years. You know, you get to see people winning the contest. So everybody else gets demotivated or you change it up, and you you build contest, where everybody gets a raffle ticket, and it’s a Chinese auction at the end. And you know, somebody who’s low man on the totem pole, very low performer wins the big prize, and everybody else is upset. So we wanted to build something that’s fair and across the board is distributes the wealth, you know, equally, but you have to earn it. And it’s not just one big prizes, a bunch of different prizes. And, you know, this iteration of ZiZo what we develop, we actually leverage the feature sets and the psychological profiles of video games and how they built it things like fortnite, the EA Sports franchises, Madden, you know, FIFA, their hockey franchise, Call of Duty with the badges and the rankings and the levels and, you know, leveling up and you know, with the avatars of fortnite, is another one where, you know, I thought that was a genius model, they gave this game away for free. But then they sold you an app, a thing, things like dance moves, and skins. I’ve got a 13 year old son, and I spent more money on that than any other game. Maybe Madden, he really takes that. But we really incorporated a lot of those feature sets into ZiZo. And you know, we’re, we’re right now we’re launching beta this week, and we’re getting ready to launch into the full marketplace over the course of the next couple months. So we’re really excited. That’s a long winded pathway to where we are today.
Andy Halko 7:54
Yeah, that’s fantastic, though I love gamification. I’m such a fan of it. I mean, in every industry, there’s just an opportunity to, you know, look at how do you incentivize people. And so I love that you’re bringing that concept in? I’m kind of curious. So you’re obviously in another organization and running day to day. So one of the challenges that I see with a lot of founders that we talk about when they’re trying to create a software product is, you know, how do you balance your day to day to create it? Is that something, you know, that you took on yourself? Did you hired folks, you know, how did you make that transaction actually true that to build a product.
Jimmy Chebat 8:39
So we really started committed to the concept of building this out and bringing it into the marketplace in 2018. So invested in research, made sure that, you know, from a UX standpoint, a user experience standpoint, that we were building it towards the people that are going to use it, what they’re looking for, we did a lot of studies within gamification within user interface and user experience. And during that time, I had an agency I also have a debt buying company also have restaurant, you know, my restaurant, it’s more of the back end person as well, I’ve got my brother and his wife been running the operation. But in the beginning of this year, 2020, pre-COVID, I decided, you know what, I’m committing to this thing. And just like you said, hey, how do you how do you spread your time out, you know, without diluting the value, or the quality of that time. And so I understood that and I understood that either you have to have a really good team, which I do, or you have to just commit to one thing. And so I decided that I’m going to sell my agency, which was the biggest, I guess, consumer of my time, and I’m going to focus on this. So I sold my agency. Fortunately, the timing was perfect because COVID had it so I don’t have to deal with all the ramifications of that. And I’ve invested, you know, all my capital and all my time into making this thing work. So I agree with you, it’s, it is a challenge if you’re trying to do multiple things. And so I did make that commitment that I am going to focus on this one.
Andy Halko 10:15
Yeah, I found that over the years is that, you know, there’s folks that they’re in an existing business, and they try and create it while they’ve got a full time job. And, you know, it just ends up failing a lot of times. And so if you don’t, you know, if you’re not able to take that focus, and really put it on the product, it can be extremely challenging.
Jimmy Chebat 10:35
I couldn’t agree more.
Andy Halko 10:37
How do you? What was that feeling of selling the agency and committing fully to this? What was that emotional, and kind of mental place that you were in at that stage?
Jimmy Chebat 10:48
I, it’s nerve racking. I mean, when you’re committing, I mean, that that was my lifeline. I mean, it’s every part of that vision, really, from the research, right, we really get this opportunity out wired. And we looked at the market opportunity, I built a prototype in the beginning, and I started pitching it to different agencies and to see if it’s something that they would use. One of the big things that was happening in our industry, and across all industry is the new generational workforce. They’re a different breed, and they require different management style, and people are trying to figure out what that management style is. And I feel that we’ve figured it out, you know, I think gamification is, is what’s going to engage this workforce is what’s going to keep them interested in coming to work every day and, and not just jump from job to job to job. So, you know, in our research and studies and vetting this operation, and gave me the confidence that I was making the right decision, you know, I have many, many different people say, yes, this thing is going to be a winner. Yes, we’re on board, build this, you’ve got us as a customer. Within the industry, I have 12 years of experience within the space, and I leverage that experience, to go out and get the right information for me to make the decision. So you know, it wasn’t one of those, you know, what I’m all in, let’s go It was let’s take the steps. I mean, I’ve done this in the past where I went down the road, and it’s like, Damn, I didn’t really fully command, I spent a lot of money, I put a lot of energy. And, you know, I have nothing to show for it. So this was kind of a byproduct of the past experiences that I’ve had that I did it a different way.
