By Kory Riemensperger, Communications Intern
The world is a huge place. Two Wake Forest School of Business grads are relying on the power of human interaction to make it a bit smaller.
In 2015, Evan Hung (’10, MA ’11) and Bret Doucette (MA ’11) founded Zipskee, an online social platform, to connect travelers with locals in locations around the world. After a brief period of raising capital, the platform launched in July 2016. Hung is the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Doucette serves as the Chief Technology Officer.
Hung and Doucette connected as graduate students at the School of Business. “Not only do lifelong friendships come out of the MA program, but random business opportunities will present themselves for the rest of your life,” Doucette said. “Evan and I met in accounting class. Now we run a startup together with an amazing team.”
Hung says the origin story for Zipskee started in 2014 when he met an Austrian friend in Denver.
“He didn’t know anyone, so I made it a point to show him around by taking him to restaurants, concerts, and letting him experience the ‘real side’ of American life,” said Hung. “A year later, he invited me to visit him. While exploring the city, I thought of the idea that became Zipskee.”
At its core, Zipskee is focused on strangers helping strangers. Users are able to share specific location recommendations, arrange meet-ups and experience their travel destination in a way that only locals can provide.
“What’s particularly interesting is that I actually experienced this kind of local hospitality for the first time in 2009 while studying at the Flow House [in Vienna],” said Hung. “It was this experience that taught me how incredible it was to genuinely connect with locals while abroad.”
Zipskee users create an account with their email account, then set up a profile that includes a photo, description, current city, languages spoken and interests. With this data, users are automatically matched with those that share their interests.
To make connections on the go, users can search cities and landmarks to find local travelers and guides. Once connected, both parties communicate over Zipskee’s chat system and can ask for recommendations or make plans to meet up. For peace of mind, a ratings and reviews section is located in each user’s profile.
Hung visited the MA program in April to speak with Wake Forest students about his career pathway in marketing and entrepreneurship.
“The MA program taught me that details matter,” said Hung. “It’s something I speak to frequently with my team and is a concept I really began to embrace during my experience with the School of Business. The emphasis on “little things” like punctuality, presentation, and relationship-building is what empowers Zipskee to accomplish our mission of fostering a connection between travelers and locals around the world.”
For Doucette, the business skills he learned in the MA program enabled him to leverage his undergraduate degree in history. “It gave me the skills to become flexible in my career path. I believe you should focus on what you are most passionate about, but having a business and management background makes doing that more sustainable.”
An Android and iOS app for Zipskee will launch later this year. Hung says the start-up plans to add a city search option for local events and GPS integration to intuitively update users from a traveler to a guide and vice versa as they change cities.