Zia Yusuf is the cofounder and CEO of Velocity, the leading premier digital hospitality service providing users with direct access to a curated selection of the world’s best dining experiences. Originally established in London in 2014, the mobile app is now dually headquartered in New York and has expanded to several other cities in the U.S. including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami. With annual memberships starting at $2,400, it’s clear Velocity is going above and beyond to impress its members.
Prior to Velocity, Yusef was an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs. His experience as a valuable member of the equities department provided him with the skills to identify key ingredients that make businesses successful and how to enhance the bottom line.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Yusuf to learn more about the benefits of Velocity and what type of member they are looking to attract.
1. Tell us about Velocity and Velocity Black and how you started it.
My co-founder Alex Macdonald and I started Velocity in 2014. We had been friends since school, and our jobs in the financial industry had us working long hours, witnessing the pervasive rise of technology across all aspects of business. I was an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs in London, and embodied the time-poor, experience-hungry digital generation.
With millennials already the biggest contributors to consumer discretionary spending, and our adoption of smartphones as our communication-tool of choice, we are a unique generation. At a restaurant in Miami we ended up waiting for the check for over an hour, an experience that gave rise to a bigger idea about how precious time was, how technology could be harnessed to optimise our day, enrich our time with experiences, and empower people to get the most out of life.
We set about hiring an amazing team, starting with engineers to build products which we hoped would improve people’s lives and revolutionize the way we interact with the world. We launched Velocity Back last year, our flagship product which provides curated content for events, festivals, travel, experiences and restaurants. Our unique technology, Brain, uses real time messaging and a 24/7 chat feature so that interaction with our teams is at your fingertips and we harness what we know about you as a consumer to ensure we deliver great value and inspiration around any request which is personally tailored to you.
2. Who is your target audience?
There is no such thing as a typical member for Velocity Black but our members have key characteristics which they share. Velocity Black proactively delivers for high achievers with relentless lifestyles, busy schedules and who are having to optimize every minute of their time in their day. Our members are time poor, value-aware and wanting to make the most of time doing things they love or time with their loved ones.
We are a digital generation who behave and interact with the world differently. It is not solely millennials who behave in a millennial way. We have four Velocity Black members who were alive during WW2. Experiences, and sharing those experiences via social media, are more important than ever before with memories and anticipated memories enriching and enhancing lives far than material goods. Our members are progressive, keen to travel, to live in real-time and to be empowered with technology that allows them to get more out of their time so simply and easily.
3. What do members benefit from that is different from other membership-based subscriptions?
Velocity Black reimagines the entire process of interaction which traditionally relies on you knowing what you want and picking up the phone. By combining and harnessing cutting edge technology with the power of a global team of local experts, we bring a unique lifestyle enhancer for the digital age. Our members can book a flight, choose a restaurant, hire a car, have an airport transfer automatically pushed back if there is a delay, without ever spelling out a name, having to find a passport number, make a call or pull out a credit card.
We know our members, and we know how much they value their time, which is why we are available around the clock, respond in under a minute, and curate the best experiences so they don’t have to. We have global teams building products, curating content and leveraging their expertise to be able to deliver and execute an outstanding experience for our members.
4. Give us an example of a really cool experience you curated for members.
One of the most breathtaking experiences we have curated was #289 when Martha Hunt went swimming with Orca whales in Norway. Martha personally described it as ‘one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.’
Velocity Black has a number of truly special ‘signature experiences’ designed to deliver members the unimaginable with just one, fuss-free request through the app. From flying a fighter jet to the edge of space, to having a sloth hand-delivered for a Member’s wife on her birthday, Velocity Black is all about a life without limits.
5. What were you doing before starting Velocity and Velocity Black?
I was an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs and Alex was a turnaround CEO but we have been friends since high school in London. We have been pitching business ideas to each other since school.
6. What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome in order to get to where you are now?
The biggest challenge we have had to overcome is creating a trusted brand in a world full of often empty promises. As a generation, we are very focused on authenticity, and earning customers’ trust is something that takes time and is all about delivering consistently at the highest level. It’s one of our key principles and values at Velocity, and runs through our DNA as a company. We have already built a loyal customer base globally and we’re very proud of that.
7. What are the dynamics of making a membership club successful?
Velocity Black is an ecosystem of inspiration, aspiration and high-standards. Our members achieve the best for themselves and so naturally, they demand the best from us. We have highly-trained military personnel leading the most capable and passionate people with the best human expertise to deliver exceptional service. Our members are in the world’s best trained hands and they value Velocity Black because it saves them time, they trust us, they know we exercise discretion and it enables them to get more out of their time.