Andy Halko 12:28
How important do you think it is for you know, people that are looking to go on this journey to really vet out the idea? How deep should they go? You know, what did that that look like for you?
Jimmy Chebat 12:42
To answer the first part of your question, I think is critical. I don’t think you should just go off on a gut feeling. I think most entrepreneurs, you know, they have this self confidence, which can translate to ego. And, you know, they’re blinded by facts. And you know, and I’ve done that in the past, and so you need some sort of affirmation, some reinforcement of what you’re thinking from other from peers. You know, for me, personally, you know, it’s not an idea that’s outside my scope of experience, you know, I’m building something or I had built something that worked for me and other people within the space, were asking about it. Because with the trician, people kind of jumped from from one agency to another. And from a geographical standpoint, standpoint. Buffalo is a hub for call centers and collections. So people know each other. And so they started hearing about the product and saying and requesting it. So we knew that there was there’s validation. But I built a prototype, I went out there and actually demonstrated it, and asked, Would you buy this and had a lot of people commit? And they said, Yes, absolutely. We need this. And they understood that I experienced the same pain points, then they. And so, you know, if you’re thinking of an idea that, you know, is not within your scope of experience, then go to people who have that experience and get it validated. You know, before you jump in, and you quit your job, and you commit all your savings into this, you know, I think validation is important to making decisions.
Andy Halko 14:12
Yeah, it’s funny over the years I’ve had, I mean, it’s amazing how many folks I’ve had come in, kind of pitch their idea. They’ve been working on something for months, you know, I do a quick Google search, after I asked them about, you know, what competitors are in the marketplace, etc. You know, they say, Oh, no, this is completely unique. And within, you know, the first page of Google, there’s 10 results that are exactly what they’re trying to do. And so it’s always been interesting to me, how blinded some folks can be by the excitement for the idea, and the level of uniqueness and how much they’re willing to go out. And I’ve almost found, I feel like sometimes people are afraid to go up, because they don’t want to find out that their idea isn’t unique, which is the opposite of how you start a business. Right?
Jimmy Chebat 14:59
Yeah. And that’s their ego protecting them right saying. ‘No, you’re the best don’t go searching for anything else.’ And, you know, that was one of the first things we did is we went out and we did the research. We did what we, you know, you can call it corporate espionage, we studied our competitors, you know, what are you offering? What’s your price point? What are the features? How do we, how are we differentiated, and we made sure that we’re not going down a road where near the marketplace is saturated with competitors, where you’re never going to be able to, especially as a startup, to be able to penetrate and get market share. You know, one of the things that we found is, you know, I can win my space, you know, with collections, there was nobody doing gamification. And so that was one advantage. But also, we built a platform that was very different than anything that’s out there. gamification is a very broad stroke, if you think of the term, you know, if you’ve got a reward system, that’s gamification, if you got a badge, that’s gamification. We’ve taken it many, many steps further, we’ve created a gaming experience, we’ve mimicked all of the games that we know are popular and are trending in video games, and bringing it into this environment. So yeah, do your research, check out the competition, don’t don’t let that deter you. But definitely use that as part of your strategy planning. And you know, how you’re going to differentiate yourself and how you’re going to launch it in a marketplace. That’s great.
Tony Zayas 16:23
To go on a fair point, Jimmy, talking about gamification, and kind of what you’ve learned from video games. Almost more about that, because I’m, I’m interested in that I gamification is a fascinating topic. And I think that that is smart. You’re looking kind of at the video gaming world, probably looking at some of those psychological triggers, things that hold people back in to be hooked and really, you know, go to it, but what have you learned and kind of how did you navigate that? Isn’t a video game, something that you’re into? I know, you mentioned your son and love to hear more.
