The origin story might sound familiar. Two years ago, John Parilo was in Lake Tahoe with some old college buddies looking to party with a new group to bring in the New Year.
But the timing was off.
“I was able to make connections, but it takes time on an app to develop relationships,” Parilo says. “By the time we were ready to go out, one of the two parties had already left town.”
Parilo told his hometown friend, Blake Mori, about what happened. Mori had been there before: Mexico. Facebook. Long story. But as the Sacramento duo vented about their respective missed connections, they came up with an idea for an app to solve this problem: wimZr.
What if you could schedule “chance” interactions ahead of time?
Admittedly, early designs were generic and one-dimensional with a dating site vibe, say founders Parilo and Mori. But after brainstorming and fundraising from family and friends, the idea evolved into an app that could help people connect through upcoming events. Say you’re going to a concert or sports game, and you want to link up with other people going to the same event. With wimZr, you can connect days, weeks, even months beforehand.
“We’ve had a ton of event organizers come to us and say, ‘Can we use your platform or our events?’” Parilo says.
This app is the latest in a trend that helps users better manage their time. Wyndow, released last year, was designed to help users find entertainment options within a certain time frame. But wimZr’s main focus is people. The app’s interface is straightforward. You view the profiles of people going to the same place. If you like them, click “Connect Me.” If you want to pass, click “Next Time.” If the person you like likes you back, you can start talking. For upcoming events, you can scan guest lists and either connect one-on-one or openly in a public forum. You can also purchase tickets directly from the “Event Details” page.
In December, wimZr was the official app of Global Winter Wonderland, the holiday festival and multicultural celebration at Cal Expo in Sacramento and the Tulare County Fairgrounds in Tulare. But the startup’s biggest event connection so far came from more traditional “who you know” networking. Parilo’s sister knew the organizer for Super Fan Chase, an inaugural 4-day sports scavenger hunt around the Bay Area the week before Super Bowl 50. At least 1,000 participants are expected for this event. In the style of the hit CBS television series “The Amazing Race,” teams will compete for prizes and raise money for charity with wimZr as the official app.*
“We knew wimZr’s event platform was exactly what we were looking for,” says Bridgett Coates, spokesperson for Super Fan Chase. “wimZr allows our participants, celebrities and staff to socially connect with everyone participating in our ultimate scavenger hunt, see the event details, register for the Super Fan Chase and stay up-to-date on all activities and promotions via push notifications before, during and after our event.”
To monetize wimZr, Parilo and Mori say they have come up with ways to benefit both users and businesses. The primary model is the common approach: Businesses would offer discounts to wimZr users, on everything from tickets to airfare and hotels, and wimZr would get a percentage. This model has been used by other startup’s such as Requested. Mori believes a lot of hotels, airlines and events would be willing to spend marketing dollars to send the best deals to wimZr’s users all over the world.
But despite wimZr’s global scope, Parilo and Mori pride themselves on developing the app in Sacramento. They both grew up in the region, and their families are here along with the startup’s eight-member core team.
“Everybody’s here, we’re not outsourcing anything,” Mori says. “To be able to say it’s born and built in Sacramento is an amazing feeling.”