Five Customers, a New Year and Straight Talk: Q&A with Zkipster

This is the last post in a series featuring five of our customers that are driving business innovation through application development.  As you plan your priorities, projects and investments into 2015 the advice and perspective is hopefully insightful for you.  We’d like to thank all of the customers that contributed to this series with their stories and passion for technology.

Swiss company zkipster provides a popular guest-list app for non-ticketed event check-ins at parties, galas, premieres, conferences, and other events around the globe. The company’s clients include renowned brands such as HBO, Sephora, and Sotheby’s.

The ability to scale its technology platform is critical for the fast-growing organization, which has increased its global check-ins by 97 percent from 2013 to 2014. To meet its growth needs, zkipster uses Microsoft Azure for all production functions. It also uses Microsoft’s Bing search engine, integrated with Azure, to help professionals use pictures to easily identify guests.

We spoke with zkipster’s Co-Founder David Becker and Head of Product David Nydegger about the company’s use of Azure, both current and future.

David Becker

Q: What was the original business problem you were trying to solve with your app?

David Becker: “In 2008, we organized a party for students at the University of Zurich. There were 1,200 names on the guest, and they were processing them through a single door. It caused a huge line, and it slowed down the check-in process, so we saw the need for a check-in app for events like this.

“Our primary purpose is to create the perfect event experience for guests. That starts at check-in, which is where we’ve seen a lot of pain caused by paper guest lists and spreadsheets, which make the entire check-in process too time-consuming and sometimes inaccurate.”

Q: Why did you initially choose Azure as a platform for your guest list apps?

David Becker: “We were using a local hosting company’s servers when we started the app. I remember the pain of trying to scale up or down, or trying to contact support people when there was a problem. With our app, we’re in a real-time scenario for event planners, where it’s critical that the app works. And if it doesn’t, we need support right away. We did not have either of those capabilities.”

David Nydegger: “We were already heavily into the Microsoft technology stack, notably Visual Studio for development. Once Azure came out, we knew we had to move there. Also, we knew we couldn’t scale the way we needed to without going to the cloud. Traffic on our applications is growing rapidly each month, and we need to have an infrastructure that can grow with us.”

David Becker: “Moving to Azure was absolutely critical for us to proceed with our vision and our product.”

David Nydegger

Q: Could you talk about how Azure has been going for you so far?

David Nydegger:  “We use Azure to host our entire infrastructure; from websites and SQL databases to different cloud services. Implementing our APIs, for example, is something that would have been more complex if we had to do it on our own or used another hosting company without these out of the box services.”

“We are also taking advantage of Azure integration with Bing, which we used to create zFace, an add-on that stores guest images from Bing in the Azure cloud. We wanted to give event planners a smooth way to source guest pictures within the app during events. We were already on Azure, so it was natural to use Bing too. We also followed up with two additional add-ons, one for printing guest name badges and another for integration with Twitter. These are features that help position us as an innovator in this space.”

Q: Have you had any pleasant surprises along the way?

David Nydegger: “The integration with Bing for images would have been much harder to implement if we weren’t already on Azure. With Azure, it’s basically an out-of-the-box capability."

David Becker: “Also, we have been able to gain larger customers, because many of them are increasingly asking us how secure and reliable our platform is. We could definitely not help them feel confident about those things if we weren’t partnering with such a strong brand as Microsoft.”

Q: Based on your experience with Azure, what advice would you give others in your shoes?

David Nydegger: “As a startup, we need technical frameworks and tools that support our agile development process. With Microsoft ASP.NET, Visual Studio, and Azure, we get exactly that. We deploy new features almost every day and the seamless deployment process of Azure helps us a lot with this. If we would start zkipster again today, we would go on Azure from day one."

David Becker: “In a startup with limited resources, we are dependent on reliable partners with stable technology. We were able to get that with Microsoft.”

Q: What application changes do you expect to see and experience in 2015?

David Nydegger: “We’re currently working on a seating map add-on, and we’ll also continue to serve our customer on more global scale.”

David Becker: “We will definitely continue enhancing our app with social media features. As we do that, we will always look first in our own living room, which is Azure, before shopping around for any other technologies. We are convinced that there will be many more opportunities down the road, and we will be growing our app even more with Microsoft.”

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