NY Culture Examiner speaks with Ayo! Founder/CEO Clinton Hazel Jr. to talk about this new application, its origins, and its potential for a bright future.
Ayo! is a new mobile application for Android, iPhone and iPad users, designed to connect with friends through their recommendations and advice for finding the best in food, nightlife, and beyond. CEO Clinton Hazel Jr. founded the Brooklyn based company, Ayo! Social Inc. He took a few minutes at the successful launch party at EVR NYC Lounge August 27th to discuss the new app, and how the right dessert can bring people together.
Tell us a bit about your background and the motivation behind the creation of Ayo!.
I have worked in corporate America for about twelve years. I work in IT, interacting with clients and companies. Although I have a technical background, I never thought I would move into the mobile app arena.
It actually started about year ago. I was having brunch with my wife and my fraternity brother. We were sitting and talking about the best banana pudding in New York. We were eating at The Smith, which is on 51st Street, and on 52nd Street is Buttercup Bakeshop, which has the best banana pudding in the city. And we were arguing about who told whom about Buttercup Bakery. "I was the one!" "No I was the one!" It went back and forth and we laughed that someone should make an app for that. I woke up the next morning and thought I should do it.
I researched it a little bit and saw that there really wasn't a great recommendation app out there. So we decided to take that random conversation about banana pudding and develop the app. We've had some hurdles along the way since we started in early 2012. We hired a developing firm for about a year, but unfortunately they were not up to par and we decided to do everything in-house. There are a couple competitors- Nosh is out there, and of course there's the big one Yelp. The one thing about Yelp is that they are geared toward everybody and if you want to find something out you have to look at what everybody is saying. But you don't know the people. Whereas Ayo! is a more personal app- what are my friends saying about this place, where do my friends go for brunch. It is more about utilizing your friend network.
Who are some of the members of the Ayo! team?
(Marketing Director) Hughton Anderson, who is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and Jelani Buckner, who has come on board as the Art Director, helping with the video shoots. He has really helped with the social media aspect of Ayo! as well. He's on our Twitter account, he's on our Facebook page, updating and connecting with others. Hughton from the very beginning has definitely been the mover and shaker of the company. These are two of the main characters in company.
How do you envision Ayo! a year from the day it goes live?
The launch is September 3rd, and in a year I'd love to have ten million users and world renown! But really, I want it to be enjoyed and shared, because I created the app for me to share with friends and the ones in their circles. If I want to know where a friend goes to brunch, I can look at the places he recommends. When people use Ayo!, they get to see how far their influence can go. This is what we call the Sphere of Influence (SoI) on the app. When a person gives a "shout" to a restaurant, a venue, etc., you get to see who follows, and then the next person, and the next person, and so on. You see the SoI of how many people followed that recommendation. I wanted to be able to actually know who was influenced, and not just the number of people. That is what Ayo! is about. We're excited to finally be on our way.
The Ayo! mobile app is expected to launch Tuesday, September 3rd. Go to www.ayoapp.com for more information.