Jimmy Chebat 16:57
Yeah no, it’s I grew up on video games, I was the first version of Nintendo, I think, my first video console that I had, I went on to Sega and Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and everything all the way through all the PlayStations all the Xboxes. And so I’ve been a gamer my whole life, I think I got to one point where I may have been addicted, you know, it was so calm, and it was the first like real multiplayer game where you’re online and you’re competing against, you know, or with your friends. And it just consumed my time. And, you know, I knew at that point, I was, I think, in a relationship that I was about to get out of there really are about to lose a relationship if I didn’t stop playing so, but I learned from that experience, and you know, Madden is one of my favorite franchises, you know, playing the football game. But then my son, you know, we I would play with him when he was young. And you know, he continues to evolve, and it’s become a community. I mean, nowadays, if you look at maybe the way we played growing up, we’re outside. And if you wanted to play video games with our friends, we would go over their house, or you’d come over to ours. Now everybody’s in their own house, they get the headsets on there, they’re playing every day, all day, you know, they’re no longer outside, which I think is a shame but but from the experience standpoint, in how we, how I studied games, and how I build is yet you have to, there’s a reward system that you have to constantly have so micro rewards. So a lot of the gamification that happens in workplaces is usually larger rewards, long contests drawn out. Or, you know, if you do small rewards, it’s the same people that are winning them always. So I wanted to find a way that gives everybody an opportunity to to win. And so the first thing I did was create a, an experience or rank level system. When I first set up when I the first iteration was only four levels, and I used Madden’s you know, rookie, pro, All Pro, and I use superstars that are all Madden. But now we’ve changed it to rookie Pro, All Pro, super, we added legend. And then we added five more levels or five levels per rank. So we’ve got 25 rank. And people and this is part of our career roadmapping. So it’s and it’s the engagement and the long term retention network focused on how do you keep people there longer, and you find a career roadmap so people can graduate or getting promoted through the rank levels by earning smaller challenges. You’re competing not against your peers, but against yourself and your expectations of that rank level. But then you’re also getting rewarded and recognized for Career Achievement. So as you’re hitting milestones, you’re also getting rewarded and that’s something that most corporations, businesses, don’t look at track report, recognize or reward is. ‘Hey, how many deals Have you closed all time?’ You know, you When you hit a certain milestone, you get that recognition, do you get that reward? And so we’re leveraging kind of the career element of video games and bringing that into the equation as well. And one of the biggest findings, and I want to say surprises of the research and defining there and building it in is that a lot of people don’t like to compete against one another, we made sure that we built a collaborative contest. So that way people can compete together towards a common goal, it builds a better culture. You know, some people love to compete, and they want to beat you, you know, especially if your friends like, Hey, you and I, today, we’re going to see who’s gonna win. But most of the time, they love to hate, let’s, and we should do this every Friday, I would say, when you guys hit this number, as a team, you guys can all go home for the rest of the day paid, they would hit it 90% of the time. I mean, we realize it without even realizing the study. And the research that we did brought that to the forefront and to our attention that we made sure that we incorporated that. But an avatar system very similar to Fortnite, where people are able to customize that avatar to look like them to change their wardrobe, their accessories and their clothing everyday, which they acquire using one of the currencies that we reward them with. So there’s coins, and there’s ebooks. So there’s a reward store. So now, not every size fits all with respect to the rewards. So we create a reward store where it’s both, there’s tangible goods, as well as company perks, people value paid time off more so today than ever before, so adding things like PTO or get out of jail free. So if they show up late, they’re not getting reprimanded, or VIP parking or access to the Executive Lounge. These are things that, you know. People, they’re not traditional incentives, they’re not traditional rewards, but it brings a new element. And another part of the psychology of gamification is that variable reward system, you can’t have the same rewards all the time, you have to change it up, switch it up, make things exclusive. Fortnite used to have these skins that they used to sold these to sell in their store. And they would launch the store every two weeks at eight o’clock, and my son would be there waiting for it to launch. And that’s one of the things that we want to be able to do is don’t always have the same rewards make things exclusive, that there’s only two or three of these things in the inventory. First two or three people to get it, that’s exclusive to them. And so those are some of the psychological elements that we’re borrowing from the game, the game industry and bringing it into the gamification to create a real gaming experience, not just a leaderboard, or a public display board that showcases who’s you know, done, what today.
Tony Zayas 22:50
Yeah, that’s pretty cool. There’s so many different layers you can go into. And that’s a great point that sometimes gamification is just so simple and basic, that you’re not getting people really into it, like you can. So pretty cool. How focused are you? Are you mentioned, you know, call centers and collections? Is that the top for you guys, for now?
