Two Melbournians Tyson Lloyd and Matt Ryan ditched their corporate lifestyles last year to embark on a startup venture. After working in the high-intensity and high-stress professional services sector, they’ve come to appreciate any downtime they could get, but found it difficult to work out the best dates for meet-ups with friends.
It was this frustration from which they derived inspiration to create a disposable, shared calendar application that allows users to organise events, meetings and catch-ups with family, friends and colleagues seamlessly.
“It’s really difficult to work out the best date for a catch up with friends or dinner with extended family, particularly when you’ve got multiple attendees, each with prior commitments and unavailable days,” says Lloyd, Co-Founder of Ziado.
“Ziado leverages Facebook login to grab your profile image and let you visually show your availability to others – who can update the same calendar with their own availability.”
How does the app work? After visiting www.ziado.com, users login through their Facebook account, and click a day as ‘already booked’, ‘available’ or ‘tentative’. The user is then presented with a unique URL, which can be shared through a post, private message or email. Recipients of this URL have the ability to update their availability in the same calendar, allowing for mutual availability to be determined.
Though there are plenty more features in the pipeline, the co-founders are taking the lean startup approach to test their product and determine market demand. Lloyd admits that he and Ryan came up with the idea over a coffee on a Thursday evening, and had the application up and running by the end of that weekend.
“We brainstormed the look and functionality on the spot and then built it over the weekend using HTML5, Twitter Bootstrap Framework, Jquery and the Facebook API. We owned the ziado.com domain name from a previous idea, so our only outlay was our time,” says Lloyd.
Though the application is simple and minimalistic, Lloyd says they’re constantly discussing new ideas that would bring real value to people, ideas that would make an everyday task more efficient and enjoyable.
“The idea [for Ziado] was validated when I had to organise a planning meeting for my football club and managed to find a time that suited the over 20 attendees,” adds Lloyd.
He admits that Ziado is up against major competitors in the market – including Upto.com, which raised $3.5 million in 2013; Tungle.me, which was acquired by BlackBerry; and more recently launched, Foogi.me. Nonetheless, the co-founders are impressed by the traction their app has received without any marketing.
“Until now, we’ve only been gaining users through word-of-mouth. Those users have helped us test and improve the app to ensure it can stand up to higher volumes once we ramp up our marketing,” says Lloyd.
“We’re looking to increase Ziado’s social profile and media exposure, along with furthering the share-ability and virality through the introduction of new features and streamlined sharing.”
The app is currently free for everyone, though the founders are planning to implement a freemium business model with advertising, upgrades for further personalisation and OEM branding for business users.
Lloyd says the biggest challenge throughout this venture has been leaving the corporate world and chasing the entrepreneurial dream – given the risks involved.
He says it’s been difficult ignoring the advice of risk-adverse, and leaving a stable job at a highly regarded company, for something that has an uncertain future.
“We’ve learnt to have confidence in our abilities, and to reassure ourselves that as long as we’re continuously learning, iterating and interacting with like minded people – for instance, in co-working spaces such as York Butter Factory – we’re on the right track,” says Lloyd.
He acknowledges that Ziado is not yet what they would consider a success, as its still in its infancy. Nonetheless, the entrepreneurial life as been “every bit as good as we imagined.”
“To take a risk, break away from the status quo, and turn ideas into valuable products and services that have the potential to improve lives. We’re hoping this attitude to life can become infectious, leading to a significant increase in Aussie startups and resulting in more employment opportunities and an increase in products and services that have a positive effect on the lives of others,” says Lloyd.
This is the other motive for pursuing Ziado. The founders want to inspire fellow Australians to leave corporate life and start something that both sustains them and makes a difference.
“These aren’t mutually exclusive either; especially not in the tech sector where massive scalability and reach is possible, and where the incremental cost of serving an additional user is almost zero,” says Lloyd.
“We’ve come across a number of corporates who have great ideas, possess the intelligence to successfully turn these ideas into a product/service, but lack the courage and faith to undertake this journey. As a result, so many great ideas that have the potential to positively impact the lives of others are never shared with the world.”
Lloyd and Ryan’s plan for 2014 is to add new features – including the ability to name events, add availabilities and select friends. This means that once an event is published, friends will receive notifications that will allow them to either accept the proposed time, or login themselves and update that calendar with their own availabilities.
To check out Ziado, visit www.ziado.com.