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#StartupStory: Whizzky app goes big in SA, Europe, US

Whizzky is a homegrown mobile app for whisky lovers conceptualised and developed by Craig Stockden of Evolve IT, in partnership with Whisky Live. Its user base has increased from 18,000 in February 2017 to 55,000 as of February 2018. What's more, the app has trebled its number of active users in under a year.
We chat to Craig Stockden, CEO and co-founder of Whizzky.

BizcommunityWhen, how, and why did you get started?


The app was launched in November 2015 as a survey tool for Whisky Live Sandton. Festival attendees downloaded the app and completed the survey in exchange for five extra tasting vouchers. In 2016, we added more user-centric features to encourage the use of Whizzky outside of the festival. Whisky Live still leverages the app as a survey tool at its festival and celebrations which take place in Cape Town, Durban, and Pretoria.

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After Whisky Live, we quickly found that there was a need for an app that services the vibrant community of whisky lovers – purely from the interaction on the app at the event. We saw the potential to service a highly engaged and passionate community.

BizcommunityTell us a bit more about the app and how it works.


Whizzky is a mobile application for both Android and iOS that enables the scanning of whisky bottle labels for instant information. Aside from bottle label scanning, the app also includes a number of special features such as exclusive member-only clubs, adding personal whisky collections on the app, reviewing and adding personal tasting notes.

The app has an active community of over 56,000 whisky lovers from all over the world. Most of our users are from the US, Europe, and South Africa. The app is very active with users scanning and adding tasting notes daily. It gets very busy on the weekends!

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From a user’s point of view, open the app, position the bottle label in front of the square as directed, tap scan and within seconds relevant information about that whisky will be displayed.

The mechanism behind image recognition is complex. The image scanned is matched against a large database of crowdsourced bottle labels. Whizzky makes use of both optical character recognition (OCR) and pattern recognition. This hybrid approach ensures that labels that look similar but only vary slightly with wording, are matched correctly.

BizcommunityWhat is Whizzky's competitive advantage/core differentiator?


Whizzky is the only whisky app that uses image recognition and that sets us apart from all the other apps in the category.

We also have a highly engaged community which is looked after by a dedicated in-house community management team. Our dedication to our users is unparalleled. The app truly belongs to them.

Whizzky is partly owned by Whisky Live and this gives us strong industry knowledge and solid relationships with the various players in the industry.

We also have inhouse curated content that our users love. They do not need to search for whisky related news on Google – it is all presented to them on the app. 

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BizcommunityWhat are some of the obstacles you've had to overcome since starting out?


Creating the image recognition system has been by far our biggest challenge. We are constantly looking to improve it and, while we have a good accuracy rate, there is always space for refinement.

Being a truly international platform, we have many users asking for the app to be in their language – translation is an obstacle we are working on.

BizcommunityIncreasing your active users by 305% in under a year is surely a very proud moment! What does this mean for Whizzky? 


It means we are doing something right!  

In a world where users download apps and forget about them, we are happy that our users continue to come back to engage and interact with the app. The growth of our user base has been purely organic. For us this is fantastic, it means our concept has been proven and we are ready to scale. 

BizcommunityWhat's next?


For now, our goal is to scale member numbers and increase the footprint of the app globally.

Once we represent a significant portion of whisky drinkers we will begin looking at various monetisation strategies.

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About Ilse van den Berg

Ilse is a freelance journalist and editor for hire. From 2017-2018, she was the motoring, ICT, and Logistics editor at Bizcommunity.com, the first-choice B2B news site in Africa. Prior to that, she was the editor of Marketing & Media Africa at Bizcommunity.com. She is still a contributing writer for Bizcommunity. In her spare time, she's probably surfing, hiking, or travelling - she has a long bucket list and very itchy feet. Email (note .co NOT .com) or or find her on Twitter.
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