Jimmy Chebat 23:14
For now, yes, I think, you know, we’re in the process of doing a capital raise, and I think we need to tell people that, you know, the world is our marketplace, you know, the head like, yeah, okay, whatever. You can’t, you know, kind of use that as your total addressable market is hundreds of billions of dollars, you got to really focus. And it really, you know, we’re using and leveraging our experience, and the relationships that we have to target in when this space first, I think that’s important, you know, for anybody who’s got an idea is to focus on a very narrow market that you could win. Now, some investors may say, That’s too small of a market. And we say, Well, you know, this is scalable, you know, across all industries, but we’re just not focused on scaling it right now. We want to focus on the things that we know, the KPIs that we’re familiar with the people that we do business with, and we’re gonna win that space. And then from there, you know, call centers, sales teams, the staffing, this thing can go into manufacturing, retail, even restaurants, I’ve got a friend of mine who’s got a restaurant, and I was pitching it to him as an investor. And he says, well, Jimmy, you know, we, we do these contests where, you know, we see who does the most upselling, or we do, you know, we get customer feedback to see, you know, how good their service was. He says, I’d love to have this because we’re franchising and we want to be able to have competition between locations, between peers within a group, you know, team versus team location, verse location, so this thing would be perfect for us. And, you know, we tie in that one of the important parts of our product is that integration, that we build API’s and integrate with your system of record. So we’re getting real time data right from your system. So it’s not something that you have to do double data entry with, but it does scale across all industries. And you No, you can make it yours. We built it. So as long as you have a measurable metric, we can gamify it.
Andy Halko 25:07
It’s great. Yeah, it’s funny, I years ago worked with a manufacturing company that, you know, they had employees that would handle a machine, and then they’d have two minutes of downtime before they could do it again. And he and we had talked a lot about the idea that, you know, they could have a little iPad sitting there and answer safety questions and earn points, and those points could get them things. And so, you know, showing like how it can move from industry, there’s so many things that you can apply what your concept is, too. But I really appreciate that you’ve got the concept of being narrowed at first, because that’s a big thing we always talk about is just, the last thing you want to do is be so wide that it’s just it’s hard to go after such a wide audience. So was that something that you knew from past businesses? or How did you come to that determination to stay focused at first and not be so wide, because I do meet a lot of entrepreneurs and startup folks, that right up front, they want to go wide. So What kept you there?
Jimmy Chebat 26:13
But yeah, there there was an experience that I had in the past, I was building a software application. And it’s kind of two different things. But they’re very related. This was a very comprehensive, it was about cloud storage, intelligent Cloud Storage. It started off as more for the academic, its traditional yearbook, digitizing the traditional yearbook. And then we went into talking about creating personal yearbooks where, you know, catalogs your life and all of your photos. I mean, I know that a lot of people use Instagram, Facebook to post. But that’s not all the photos that they take. iCloud has since I mean, this was seven years ago that I started developing this. But the scale of which I was building, this thing was very ambitious. And you know, it was targeting multiple plays. And I never got to MVP and MVP, minimal viable product. And it cost me a lot of money. And we never got to market now, my team, I earned a lot of respect for my team, because they called me a visionary. So all the things that you look to build is not out in the marketplace, by Google, Apple, Dropbox, all these people, you know, develop those features that you were looking for. So it was it was a painful experience. It was a from a financial standpoint, it was an ego standpoint, and I had to kind of pull it back. But from that experience, I knew that number one from a feature set, get out there with the minimal viable product. And then from a sales standpoint, you know, every industry is going to have kind of their own sales cycle, right? And some are going to be whether, even whether you’re dealing with small businesses all the way up to enterprise, you know, how many presentations are you gonna have to give before you get the decision maker? Who is the decision maker? So when you narrow down your focus, I think you have a stronger rate of success. Especially if you know people in the space it gives you you just want traction, you want success in the beginning, that’ll help you learn because there’s a saying fail, fail fast, right? It’s not that we want, they want you to fail, it’s just if you are going to you can be agile enough when you’re small and nimble, that you can make those pivots and those turns fairly easily, you know, without costing a lot of money. So I think you need to really control the ego, and it’s, you know, you’re gonna get there. Just get there slowly. Yeah. Before you walk, walk before you run.
Andy Halko 28:41
Yeah, that seems to be one of my biggest things that I see is you get someone in a room and you try and narrow them down. And all their mind can do is go, oh, it can work for this. It could work for this, it could work for this. And you know, at some point, like you said, you can’t get a product out. You’re trying to put too many messages out to the marketplace, and it just all gets diluted. So I’m curious, how did you get to the features that you wanted for your MVP and your beta? You know, how did you determine what the right set of features were going to be in that initial phase? Because I’m sure you have 1000 ideas, but how do you narrow it down?
