We had an interesting chat with Mr. “Thomas Stoll”, CIO at the Uerikon – Switzerland based start-up “ZWOOKY ”
Below is the interview we conducted with him:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
ZWOOKY is an innovative contact system with focus on privacy, security and anonymity for its users. However ZWOOKY is not a social platform. The main focus is to contact a person which was seen in real life.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
The idea for ZWOOKY was born at the beginning 2012. Initially, there were several servers in the basement to the development ZWOOKY. After a short break, the development was resumed and the idea of pursuing ZWOOKY stronger. We moved to the google cloud with everything.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
This is a difficult question, because of the complexity of ZWOOKY. ZWOOKY will never giveout any mailaddress nor will it make advertisements. We have two ways to pay for the infrastructure we use. First is, users have to pay to send an email. Second, users have to pay for a VIP-ZWOOKY.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Ok, this isn’t easy to answer at the moment. Thomas Stoll did the most of the designs, ideas, programming and also most of the videos on youtube. Later in 2014 joined Carlos Dennis ZWOOKY and we founded ZWOOKY GmbH.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
There is so much we know nothing comparable to ZWOOKY. ZWOOKY can most easily be compared to a key finding service for people. Users of ZWOOKY can choose a normal ZWOOKY or a VIP ZWOOKY. Our recommendation is to opt for a normal ZWOOKY. ZWOOKYs focus is indeed the anonymity. ZWOOKY can not only be used for persons, it’s also usable for business-cases to mark notebooks or mobiles if they are lost.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
At the moment we are still in the initial phase and have not taken any active promotion since the founding of the GmbH. We try now to bring ZWOOKY into real life.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
We are not aware that there is a company out there which does the same. There are many keyfinder services, but they have a different approach. None of them have the flexibility to contact people as we do.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
One of the main problems is to get all ideas under one hat. Because we are only two it isn’t to difficult. Because lack of time we tried to outsource some of the coding, but this wasn’t successful. It is very difficult to find people with enough knowledge to make a solution that was acceptable for us. We tried to outsouce the APP for iPhone and Android It was always to expensive, or our requirements where not meet.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
We think that’s the biggest problem of ZWOOKY, because ZWOOKY doesn’t give borders to the users. Every user can use the ZWOOKY-code as he/she likes. ZWOOKY is new and nothing else is like ZWOOKY. It is a new service in real life and doesn’t exists only on the web. It goes out of the web and needs a real world to be successful.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
Because ZWOOKY is new and nothing like this exists. Today with so many information you can find about most people on the internet some anonymity is needed.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We have so many ideas who to bring ZWOOKY forward. We already have the business-ZWOOKY. It’s possible to expand there. The biggest opportunity is to get in touch with one of the big parcel-shippers and maybe an insurance. We have many ideas for our users and we don’t like to talk about them to early.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
Please don’t smile! At the office I was working and the idea for ZWOOKY grew, more than have of the colleagues were singles. It was a short way for the idea, but a very long way for the name. The name ZWOOKY is coming from two keys ( in german zwei schlüssel or “zwo key”). We needed a name which was not used in the internet and which we would be able to register as trademark.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
It needs money and time. With more money it should be easier to create a new business, but you also need people around you which are willing to invest time, have good ideas. Money is not all, but it makes things much easier.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
In six month we don’t assume to have problems as we have programmed our solution without a database for the core functionality. Our service should scale out for hundreds of millions of people without any problem.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Our ZWOOKYs don’t need to give out their mail addresses anymore and we hope, that in the future ZWOOKY will be uses for anonymous feedbacks with the possibility to request more information and still be anonym. The flexibility of ZWOOKY for our users. Every user can use his ZWOOKY as he likes. Perhaps we will have merchandising business with other firms. I mean in the way that they will offer services to our ZWOOKYs to create their personal ZWOOKY to label their stuff.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
As we are primarily a company to stay anonym and we don’t get much information about our ZWOOKYs, we can’t tell you. Our users will talk about us and more friends will join the ZWOOKY community.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
May I answer this question in a year? At the moment we have more request for a job at ZWOOKY than users. I think this is good, because people understand what the idea of ZWOOKY is. At the moment we don’t have users, so their are many free, unallocated ZWOOKYs to choose from.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Ask me in a year please. I know for what I will use ZWOOKY and I’m already using it. I labeled my luggage with my ZWOOKY and nothing else. My iPhone case is also laser-engraved with my ZWOOKY and my business-card has one too. Because most of us have never heard about ZWOOKY why should they miss ZWOOKY? We need to get some attention and people have to talk about ZWOOKY.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
We hope, they want say anything about ZWOOKY. It’s like in the IT, if you have a problem, everybody talks about it. When everything is fine, nobody thinks about it and use it as always.
20. How are you going to scale?
We have google as provider for your infrastructure and without any database we should scale without hassle. In the first version of ZWOOKY I had already programmed a load-balancing for the databases with the possibility for 256 and more. We use a database, but only to get basic information about a user. For every user is a text file stored in the cloud and that’s the most flexible way to scale.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
We need to bring out an app as soon as possible. the first version was able to send messages to iPhone and Android. It was programed with some frame work from adobe. The API to send out the messages was programmed all by hand. To have a really good application with an additional security-level we need to develop a nativ-application not using any framework. The second we need to finish is the video-chat based on webrtc. We have a working prototype, but it isn’t ready to give it to the public.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We already internationalized ZWOOKY. The main language ist english. For the login-screen we have german, French, and Italien. If somebody needs additional languages it’s possible to use google-translate which is already embedded into the first ZWOOKY-Page. Because we are not a company which create things, it doesn’t matter if we have one million or hundreds of millions user.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
Have a look on others internet companies. I don’t like to compare with Facebook or WhatsApp, but it’s among the same. With the 7 positions of our free-ZWOOKYs we have more than 70 billions of possible ZWOOKYs. We can expand to more positions at any time. As you may see, we have big dreams.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
At the moment we are not looking for applicants. Because ZWOOKY is a free time company for me and my colleague, we don’t know at the first moment who we need first. Maybe good programmers for the planned app? A smoother gui for our 3D-preview. Some for your business-ZWOOKY customers. The time will show it and we are able to respond fast to any demand.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
No, at the moment we try to keep it in our hands. It’s much easier to respond and we have the idea in which direction we will drive ZWOOKY. ZWOOKY is so special and new, we will be in the steering for the next years. This may change, but we hope we can do it by ourself.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Ohh, I’m also an entrepreneur and new in this business. The most important thing is to know how much time you can invest into your idea Find people which have the same mindset as you and keep your dream always in mind.
27. Finally, do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
ZWOOKY is so new and different from everything else, that you need an open mind to see the full potential of ZWOOKY. Please give ZWOOKY a chance and test it out. You will be surprised which ideas you’ll receive when you think a little about the scope ZWOOKY has.