It's ZipScene, a free online Web site where you can not only check out what's going on around Cincinnati and Nothern Kentucky but where you can also personalize your calendar to see only the events you're interested in.
Friends Jaydev Karande and Sameer Mungur started the idea in 2004 and launched the site in November 2005, and ZipScene (www.zipscene.com) has grown rapidly ever since. In August 2005, Mike Halloran joined the team to help with marketing and sales.
I caught up with Halloran and Karande at the Clifton Heights Starbucks to learn what ZipScene is, how it got started and where it's going.
CityBeat: How did you get the idea for ZipScene? What were you doing before this entrepreneurial venture?
Jaydev Karande: Sameer (Mungur) and I were friends for a number of years. Both of us had experience in the entertainment industry, and we started doing things together and it led to this. I've been in the entertainment industry for 6 1/2 years consulting and planning events for places around Cincinnati, including Club Clau and Rumba. Sameer worked as an engineer at P&G.
Mike Halloran: I spent 10 years in marketing at P&G, then was president of an interactive marketing group, CoActive. I've also been an investor and operator in the restaurant/bar industry off and on for the last few years.
CB: What are the site's main benefits for visitors?
Halloran: One is to help people find out about what's going on in Cincinnati in a very personalized, customized way. Two is they get this great membership card, which entitles them to special benefits with participating venues. Third, they can connect with their friends.
CB: How are you different from MySpace or Facebook?
Karande: We're absolutely focused on entertainment and delivering great content, relevant content to each user. It's all about what you choose.
Halloran: One aspect that has made our site special is its clean, user-friendly look and feel. It's simple and straightforward. I think that's probably what's made us so successful. We're (also) creating a section called MyGroups around certain interest sections. So if you're into live music or clubbing or comedy, you can get discussion boards and blogs so you can post your interests.
CB: What type of people are members of your site?
Halloran: It's actually surprisingly broader than we thought. Our average age on the site is 31, and about 20 percent of our members are 40 years of age or older, so we have a broad field. It's such a great, customized experience -- you don't have to sort through all that stuff that you don't care about. You only have to look at the stuff that you really want to look at.
Karande: Whether you're married, whether you're single, it's still for you. Everybody wants to go do something with someone, and it's very applicable to you no matter what stage of your life you're in.
CB: There are more than 100 venues on ZipScene and thousands of members. With such wide access, why do you require that new members be invited to sign up by other friends or at ZipScene events around the city?
Halloran: We wanted to make sure that our network is very linked. If a ZipScene member wants to invite their friend, they can easily do it, and we create a linkage. If a ZipScene venue wants to invite their customers, they send invites, so you create a linkage there. We've got lots of linkages and people together to network with people.
Karande: We're adding that exclusivity factor because we have a lot of value to add. Once you're in, you're connected to everybody.
CB: You've recently started a similar site in Chicago. Why choose Cincinnati as your first stop?
Karande: This is where we're from. We love Cincinnati, and we want to see great things happen in Cincinnati.
Halloran: It started out as an idea to help connect Cincinnati. It turned out to be such a great idea we thought, "Let's take it to other cities."
CB: Have you thought at all about which other cities you'll target?
Halloran: There are a lot of great cities around the country that are all about entertainment, but we really haven't decided yet. Our goals right now are to continue to make Cincinnati successful -- it's our lead market -- and then focus on Chicago after that. We anticipate later on this year or next year we'll be in more cities.
CB: This summer you'll be working with CityBeat to celebrate our Hot Issue and the MidPoint Music Festival. You'll also be at Party in the Park, Live at the Levee and other local events. What else do you have on tap?
Halloran: We're going to get a ZipScene party trolley that will hold 30 people, and we're going to create a contest to win a free night out on the trolley with 29 of your friends. We'll pick you up at 6 o'clock and we'll drop you off at 2 o'clock; it's going to include drink specials at five different ZipSene venues. We'll be out on a night out on the town.
CB: What are some great ZipScene events you've hosted in the past?
Karande: I really liked the very first one at Purgatory (on Dec. 10, 2005). That was a big kickoff for all of us. There was so much excitement in being the first one.
Halloran: Some of my favorites have been discovering new events that have existed out there that for the first time a lot of people are finding out about. What we found is that there are lots of neat things going on in Cincinnati and we can help promote and create awareness for those events. ©