Tech Talk is a weekly series that explores the people behind startup companies in the Cleveland area.
Zac Sebo is no stranger to hard work. Shortly after completing his bachelor’s degree in sport sciences and management at Ohio University, he went on to co-found two companies — KegFLY, a daily deal website for college students, and CollegeVolt, a marketing agency for startups — before becoming Vice President of Operations at Campus Shift, an online marketplace to buy and sell textbooks. After little more than a year, though, his entrepreneurial spirit got the best of him, and he left the position along with two co-workers to pursue his most ambitious work yet: a common mobile app platform for city governments.
The government, more often than not, is far from the cutting edge when it comes to technology. Sebo aims to change that. His company, CitizenSync, creates and maintains custom mobile applications for local government, which integrate proximal information like nearby businesses and upcoming events plus historical data, maps, forms, and tools.
Since CitizenSync’s founding in 2013, three cities — Oberlin, Granville, and Fairlawn — have contracted the startup to maintain an “official” app for those respective cities. Sebo credits the momentum to CitizenSync’s two-prong approach: the government appreciates the technical expertise which it oft times lacks, and local businesses are eager to attract more eyeballs. Advertising is a big part of CitizenSync’s revenue strategy — the company charges advertisers a monthly fee, ranging in the case of Oberlin from $49.99 for 1 self-serve ad to $249.99 for 10. The model’s been working thus far — CitizenSync plans to launch a redesign of its apps and is in talks begin serving a new city, Strongsville, soon.
To learn more about the founding of CitizenSync and Sebo’s plans for his business’s future, I sat down for a discussion with him and CitizenSync’s two other co-founders, Chris Haynes and Darren Mills.
10 Things Going on in Cleveland this Weekend (August 1 - 3)
In just over four years’ time, Bret Adams has managed to assemble a five-restaurant (and counting) empire since opening his first Burntwood Tavern in Chagrin Falls. With additional locations in Rocky River, Solon, Brecksville and Cuyahoga Falls, the fast-growing concept clearly has legs. Before the end of the year, Adams will open a brand new concept, again using Chagrin Falls as the starting point.
M Italian, “an upscale-casual Italian eatery,” will open on W. Orange Street, in the heart of the village, before the end of the year. Named after his wife, the restaurant will feature simple Italian dishes with contemporary twists. Diners can look forward to salads, pastas and wood-fired pizzas — all made from scratch in house.
"Our goal is to give village residents and visitors a great place to enjoy a comfortable lunch, a casual cocktail, or a night on the town," explains Adams. "We're committed to establishing another great landmark addition to the great Chagrin Falls dining community."
When finished, the space at 22 W. Orange St., in the former Ski and Sport Haus building, will channel an Italian vibe, with exposed bricks, rustic beams, plush fabrics and soft lighting. An outdoor patio will have a covered portion plus casual seating around a large fire pit.
A unique feature of the restaurant will be a window wall that offers diners a look into an adjoining glass studio, where artists and students will be blowing hot glass.
"Four years ago, we opened the first Burntwood Tavern in Chagrin Falls," Adams says. "We were very humbled by how the Chagrin Valley embraced our original concept, and we're thrilled to provide this area with another distinctive dining experience."
The Browns have an off day today, which meant no curfew last night, which meant Johnny Manziel could finally enjoy the rich bar culture that Middleburg Heights/Berea has to offer.
We're more of a Mike's Bar and Grill sort of bunch, but whatever floats Johnny's $2 draft beer.
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