This is a continuation of our “Meet Team Zello” series, putting a spotlight on the leadership and team members who have made Zello push-to-talk (PTT) the most widely-used and highest rated walkie-talkie app in the world. Today, we present a Q&A with CTO and co-founder, Alex Gavriolov.
What is your background? What were you doing prior to Zello?
Before starting Zello I founded two companies -- an internet marketing agency and a software development shop -- both named Metalink. Prior to that, I received a Masters degree in Applied Math and Physics and spent some time modelling the effects of nuclear disasters.
Tell us the story behind Loudtalks, the app you created which was rebranded to Zello.
Loudtalks was an instant push-to-talk communication tool first released in 2007 for Windows computers. It started as a side project at Metalink when we decided to move the focus away from being a service company to a product company. Loudtalks won among several product ideas, which included online speed dating and encrypted peer-to-peer email. While Loudtalks was my idea, I did not create it alone. Most of the original work was done by Alexander Vinogradov and Eugene Mymrin, who are still employed by Zello.
What motivated you to start Zello?
I wanted a better tool for fast communication on a mobile phone, one which would be easier than texting and faster than phone calls. When I was a child, we didn't have a phone at home, and the only times I recall using one was when I would run to the phone booth to call an ambulance when my sister was sick. I still hate phone calls.
Zello has two products. Which gives you more pride? The free consumer product with its 120 million users worldwide? Or the profitable and successful business you've built around ZelloWork, your commercial product for work teams?
I'm proud of consumer Zello because of its scale and the difference it makes in people's lives around the world. I'm proud of Zello because it allowed us to build a sustainable business and gather an amazing team in the process.
What are your goals over the next 5-10 years for Zello? Where do you see Zello the company in five years?
Grow Zello to dominate its market niche. Grow Zello into a major app brand, making the lives of people better by promoting healthy communities where people talk.
What has surprised you the most since the launch of Zello in 2012?
The breadth of different uses people have found for Zello.
How do you come up with, and decide, on new product features?
We look at customer ideas and feedback, changes in the market and the environment, as well as ideas coming from the team and try to combine them in the most efficient and impactful roadmap possible.
What makes Zello technologically challenging?
Live voice is hard. Making it scale to support millions of concurrent users is even harder. Ensuring that it works across multiple generations of mobile platforms and network connections is extremely challenging.
What was it like to have the #1 app in both Apple's and Google's app stores for nearly two weeks in September?
It felt like long hours with very little sleep.
What are some of your memories regarding Zello's role in Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, when more than ten million people downloaded your app?
Listening to Zello on the first weekend of Harvey and hearing more and more people joining Zello channels as they drove their trucks loaded with boats, supplies, and volunteers to Houston from all over Texas and Louisiana.