Move over, Mark Zuckerberg.
Up-and-comers Keith Bessette and Nick Jaensch, co-founders of Shizzlr, an online social planning program, have upgraded from a dorm room startup to an office in Science Park at Yale. The site is one of several locations offered to Shizzlr by the CTech Incubator Program, which provides technology entrepreneurs with office spaces as well as resources such as accounting services.
Shizzler chose Science Park at Yale over other locations, because New Haven has the most potential given the strong college student presence from Yale, Quinnipiac, Southern and University of New Haven, said Jaensch.
“It has a ton of the hangout and activity options for every type of person, the bar and restaurant scene is awesome,” he said.
Shizzlr operates through a website, which is linked to Facebook, to allow users to communicate users’ plans to their friends. Yet Shizzlr is different from Facebook because users’ network consists only of people they hang out with, as opposed to everyone they have met. When users click to make plans to go to a place, the plan count for that place would increase, so that others can see how many people would be at a place on a certain date. Another function of Shizzlr is making a pregame, which in this context is a mass text with a reply all function that allow for virtual group discussion about plans for the night.
The inspiration for Shizzler first hit Bessette in January of 2009, who was a MBA student at the time. Plagued by the perpetual question “what’s going on?”, Bessette said he decided to create a site to answer that query at anytime.
Just as Shizzlr is built on of modern networking technology, the site’s name stems from a text that Bessette had sent to a friend after a night out.
“We have no idea what [Bessette] was trying to say,” said Jaensch, “but we wrote it down and continued to use it as a slogan, like have a good time, do shizzlr.”
Through CT Innovation’s CTech initiative, program designed to accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies, Shizzlr now has access a staff of professionals, a larger network of investors and the Pre-Seed Fund, which is a loan for CT technology startups still in their developmental stage.
“[The program] put us in contact with human resource and marketing professionals, services we’ve never had before and would have had to pay for. But now, they just come in for an hour or two to work with us,” said Jaensch.
Charlie Moret, managing director of business development at Connecticut Innovations, said Shizzlr first started working with CT Innovation while still working with UConn Innovation Accelerator program (IA), an initiative under UConn’s Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where teams of MBA students are guided by faculty members to launch technology based entrepreneurial ventures.
CTech Incubator, which provides startups with office space as well as professional resources, also offered Shizzler other locations near University of Bridgeport and UConn before the founders decided on the New Haven site.
Though the start-up duo has been working out of their parents’ homes, Bessette said he prefers the office setting.
“We’ve got a white board, a lot of random assortment of posters from any events we have done, and an American flag, which is essential. It’s a fun office, but not conventional in terms of having framed photos,” said Jaensch.
Shizzlr now has two advisors and 10 interns at their new office and is working on mobile application versions of the site and expanding its services to include coupon deals, Open Table reservations, and even taxi service.
“It legitimizes us a little more. Plus, there’s a sense of pride, when you walk into building and see a door or even just a small sign with your company’s name on it,” he said.
Shizzlr also gained access to professional and financial support through an application process, besides getting the last window office. “We followed their progress for nine months and at each meeting we would give them suggestions of milestones to accomplish,” said Moret.
Four out of 10 students interviewed said that they would use Shizzlr, but the other six, including Laura Martinez ’14, saw it as an invasion of privacy.
“I wouldn’t put my plans on there,” said Martinez “but it’s good for stalking.”
Shizzlr’s story bears some resemblance to Facebook’s rise to fame. Even though Jaesch has not seen “The Social Network,” he expressed envy that it only took Zuckerberg an e-mail to a frat to get the word out while Jaensch and Bessette walked around to put up fliers in UConn dorms after finishing their eight-hour school days.
Shizzlr’s new office is located at 5 Science Park.