As those who know my business know, I am always on the look-out for useful new products, services, and apps.
I’m also a big Triberr fan. Dino Dogan and crew have innovated a new way for brands to share their products while bloggers make a living. In the spirit of testing out an app — CityHour — Anna Colibri readers like you can use and love and also explore new territory as a blogger, I joined the CityHour campaign.
In case you hadn’t heard the word, building a freelance or small business is all about networking. CityHour app allows you to take LinkedIn off line and meet people face-to-face. Face-to-face meetings are, for many of us, the most efficient way to grow our businesses. CityHour app helps you find the people with whom you want to meet up, combining digital efficiency with the perennially important human touch.
I hope that when you read the success stories I publish on my blog, you’ll see what business success takes and feel inspired to take the actions that will lead you to your own best life. Remember: you are not alone — many talented, persistent, and passionate people have come before you and have a wealth of solid information to share.
I caught up with Alex Lubinsky, founder and CEO of CityHour via email (I did not realize when I organized the interview that Alex lives in the Bay Area. I should have used the app!).
Read Alex’s success story here:
1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.
I graduated from UC Berkeley and currently live in the Bay area with my wife, though we also maintain a residence in Kiev, Ukraine. After college I moved to Europe and spent nearly a decade working in the investment banking industry before starting my own company and creating CityHour. One of my passions is traveling, and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit more than 40 different countries thus far.
2. How did you get involved with CityHour app? What is the philosophy behind your business?
I got the idea for CityHour because I saw a tremendous opportunity in the marketplace. Too many people were stuck behind their computers and smart phones and not doing enough ‘real networking’. That is, sitting down and meeting with people face-to-face and really getting to know them. When I was an investment banker, we NEVER did a deal until we got to meet the executives in person. All of the other current business networking apps simply act as LinkedIn companions or spinoffs, and the LinkedIn apps themselves do not arrange meetings. That’s where CityHour fits in. We get people together — face-to-face — with just a few taps of your smartphone screen.
3. How would you describe CityHour app and what users can expect?
CityHour is a powerful business networking app designed for one simple yet very important reason: arranging face-to-face business meetings with other professionals. It’s free to download and free to use, and users can expect a very clean, user friendly interface that will have them up and running within a minute or two.
4. What makes CityHour app unique?
CityHour is the only business networking app designed exclusively for arranging face-to-face business meetings. In fact, at this year’s MacWorld, CityHour was selected for the ‘Innovation Showcase’ which highlighted the best new products at the show. It was a tremendous honor! There’ve been rumors that Tinder [the shiny new dating app] is creating an app for business, but we think they’ll find it difficult to transition from promiscuous to professional.
5. Talk about how you like to interact with the community. Tell us about your role in the business community.
I spend most of my life working as investment banker and business development executive. At the age of 27, I was already a director at a largest investment bank in Europe. By 29, my wife and I started our first company — CityHour. My role in the business community is simple — people know me and I know them. No matter where I am, I always try to get introduced and expand my network by meeting business professionals face-to-face. That is why many people in the business community in both the USA and Europe know me personally and can always recommend me.
Such valuable professional connections helped me with raising money for CityHour. I sold the idea to a pool of Angel Investors who I’ve known for many years.
6. What does the future look like for you and the CityHour app? Any ideas on projects or different services you’d like to add on?
Our goal is to make CityHour the gold standard of business networking apps. Later this year we’ll be releasing versions for Android & iPads. Additionally, we’re always looking to improve the user experience so we’re always analyzing data and listening to our users to see where improvements can be made, be it functionality or interface.
7. What do you love most about California/The Bay Area in general?
The best things are the weather and the people. I think the Bay Area has the best weather in the universe — always sunny. They only thing that could be better is the ocean temperature. I also love the people — it seems that everyone is launching startups. It is so amazing how many bright people with super cool, creative ideas are in the Bay Area. And the even cooler part is that you can hang out and meet such people on a daily basis everywhere. Creativity is in the air, almost like people breathe it in and out.
8. Speaking of healthy Bay Areans, Many of us spend our days at desks, in front of computers. How do you stay healthy? Any tips for keeping your body healthy and feeling good when you’re at a desk all day?
My wife and I run marathons. Less than a month ago we ran a half marathon in Kiev, Ukraine. We plan to run the NYC marathon this year. Also, we go to the gym on a regular basis [Editor’s Note: That’ll do it, LOL].
9. Who else is in involved in the CityHour app? Who is your team and on whom do you rely?
Our development team is based in Kiev, Ukraine, and they handle all of the ongoing updates and performance improvements. They are the backbone of our organization and a tremendously talented group of people. All of the other business functions, like marketing, finance, and customer support are handled from our Bay Area office. As a group our goal is to continuously grow the user base because we understand that the bigger it is, the more effective CityHour becomes as a tool.
10. Feel free to share anything else about yourself or the CityHour app that you would like to.
We just recently opened up our seed round of financing to raise an additional $1.5 million dollars that will be used primarily to continue growing the user base. We’re confident that we’ve got something special in CityHour and are excited for the future. The investment community seems to agree because we almost instantly locked up 20% of the round!
11. Most of my readers use social media and online marketing to grow their businesses. Can you give us a pro perspective?
Using social media is part of our daily activities. We see it as a great way to bring our user base together, pass along important and useful information, and act as a direct channel to interact. Of course, being a smartphone app, we target a tech savvy group of people, so online marketing plays a big role. We’re always looking for new ways to reach users and continuously optimizing what we do.
12. How do you go “off line” to build your business?
I spend a significant part of everyday meeting and talking with people. Whether its exploring partnerships, meeting with investors, or managing the team, I’m a very hands on person who likes to deal with people directly. So while technology and our devices are great at making us efficient, they cannot and should not replace the human element.
13. Any pro tips for up-and-coming businesses?
Plan, plan, plan and do your research! Know your target market and the competition inside and out. Finally, make sure you’re properly capitalized. Being underfunded is a primary reason businesses fail.
14. What do you think is most important in life — and business?
I think the most important thing in life is family and loved ones. I have a beautiful wife who is also my business partner. She constantly gives me creative ideas and drives the product development and innovation to the next level. In business I think it is important to surround yourself with really talented people and constantly try to overachieve — no matter what you put your hands on.
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