Jimmy Chebat 29:21
We, you know, there’s a process where forget the exact name of everybody, you basically score every feature in terms of velocity and the cost, right? And you say, okay, what’s gonna cost us the most, you know, there are some features that are basically foundational, so you have to have those in order for everything to work. So you have to build that first, regardless of its of its cost. And then you you identify areas where okay, what are the number one most important things and again, I did research, you know, I ask, what are the features that you would want to see first, you know, what are the most critical to your operations that you feel will engage your users and then we focused on those. And then we created a product roadmap that allowed us to plan ahead and identify, here’s when we’re going to launch and release this, and then we’re going to launch and release this, for example, a reward store, you know? The long term goals is to integrate with a third-party marketplace. That takes work, you know, that’s something like Amazon. But we don’t need that right away, you know, we can fulfill the prizes up front, you know, so we do that as part of our MVP, right now, it functions, it doesn’t function to scale, but we know how we’re going to scale it. So you really find ways to launch features without, you know, spending a ton of time, energy and resources, you know, especially financial resources, if you’re on a bootstrap budget, to get it to market and again, fail fast. Do people want this, you know? because if they don’t, you know, you haven’t spent too much money, you can pivot and go towards a direction that the things that they do want, because we may find out things. I believe I know everything, and I know exactly what you want, but you’re gonna tell me different. And that’s the difference between, you know, UX, and, you know, reality, you have to get the reality, and you got to design to that. So minimize your expenses up front and use feedback as part of your journey.
Andy Halko 31:21
So in this process, getting to where you’re at now, what would you say has been kind of the biggest challenge or roadblock that you faced?
Jimmy Chebat 31:32
Well, it’s one that we’re going to continue to face in something that we’re developing a process to help minimize or make stronger. And I think a big part of that is going to be just getting brand recognition is API. So we’re relying on integrations with other software applications. Our industry, unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges in our industry is there’s a lot of legacy software, so they don’t have like pre built API’s. So you got to work, you know, directly with them and their team. You may have to pay them for their time and, and their development costs or build a so we’re trying to build affiliate programs so that way, there’s an incentive for them to integrate with us. And you know, so that has been the biggest challenge to date. We’re dressing that in different ways, where we want to be able to build that brand recognition, where their customers are going to go to them and say, We want this integration, we want this product. And as soon as we get enough, market share, word spreads pretty quick. And we feel strongly that we’re going to have a really effective product, and other people are going to request it, and so that those companies will come. But for now, we have to do to get integrated. That process has to be evolving for some time. So we have a solution. I think it’s just short term.
Andy Halko 33:05
Tony Zayas 33:07
Jimmy shifting gears a little bit. What is the team makeup? What does your team look like right now? And kind of how did you start? And what you know, what is the roadmap look like there, as far as utility goes?
Jimmy Chebat 33:20
I, as I said earlier, we started really in earnest back in February, and then COVID hit right? So you know, for us, it’s it’s remote, you know, for the most part. And you know, our developers, the majority of our developers are in Ukraine, you get the most value. With a team from Ukraine engineers, there’s developers in Russia and India, Poland, all across the world. And you just kind of got to pick your poison. And we found we did an extensive study, you know, my first hire was my CTO. So and this is somebody who I’ve worked with in the past, heard that a lot of success in, you know, engineering, software engineering and software development and building teams and managing teams that are multinational international teams. So we built we have, we have about eight people in Ukraine, we have data scientists that helps with an algorithm and it’s helped solidify an algorithm. Excuse me, we’ve got we’ve got some fire truck, right. That goes by me, thin windows. In any case, the data scientist is in Russia. We have our system architect in California. We have our lead creative director down at Atlanta. So we’re spread out and we’ve got a team of about 20 people. We also have a sales and marketing team. You guys, have I think, spoke with Megan, she’s my assistant but also our community manager, helping develop the brain and brand recognition. We have a marketing director. We have an SEO strategists, we have a social media manager. So some of them are part time. Some of them are contracts, some of full time employees in our first layer, we’re working with a VP of Sales. Well, he’s a sales consultant right now. But we’d love to bring him on board as a VP of Sales, he’s developing our sales program. You know, we’re building it upfront. So we know how we’re going to scale, how we’re going to train our people, what we’re training them on what systems we’re using, what’s our sales funnel look like, you know, and building out the entire hierarchy of the sales department as well. So we’re, we’re kind of building our foundation. And so that way, when we finalize our seed round, you know, we can do the right we can have the right plan to pick the right people to execute on these on these plans, strategies.
Andy Halko 35:45
That’s great. So I you know, everybody asked me this about our business. But how did you come up with the name?
Jimmy Chebat 35:54
Andy Halko 35:55
Yeah, what’s it mean?
Jimmy Chebat 35:57
That’s actually a great one, it’s an easy one for me. ZiZo stands for ‘zoom in, zoom out’.
