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Meet Randy Apuzzo of Zesty.io

Today we’d like to introduce you to Randy Apuzzo.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Around 5th grade (1995 for me), my parents brought home a dial-up modem with an AOL account. When they were out I guessed my mother’s password and created my own account. From there I was connected, I found my way into chat rooms on AOL, then on IRC (internet chat relay). One of my internet friends sent me a copy of AOL’s application programming interface (API) and I downloaded a pirated version of Microsoft Visual Basics.

Shortly after my internet chat friends coached me through cobbling those two technologies together which lead to building and distributing a program to freeze computers and flood AOL accounts on command, because what else would you program as a 12-year-old? It wasn’t long before authorities shut that down and my parents had me join multiple soccer clubs, but the lessons were everlasting. Around age 16 I started building websites and software projects for small businesses.

That served as side-work between waiting tables and delivering pizza before becoming independent in my last few years of college. In 2008, I landed a grant to build a user-driven typography database website for Laura Franz of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. That little bit of firepower gave me the freedom to move to San Diego (from Providence Rhode Island) with a few online poker friends who could also work remotely. We rented a house in Crown Point by Rocky’s and lived the beach life.

A half-year into my Pacific Beach life, my brother-in-law connected me Jamie Smith, a friend of his he met while living in Venice Beach. Jamie was a local tech entrepreneur and CEO of Engine Ready, a digital agency located in Downtown San Diego on 6th and C. Engine Ready had an international customer base whom they pioneered and implemented digital marketing campaigns that included online pay per click advertising, user experience optimization, and user behavior tracking for businesses.

Engine Ready was ahead of the curve and was implementing technologies like Urchin, a San Diego-based web analytics company, prior to Google acquiring them in 2005. I had the pleasure of building software for them while watching the business grow, pivot, and sell.

Leveraging connections made working with Engine Ready, I was able to take my digital career to the next level. I landed a three-story work/live loft in Little Italy by Extraordinary Desserts. In Little Italy, we grew a business that implemented high-level marketing websites and software. We needed an easy way for business owners and marketers to manage content on marketing websites. That need resulted in the web content management platform known as Zesty.io.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Absolutely not. That is why my advice to budding entrepreneurs is to never give up.

There have been months without a monetary draw or paycheck. Risky decisions have been made, some have paid off, while some have put the company between a rock and a hard place. I’ve become accustomed to making these decisions, and its a way of life now. A quick little story is when we went out to raise capital for the first time as the startup Zesty.io.

The first investment would barely get us through 2 months of operating costs. Instead of waiting for more capital investment to accumulate a longer runway of operating costs, we decided to start hiring and moving forward immediately while continuing to raise capital as we go. Two months later we were down to the wire and funds dried out. The partners were not able to draw paychecks which added major stress to our families. We keep strong and landed new investors that month which enabled us to keep going.

This cycle continued for over a year, but we persevered and never gave up. Looking back, I do think if we did not get moving immediately, we would have never got off our feet. The act of taking a risk and believing in yourself creates momentum for the team and builds confidence in those around you.

Think about it from this perspective: if a friend asked you to invest in a project that they were afraid to act on before investment came through, would you feel confident investing in them? That is one example of hundreds of make or break scenarios. Everything from losing a big deal (on your wedding day) you thought would close to partners exiting the business during a capital raise cycle, these things happen and you should expect them to.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Zesty.io story. Tell us more about the business.
Zesty.io is an online software that enables businesses to distribute content to any device. From websites to mobile apps, we provide a central location that is easy for anyone in your business to edit, manage, and publish any type of content. The industry knows this type of software as a content management system (CMS). In comparison to other content management systems, we have three big differentiators. To start, anything authored on our system can handle internet scale, that means millions of views in minutes.

Remember when Apple used to go down after a Jobs Keynote? That doesn’t happen to businesses that use Zesty.io. Second, our content does not only power websites, but any device, from inside XBox video games to Amazon Alexa voice responses. That means a non-technical content editor can update very technical software with a click. Third, our content has the ability to be highly relational, which allows a business to relevant match content to their customers or device screens.

I’m most proud of the amazing team of people that have grown and transcended Zesty.io over the years. These individuals are San Diegans, and they have contributed to making software that solves problems that have yet to be solved for. Truly innovative.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m one of those people who believes you make your own luck. In some areas, I feel particularly lucky, in others not so much. If you never give up and stay in the fight, luck will find you.

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