Alumni Spotlight: Aaron Benz (’13)

JFP-AA-Eng-014“Most of today’s technology is about self-validation or objectifying other people. Through Facebook and Twitter we’re more connected to someone across the world, but disconnected from people around us,” says Aaron Benz.  Zync Up isn’t about swiping right or the number of “likes” on a photo, but making it easier to connect with real people.”

Zync Up, one of the App Store’s latest additions, is the brainchild of 2013 Templeton grad Aaron Benz. Think of the app as a group message combined with Yelp, Google Calendars, and ride-sharing services.  When you want to meet up with friends you search for local spots, send an invitation, and get directions or a ride all within the same app. Bonuses include location-sharing during the time of the event; if Sally is running late or you’re at a crowded outdoor concert, a map shows where your friends are. Further, your pals don’t even need the app for you to coordinate with them: all pertinent information is sent to non-users as a text message.

After graduating from Templeton, Aaron started working as a data analyst for Accenture, a global consulting firm. Traveling around the country, it was the hassle of coordinating teams for dinner that led him to create Zync Up: “Meeting up was a hot mess. You can’t decide where to go, so-and-so wants to go back to their hotel first… Getting together just shouldn’t be that hard.” That’s when Aaron had his “eureka moment” and decided to start Zync Up as a side project. Successful and loving his job, Aaron wasn’t eager to leave Accenture, but eventually realized the Zync Up dream had to be all or nothing, so he quit his day job and used his savings to found the company. Currently, Aaron and two contracted developers are completing the seed-fund round of investment.

Finished with one round of fundraising and already receiving great feedback and positive press, things are looking good for Zync Up, but Aaron says the process has been a roller coaster, a series of highs and lows. “Starting off it feels like, ‘This could change everything!’ then you actually start building the app and you run into all kinds of bugs and think, ‘no one is going to like this.’” Creating a product takes a lot of grit and a high pain tolerance. “Unless you’re all about it and willing to see it through no matter what it takes, it’s not worth it.”

Aaron’s not the only one in the Templeton community with an entrepreneurial spirit and tech know-how: last spring we featured a piece on current senior Brent Keath and his business creating apps for non-profits. Both Brent and Aaron have a background in mathematics, which they say has helped them think analytically and been foundational for work in data and computer sciences.

Aaron says his Great Books education has benefitted him in the world of data science and technology by helping him answer the question of “why?” a much more important question than “what?” “The ‘why’ is the vision, it’s what energizes investors and will make the app successful, not the ‘what.’” This is what makes Zync Up itself so different and exciting; it’s technology that’s centered around people.

Zync Up is free in the App Store. Find out more by visiting their website

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