Tony Zayas 36:04
Jimmy Chebat 36:05
are from from an executive level standpoint, you always have to kind of lead from the top right, and you’re above the trees, you’re seeing the big picture. And you’re able to kind of get visuals on everything. But in order to really make key decisions, you got to zoom in. And you got to get granular, you got to get into weeds, you got to get with your people, you have that human element, you got to talk to people. And from a data standpoint, that’s really where we focus a lot of our information and zooming that the ability to efficiently get granular get into the weeds. One of our benefits, gamification is probably the novel, fun new thing that we’re really selling. But really, it’s that’s not the only thing. Business intelligence is just as critical, just as important. Access to that data is going to be a key thing in the next coming years. So when we pull all of these pieces of information, you know, now we’ve got a data warehouse, that not only is it centralized, but it’s defragmented. So I’m pulling data from your phone system, from your collection software, your CRM, from your compliance, your HR, your time, and attendance, your payroll, all of these different data points are now housed in a central place, and I map them, so now they’re talking to one another. So if I want information about the influence between the number of phone calls versus my production, I don’t have to go into two different systems, put them in a spreadsheet, create a pivot table, build all these formulas, they’re all right there, I just build the dashboard and tell you exactly how many deals per call or calls per deal that you have. And we build that ability to see it from as an organization, this is where you’re at, as a team teammate is doing this team B is doing that, as an individual, Tony is doing this and Andy is doing that. And let me drill into Tony and really get granular with Tony because I need, I need to work with Tony because he needs some help and some training. So that’s what really the the name’s ZiZo came from is just ‘zoom in zoom out’ the ability to efficiently get in and out, the ability to efficiently manage and to free people up from this data drop because you can, there’s a data lake people are just swimming in data and information, how do you figure out what’s important. So we help in our discovery process, identified those, those KPIs that drive your business objectives, we gamify a few of them, we dashboard the rest, and give you access to that so that we know you’re no longer doing all of these things, just to have the ability or the tools to manage, the tool right there. Go spend time with you people do your training, and zoom in and out as you need to. And that’s, that’s kind of where our name came from. And, you know, we’re proud of it.
Andy Halko 38:50
I love it. I think that’s a great, you know, story and way to describe it. And that is it really ties into the value of what you’re providing is that zoom in, zoom out. So that’s fantastic. Pretty cool. I’m kind of curious, you… People, you know, they’re out looking to raise funds, they’ve maybe never been through it. It sounds like you’re in the process of doing capital raise what’s kind of your experience right now trying to go out and, and raise money? And what advice would you give to other folks that are thinking about that path for their own, you know, software product?
Jimmy Chebat 39:31
It’s, it’s a whole different world. I mean, it’s been quite the experience. You know, I’ve probably spent over the past three to four weeks, maybe 80% of my time working on securing that and that’s you know, building all of the collateral, you know, building your business plan, really your pitch deck and your pro formas in order making sure that all of the that marketing but informational type stuff, your due diligence, and then you’re working with your, accountants and your attorneys to make sure that your offer is fair and evaluation is fair. And then you got to go out there and pitch. And you got to find the people to pitch to. And there’s a lot of resources out there on the internet, a lot of forms that you got to fill out and a lot of presentations that you got to give and you get a lot of notes and you just can’t just be demotivated by those notes. I mean, you can have people who just ghost you, and then come back, you know, two months later, you know, part of our strategy, building a CRM, for to manage all of these leads, because they may not invest in your first round. But we’re looking to build an email campaign that sends out, you know, monthly updates, that says, here’s where we’re at, this is what we’ve accomplished, here’s where we’re going, this is the next step. And so when they follow your progress, they in the beginning, they may not believe either in the idea or you or the industry. But when they see that you’re making progress, they may come back and say, Now, this is what we want to be a part of. So it’s, I mean, I could probably write a book on it. Thanks, variances. I actually, this morning, I did a zoom presentation for about 35 people, local, Western, your adventure associates, you know, they bring, you know, angel investors, personal investors, you know, different people in and they offer to people an opportunity once a month to give a presentation, and then you may get some leads from that. So there’s a lot of different avenues, you can go down to raise capital, you know, the friends and family round or the seed round, you’re normally supposed to go to your friends and family. I’m dealing with COVID, I’m dealing with uncertainty, I’m dealing with an election, you know. I’m dealing with unemployment, not a lot of people are out there looking at and just throw money at startups. So all of this is, you know, keeping me motivating. And, you know, my biggest advice to anybody that’s doing it, you know, make sure you know, what you’re talking about first. And, you know, part of the vetting process is also validation to pitch to investors, you know, don’t just go out there, use that information to help you show why your idea is going to be successful, or as the marketplace for it. It’s, it’s multi purposeful, that that vetting process, because you’re going to need it, to convince investors to put money into you, because they’ll invest in you. But they also want to know that the idea in the product is gonna work as well.
