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Nashville Startup: Zeumo Is A Productivity App For Teenagers INTERVIEW

Here are some startling facts about teenagers: 53% of teenagers would sacrifice their sense of smell before parting with their mobile phone. The average teenager spends 31 hours a week online. Only 29% of students believe high school offers a caring and encouraging environment. What if there was one startup out there that could help bring these facts to more desirable levels. Well there is.

Hal Cato is no stranger to teenagers and the lives they lead. Cato spent ten years as the CEO of the Oasis Center one of the nation’s leading youth serving organizations. During his tenure there he received multiple awards including the “National Agency of the Year” award from the National Network for Youth in 2008, and the “Best In Business Award” by the Nashville Business Journal in 2010.  Now Cato has taken all of that experience and developed Zeumo a productivity app that miraculously touches every aspect of a teenagers life in a way that’s appealing to the teenager and fulfilling for their support system.

In 2012 two of the best ways to communicate to a teenager and actually have them hear you is through texting and social networks. Zeumo integrates those two features in a way that compliments their already available social networks and myriad of text messages. Zeumo also integrates schools, community based organizations, colleges and universities, businesses and the teenagers social world.

The app, which will be the must have app for teenagers when it launches in the fall, is filled with things that matter to teenagers and a UI/dashboard that’s easy to understand, filter and use.

We got a chance to talk with Cato in the interview below:



What is Zeumo?
Zeumo is the first productivity app for teenagers, helping them keep track of their very fragmented and siloed lives. Students can stream useful information from schools, community organizations, colleges, and groups to a centralized dashboard that helps them make sure they’ll never miss out again. Now, any teenager can find the opportunities that matter most to them, ranging from potential jobs to scholarships, in a way that is social, local, and mobile.

In layman’s terms, how does it work?

Think of it as a “Linked In” for teens. A student logs into our system and creates a profile. Through partnerships with their schools and other organizations, we stream relevant content to that student’s feed. Whether they are interested in service, music, finding a job, or other activities, they can choose the information most relevant to their life. Likewise, they can weigh in with their opinion via our Chime In feature, telling their schools, community, and even major brands, what they think.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

The founder and CEO is Hal Cato, who was most recently CEO of the Oasis Center, one of the nation’s leading youth-serving organizations. During his ten-year tenure, Hal successfully raised over $22m in private funding, grew the business more than 400%, and received numerous awards, including the prestigious “National Agency of the Year” by the National Network for Youth in 2008 and the “Best in Business Award” by the Nashville Business Journal in 2010. Prior to Oasis Center, Hal was Vice President of Client Services for Bright Horizons, the world’s leading provider of childcare and work/life solutions. In this role, Hal created hundreds of child care centers for leading Fortune 500 brands throughout the United States and the United Kingdom.
Where are you based?
We are based in Nashville, Tennessee, which is quickly becoming an emerging hotbed for startups.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
It’s growing, and Nashville was recently ranked #5 in the nation for ease of starting a new business. What was once dominated by healthcare and music ventures has now given way to tech startups. The good work being done by The Entrepreneur Center is raising the profile of startups in the city, attracting interest and investment dollars. Partnerships on the national level are helping Nashville attract talent from around the U.S. That, combined with Nashville being an affordable and friendly city, makes it a nice place to launch a company.

With all that also comes an influx of support services, community building, and other benefits.

How did you come up with the idea for Zeumo?
While working at Oasis Center, Hal Cato witnessed two growing trends: 1) the fact that mobile phones had basically become an extension of a teenager’s arm, and 2) the challenges those who work with teens were having harnessing the power of mobile technology to share opportunities most crucial to their success. Recognizing that teens have abundant access to useless information, he began to wonder what it would look life if there were a resource teens could use to find really useful information in one place: school information, job openings, leadership programs, scholarship listings, college information. Thus, the idea for Zeumo was born. Hal spent the next year refining the plan and raising money while incubating at The Entrepreneur Center.
How did you come up with the name?
Zeumo is the ancient Greek god of mobile technology. Our company is a tribute to his lasting legacy.
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
Competition is fierce for great programmers and designers, and like many start-ups, we’ve had a hard time assembling the team.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
As a startup, you’re always looking for customers to be interested in your product and then want to buy it when it’s ready. The first group that Hal talked to about his idea was teens, and we’ve been deliberate about keeping youth at the center of every design and development decision we make. Believe it or not, this is unheard of in the ed-tech world. Schools are starting to recognize that we are building something that their students will actually enjoy using, and we’re very fortunate to have a waiting list of Beta partners.
What’s the first thing you would do with a one million dollar investment?
Bring on board the talent to help further refine and expand our feature set. We have an incredible value proposition, and want to make sure that Zeumo delivers up to its full potential.
What’s next for Zeumo?
We’ll begin our closed beta phases this fall in 8 area schools. If all goes well, we will be planning on opening the doors to our app nationwide in less than a year. We also may make some T-shirts.
Linkage
Learn more about Zeumo here at zeumo.com
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