I AM CEO Podcast episode #91 – Entrepreneurs Develop App That Helps People Fight Social Isolation & Experience The Best of Life
Podcast Interview with Michael Simonetta
G: Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Michael Simonetta of Kibii.
Michael, it’s awesome to have you on the show.
M: Hey thanks for having me Gresham, I’m looking forward to this.
G: Me too, I’m looking forward to talking with you a little bit more about all the awesome things that you’re doing.
What I wanted to do is read a bit more about Michael so you can hear about all those things that he’s working on and he’s doing.
Michael has a wealth of experience with product ideation and launching apps for the world’s most recognized brands with his experience in business consulting and app development, Michael founded Kibii, as a social planning app that helps users live a meaningful life by discovering the best things to do in their own city and around the world. Michael is an advocate for living a well-balanced life and is focused on leveraging technology to fight social isolation and help people experience what life has to offer.
Michael are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?
M: I’m really excited. Let’s do it.
G: The first question I had was if we could hear a little bit more about your CEO story and what lead you to start Kibii?
M: Yeah absolutely. For the entirety of my professional career, I’ve actually been a software developer. I traveled to Australia last year and had probably the greatest month of my life. I really explored it, discovered new things and when I got back, I really discovered the importance of finding the balance in life. You know, it’s too easy to get caught up five inches in front of us on our devices whether that be your tablet, mobile phone, or your computer. There’s so much out there and so much to see, so many people and interesting people to meet that I decided to start Kibii, build a team, and create this piece of technology or application that really pushes people towards exploring and discovering new things in their city and also around the world. That’s a bit of a background of myself and the reason as to why I began Kibii.
G: Nice. It’s always interesting to hear when you take time away, it brings you back with a renewed kind of energy and a renewed perspective on things and it sounds like you might have had that experience when you went to Australia.
M: That’s exactly it. I have some family there actually and just got to see a bit of a more relaxed life over there than we do over here. When I got back, I said work is great, making money is great but there’s something much more powerful in going out and meeting new people and trying new things and truly becoming the architect of your own life and living your best life and that’s really what pushed me towards starting and kicking off Kibii.
G: Nice and I love when you get the opportunity to go on vacation and experience all of those things like you mentioned in Australia.
I wanted to drill down a little bit deeper and hear more about Kibii – what it does, what it provides for people downloading the app?
M: Yeah absolutely. The app is called Kibii, and we’re really working towards building a community. We’re here in Toronto, Canada and we’re starting to build a community here then also around the world and like I said truly drive people to be the architect of their own life. How does the mobile app do that? We do that by providing them over 350 categories, whether those categories fall in the active section, arts and entertainment, nightlife, tours, classes, food and restaurant etc. There’s just so much out there in your city and like I said around the world that we just simply don’t know about and we want to provide all this information at our users and communities fingertips for them to truly, truly find things they never thought they’d love to do but they would love to do them if you gave them the shot and found out where they are and are located
G: Yeah that makes perfect sense, and I love how on the app there’s like you’ve mentioned, so many different categories and things people that can do that I didn’t even think about things I could do and you should never have a reason for being bored so to speak.
M: That’s exactly it and our slogan right now is life’s too short to be boring let’s try something new. Let’s be honest we’ve all got our go-to places, I like to go to the same kind of bar with my friends every once in a while but there’s power in changing your routine and taking yourself outside of your comfort zone. That’s what we’re trying to do here. I just want to point out that the app right now is still in the MVP stage, MVP standing for minimum viable product. It’s just our core features but in the coming months, we have version 2.0 with all these crazy awesome features that are really going to help users find stuff that we believe they’re looking for. So I’m really excited for that.
G: Nice nice and it’s great to hear you mentioned the Lean Startup and the MVP and the aspect of growing so I wanted to ask you a little more about what I call your “secret sauce” and this might be for your app and your business as it is now or maybe something you see down the line when it becomes more developed as you foresee it being.
M: A lot of people talk about what’s your USP? Your unique selling proposition. I don’t actually like using that term. I like using the term UVP your unique value proposition so I like to talk about what’s the value that we’re bringing to the community? What’s the solution we’re providing? And simply what that is is exploring and discovering. Right now, at our core feature MVP state, it does align with some other apps out there but later iterations we’re going to be building out features and we actually have our developers building them out right now which is truly going to carve our own space in the market and we really want to connect not just help you as a solo find things to do but you and like-minded people. Maybe a group of friends. What’s that dot in the middle, that Venn diagram amongst your friends that you guys would love to do. I mean, you can search on Google, Yelp, let’s say you’re looking for a great sushi restaurant or Italian restaurant or you want to find a cool arcade to go to. That’s all fine but there’s truly so many other categories and so many other things to do that fall outside of those and until you see them right in front of your face, you’d never actually think “hm I’d like to do that.” You can open up Kibii, open the active section, scroll down and find bubble soccer, archery, challenge courses, VR arcades and you’d say, “Wow I had no idea these things were available within, you know, kilometers, miles from me.” So that’s what I think is the secret sauce for Kibii.
G: That makes perfect sense and I love the idea of providing that value because that’s what you’re trying to do you know, anytime when you’re build something and make an impact on the world. You want to make sure you’re providing value.
I wanted to ask you a bit more about Kibii. How did you come up with the name Kibii?
M: Yeah that’s actually an interesting story. Throughout the early stages in development, it went through a bunch of different names. Initially, it was going to be called “First Date” and then it was going to be called “Date Night”. And you know when you bringing team members on and start getting other eyes on the idea, you realize it’s much more than some application that’s going to help people find a cool place to go take a date out, whether that be a significant other long-term or first date. We said, “No, anybody can see this is any social aspect whether that’s a date, going out with friends or family.”