Andy Halko 42:34
Yeah, just like that vetting process that we talked about, of doing your research and understanding the market, and then going out to investors and getting that feedback, you know, and finding other folks to give you feedback is really important. I’ve always thought, you know, I’ve worked with folks, and they’re always afraid to share their idea whether someone’s going to steal it, or maybe they’re just tepid, but you know, I kind of say, put it out there and get as much feedback, it doesn’t mean you have to take it all and, you know, handle it, but you can, you know, at least you’re getting feedback from folks. Do you have any mentors or anybody that you’ve used throughout, you know, whether your, your, your full history, or recently with this product, but, you know, who do you go to when when you need feedback?
Jimmy Chebat 43:21
So any growing up as a young entrepreneur is something that I wish that I would have had or sought to find a route, but I think there’s more. So now with the internet, they’ve created, you know, a lot of different sources of mentorship, you know, whether it’s local, you know, Chamber of Commerce, that kind of thing, local venture, venture associates, or Angel groups that also offer that. So I didn’t have anything growing up, I really learned a lot by falling on my face. You know, and just reapplying those lessons over and over again, and use my peers as well is kind of, you know, they say that it’s lonely at the top. And it’s true. I joined a CEO peer group a few years back, and you know, this helps, you know. We all share the same problems we not mean may not be in the same industry, but we share the same problems, we bounce ideas off of one another. So it was kind of like a collective mentorship program? Specifically for this venture, right? I did actually hire a mentorship organization, it’s called Enjoy the Work. They’re great. they assign you a mentor, but you have access to their entire network of mentors and advisors. And you know, we meet once a week and you know, we have an agenda and we and he is probably, Ned was my advisor is probably taught me the most specifically about capital raising, you know, and I mean, he’ll spit ball for like 5, 10 minutes and he’ll give me so much information. It blows my mind. And you know, I’ve been in business for 20 something years. It’s a space I don’t know about I’m not familiar with.
Andy Halko 45:01
Jimmy Chebat 45:01
And he just rattled it off like that. And so it’s important to find people that can assist you in growing in different areas. And you know, especially if you’re not familiar with raising capital. Buffalo, we’re in Buffalo, New York, it’s not a big venture type city, you know, there’s not a lot of access to capital, like San Francisco or New York City, or LA or Chicago, these huge network where you can just tap into, and everybody knows everybody, Buffalo is more older money, more conservative type of investments, collateralize investments, where tech is, you know, except CISCO. Everything is funded. You know, in Buffalo. No, they’re not going near tech. But we had a success in ACV Auctions recently in Buffalo. It’s our first billion dollar valuation tech company in Boise. And I think that’s changing the mindset, a little bit of the investors here. So they’re looking a little bit closer at opportunities, my opportunity being one of those, so I’m excited to see buffalo kind of grow into that tech community, and then start to build more mentorship programs, launched New York is actually something that I just connected with, as well. And they provide you what they call an entrepreneur in residence. So also a mentorship program as well. Although some people may consider me a seasoned veteran, you know, 20 years in business for 20 years, you’re never stopped learning. So you can always use people to bounce ideas off of it. Give you a different perspective.
Andy Halko 46:34
Yeah, it’s been one of the most powerful things for me, you know, I’ve had my business for 18 years is when I got involved with CEO, peer groups and mentors, and all these things. I mean, that was, besides making mistakes, one of the biggest learning opportunities that there were, and I think, like you mentioned, with capital raise, especially for software businesses, that’s a whole different world and terminology that even if you run a business, you know, it’s just completely different. And so it’s a lot of new learning to go through that.
Jimmy Chebat 47:07
Yeah, in it, especially when there’s different investors that look at different things. For example, total addressable market, this was a new term that I learned, you know, and how do you calculate total addressable market? You know, is it the revenues that that industry spends? Is it the cost of the problem? Is it the number of potential users that can potentially be on your platform multiplied by your license here, yours, your user license fee? You know, multiple investors look at it and give me different answers. It’s, it’s really difficult until you’ve had this experience to understand it was never really one good answer, you’re going to have to be versatile, and be prepared to answer any which any given way. And so I’m in and I put those in always in my appendix in my pitch deck. So if they ask a question, you may not be my pitch, but I got a reference. You know, I do know, at least the answers to your questions. Yeah. And may not have been prepared for it in the presentation. So yeah, it It helps to have and all this I learned from, you know, from enjoy the work, my advisor net there, you know, you really help with helping me understand. And the biggest thing he advised me is that that point that I made is like you’re never gonna make everybody happy. So, you know, pick one, move forward, be ready to answer any question now.
Andy Halko 48:30
It’s very. So what what is the next stage look like in this beta? How are you going through this process? And what do you think the next six months looks like? And what kind of challenges do you think you’ll you’ll face?
