Alistair Crane uncovers the new-look members’ club with Zia Yusuf, CEO and Co-founder of Velocity Black, a mobile app that brings sought-after experiences and luxury goods to its affluent members at the tap of a button.
Can you briefly explain the Velocity Black business model?
Velocity Black is a members’ club reimagined for the digital age and engineered for those looking to lead a limitless life. Velocity Black is built on a breakthrough technology: the world’s first conversational mobile commerce engine for the affluent consumer.
Our unique technology is disrupting several multi-trillion-dollar industries at once, by re-imagining and simplifying the member experience for discovering and booking travel, dining, events and experiences. Built on the principle that the only thing we truly own is our story and everything else we are simply custodians of, Velocity Black liberates members to make their story as extraordinary as it can be.
From planning round-the-world trips to obtaining the most-sought-after luxury goods, a dinner that’ll never be forgotten, and original experiences like no other, Velocity Black turns ‘what-if’s’, into ‘what’s next’.
How have your previous entrepreneurial successes informed the work you do now?
Velocity Black has been my first entrepreneurial adventure, which I co-founded with a friend from my school days, Alex McDonald. After graduating from London School of Economics, I enjoyed a successful finance career at Merrill Lynch and then at Goldman Sachs where, aged 28, I became an Executive Director. I was exposed to the automotive, industrial and aerospace sectors, which provided invaluable experience for founding Velocity Black.
What do you look for when it comes to standout service?
For me, it’s trusting that the company or individual I am dealing with really has the ability to get things done. At Velocity Black, part of how we do that is ensuring we are constantly available. This means 24/7, 365 days of the year and we have a median response time of 50 seconds to our clients via the in-app messenger.
In addition to this, I want to feel that a company really understands my specific needs and personal preferences. These are all things we have put at the heart of Velocity Black and are behind much of its success and growth. A significant proportion of our new members are referred by existing members and 40 per cent of our members open the app daily.
Which three words describe Velocity Black?
The ultimate convenience.
What are the plans for expansion following significant investment from DIG Investment, Barry Sternlicht and Spark Capital?
Velocity Black is one of the fastest-growing tech start-ups and we don’t plan on slowing down. As voice search moves from novelty to habitual routine with time-poor individuals looking to optimise their time however possible, you can expect to hear Siri and Alexa booking Velocity Black experiences on our members’ behalf. Later in 2019, we will also be launching services in healthcare, real estate and art.
What does the term ‘experience economy’ mean to you?
We live in the age of the experience generation. Today there is an emphasis on creating incredible memories and having exciting stories to share with family and friends and, increasingly, on social media. People are seeking insider access, unique events or one-of-a-kind journeys which set a trip apart. This is dependent on investing in access to those experts who have a black book of contacts and leading knowledge of destinations. We inspire our members with these kinds of experiences and we turn them into a reality.
Can you describe a Velocity Black member?
Our members work on extraordinary schedules and are from a wide range of professional backgrounds. What they have in common is a desire for exceptional experiences and the ultimate convenience. Velocity Black is a window into those experiences and takes all of the hassle out of turning them into a reality. We make booking experiences so easy that all members have to do is go and get on a plane or arrive at a restaurant. Our members also have great spending power. The average basket size for transactions on Velocity Back is $2,500 USD and the combined wealth of our global membership is $300-billion USD.
Can you explain the role AI plays as part of Velocity Black’s service?
Our vision has been to marry artificial and human intelligence in a way that simplifies the user experience. We invested $14-million USD in building what is the world’s first assisted conversational commerce marketplace for the luxury market; combining a recommendation and transaction engine to bring the best the world has to offer to the customer’s fingertips.
Not only do we offer members convenience by automatically checking them in for their flights, sending their boarding passes and securing member perks at hotels globally; we also inspire members and connect them to trips and experiences they had never dreamed of. Whether it be a last-minute birthday gift or obtaining tickets to Wimbledon, Velocity Black delivers.
What changes/developments do you expect to see within luxury lifestyle management over the next five years?
Convenience and a guaranteed instant response are crucial to the cash-rich, time-poor individual. As voice recognition and voice search become increasingly popular, the luxury lifestyle management companies will need to diversify to meet these demands. I also don’t envisage the desire for transformational experiences and insider access slowing down. We are increasingly delivering trips to our members that change their perspective and realise experiences they never thought possible.