So we were looking around trying to find names that made sense and what we ended up landing on was Kibii. Kibii in itself has no meaning but the fact of the matter is, you look at the most popular brands out there like Google, or Facebook, or Instagram. These are terms, these are names, words that had no meaning or no existence until they came out with them. There’s power in making a name or a word or a term synonymous with your brand. That’s marketing power.
G: Absolutely yeah you’re absolutely right and being able to build that name and create your own word, verb, or noun to whatever it is you want.
M: Yep, you got it.
G: Awesome, awesome, awesome and now I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack and this might be an app or a book or a resource that you have but it’s something you have that makes you more effective and efficient as an entrepreneur or business owner.
M: Sure, yeah I need to give a shout-out to my dad for this because a few years ago, he put me onto this book. It’s a book written by Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. This book is phenomenal. He’s obviously not around anymore but its made multiple revisions and made it much more modern but essentially what the book pushes you towards and teaches you is how it’s not so much “you” or “I”, it’s “we”, it’s “us”, right?
You work amongst a team of people and it’s not about pointing fingers, criticizing. it really teaches you how to properly manage people, how to properly have conversations with people of different types, whether it’s me speaking to our Director of Marketing, whether it’s me speaking to our iOS or Android developers or what have you. It really teaches me and teaches you not just in a business sense but a personal sense how to properly get your message across and understand that the person on the other end what they’re looking for, what their needs are and how to properly manage that.
G: I love that book obviously and I love how it overlaps with what you were talking about before where you’re looking at things that you mentioned like the Venn diagram and finding that commonality of how you can merge that together.
M: Absolutely. So you’ve read the book yourself?
G: Yes, it’s a classic for sure.
M: It’s a classic. It’s not so much a secret but something that resonated so well with me and really helped me change gears in certain aspects and how to properly approach certain things.
G: Exactly. That makes perfect sense.
M: One more piece, something a bit more modern and I’m personally in love with this guy, he’s just no-nonsense. I love when you’re on that long drive, I love listening to music like everybody else but there’s power in putting on an informative podcast and I’m a big fan of Gary Vaynerchuk and his podcast. He’s just no-nonsense right to the point and he’s all about if you really want something, actions speak louder than words. It’s not about saying “Yeah, I want millions of dollars”, “I want to be a successful entrepreneur and CEO”, you need to take the proper steps to make that happen.
G: Yeah absolutely Gary V’s definitely straight, no chaser and when some people are about theory, and that’s not saying that isn’t important, but sometimes you need to put the pedal to the metal and take action finding that motivation to do that.
M: Exactly. I’m a big believer in that I understand in some cases, a little bit of fluff is necessary, but for me what works best is that right to the point no nonsense, no BS. It really resonates.
G: Yeah me too me too.
Now I wanted to ask you what I call a CEO nugget. It could be a word of wisdom or piece of advice or something you might tell your younger business self.
M: Yeah you know, I’ve had a couple of different ventures and some successful on a smaller scale but when I think back, my nugget would probably be not one particular golden nugget, but a couple of things and that’s mainly 1) to trust the process. Gary V says all the time that these things don’t happen overnight. Its blood, sweat, and tears you need to put into this, whatever you’re most passionate about. It won’t happen with a flick of a switch. You can’t say it and then it’ll happen. You need to put the work in and trust the process.
With that being said and speaking directly about Kibii, how building a team of like-minded passionate people around you is of the utmost importance. You are only as strong as your weakest, link a common saying, and you want to have people around you always pushing each other, always checking each other, making sure that everything is in line and that we’re always progressing forward and making improvements wherever we can.
G: I love all those CEO nuggets and now I wanted to ask you my favourite question, which is what it means to be a CEO. I wanted to ask you specifically, what does being a CEO mean to you?
M: What does being a CEO mean to me? Let’s see, I think a big thing is what does CEO stand for? That’s Chief Executive Officer, but I really like to look at it as C in CEO stands for consistency.
You need to be the one leading the pack. You need to lead by example. You have to be giving 200%. You have to be there when anyone needs you. You need to be up before everyone and leaving the office after everybody and you need to understand every little aspect of your business whether that’s the business dev side, whether that’s the marketing side, tech side, whatever business that you are running. Whether that’s product side or manufacture side what have you. I would say it’s all about consistency. Not missing a beat. Not missing a day. And just staying on top of things. Being a leader, at a startup especially, when new people join the company, it’s not a corporation, there’s transparency. They see the CEO. That new person that’s brought on as a digital marketing specialist, for example still interacts with the CEO on a daily basis where at a large organization, there’s that disconnect so you need to be a leader and lead by example all the time an that’s what being a CEO means to me.
G: I love that definition Michael, and I truly appreciate you for taking some time out of your scheduled to speak with us and tell us a little bit about all the awesome things that you’re doing. I want to pass you the mic if there’s anything additional you want to let our readers or listeners know and how people can get ahold of you and download the app.
M: Absolutely. Like I said, the app’s called Kibii. I’d love for everyone to download the app and join us on this journey. Follow us on social @kibiiapp- on Facebook, on Instagram, and all the other popular social platforms. I think we have a really good thing going right now and we’re still in our early stages but we’re really looking forward to the future and we’ve got some super cool things coming. I’d love if you could download the app available on the App Store and Google Play and follow us on social- you’ll always be updated. We have great blog content, multiple blogs a week, we follow current events like TIFF. I promise you won’t be disappointed, it’s a fun ride, we’re very personable, there’s complete transparency you’ll get to know a bit about us, the team members, who we are as people and why we’re doing this. We’re excited and we hope that you guys are as well.
G: Thank you so much, Michael, again and I truly appreciate you and what you’re doing to help fight social isolation and what you’re all about and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.