Jimmy Chebat 48:48
A beta is a critical part of, obviously, any sort of launch and control group where you’re getting instant feedback. They understand that, you know, there’s going to be some bugs early on that that’s our first priority is to fix the bugs, get it working, and then really focus on the features and see which features that they’re using. getting feedback on that, we have to identify what we consider a successful beta, measure, report, track and build according to those results. We plan on doing phased beta, so we’re bringing one company on first, we’ll get the low hanging fruit, and then we’ll add a second company, we’ll get a little bit bigger control group or a group to give us feedback. And we hope to add one more group before our end of our beta version, our beta testing. So our beta test, we’re looking to try to do three to four months of beta testing. But we’re continuing to build features at the same time. So MVP, beta, add features, launch them to our beta group, get feedback, make sure that we’re getting the right thing, but at the same time, we’re building our sales team, we’re out there, giving presentation, we’re putting people on our backlog. So we’re selling. So we’re not just sitting idle waiting for this thing to happen. We know what we’re selling. And you know, we’re out there, we’ve already got letters of intent from a large group of people who are ready to get on board with us. So, you know, and we finalize our processes, their sales processes that we’re building, there’s onboarding processes that we’re building, there’s marketing and branding processes that we’re building in teams that we’ve got to build to fill those processes. So the next six months is about really building our foundation. So that way, when we are ready to grow, we’ve got everything in place that we’re not scrambling last, we’re not just in that as the leader is the CEO, I’ve got to meet you, again, zoom in, zoom out, you know, zoom in on marketing, let’s talk about what our goals are. person, plug that person in, zoom back out, look at the big picture, getting on sales, getting them development, and giving them beta testing, you know, all those things you have to as a leader, you know, have your finger on the pulse and just, you know, be ready to answer any questions and, and understand what’s going on. But having the right team I think is just as critical, you know, putting people that are, you know, self propelling yourself manageable. They, they do bounce things off for you, but they don’t work. So that’s what our next six months look like, it’s really building our foundation for the future, or for 2021 for us to hit our sales goals.
Andy Halko 51:25
So we’ve had a pretty tumultuous 2020 I’m just kind of curious, you know, what do you think of all the changes that we’ve had in the business world and everything that’s going on? How do you think that’s gonna, you know, end up changing the way people do business over the next five to 10 years? And how do you think that might impact you growing your company?
Jimmy Chebat 51:51
I mean, some of that, the answer does depend on who’s gonna win this election. Obviously, we just completed Election Day, we don’t know the results yet. I think they have two very different kind of fiscal plans and tax plans. And those plans really impact the way people make business decisions. And you know, that does that does impact us with respect to COVID. You know, we all understand the effects of COVID. And how remote work and work from home environment is become the norm, and become the new norm. You look at cities like New York City, where people have terminated leases that pay 10,000, maybe 20 $30,000 a month. And again, the same same sort of productivity from a remote team. So they’re considering keeping that more permanent, and maybe shrinking their office spaces, and just having that as a place where people go for in person meetings. But it also, it also allows them to really not scale, but have a much bigger human resource pool to pick from, because they all need to be in the same place. And so that does provide an opportunity for me, because when you’ve got a remote workforce, you still have to keep them engaged, you still have to keep them somehow does not mean distracted at home and give them something that they can latch on to communicate with, we do have a social engagement component to our platform where you’re getting peer review, you’re getting peer recognition. And you know, they’re following your career the same way you’re following them, you’re comparing how they’re doing or you’re, or you’re competing against them or with them. So we feel that the work from home environment does actually help us in terms of you know, we have a solution, we didn’t set out to build a solution for it, you know, it was a very different problem that we’re looking to solve. This definitely works for, for what we’re looking to do. So 2021. Again, I think, once we determine who our next president is going to be, it’ll help us kind of get a an idea what sort of decisions are going to happen, and at the end, even may take three to four months before, you know after January, once you know whether it’s if it’s Biden, then you know, it’s gonna take three, four months after that to see what he’s going to do to change the landscape. And businesses may may adjust accordingly from that.
Tony Zayas 54:18
Yeah, very interesting. Awesome. Well, we’re just about out of time here, Jimmy. So I certainly want to say thank you. This has been great, really good stuff. I encourage everyone to go check out those places. Oh, calm. Is that correct? Yes. Awesome. And I would, you know, give me Shabbat look them up on LinkedIn and connect with them. It’s been great. We really appreciate the time spent here today. And we will see everybody next time. Thanks a lot, Jimmy.
Jimmy Chebat 54:47
Thank you, guys. Thanks,
Tony Zayas 54:48
Jimmy, thank you.