“We all love to eat… but we don’t all love to eat the same things.” This is the opening sentence for the “About” page of Simili, a service to help people plan social events. “Simili began in part because I’m vegetarian, and I found myself in uncomfortable situations, not wanting to be the “difficult person” when people are choosing a place to eat,” says Simili founder Liz Heinberg. “I’m really interested in the concept of social friction and how to resolve it. I wanted to make it easier for people to get together and enjoy each other’s company, and not waste so much time going back and forth trying to make decisions as a group.”
So with all of the focus around food and dining, why isn’t Simili just a restaurant suggestion application? “Well, a short while ago I would’ve told you I was making something to help people pick a restaurant to go to,” explains Liz, “but I’m starting to understand that so much more goes into that moment of social planning than simply choosing a restaurant. Simili still has a focus on helping people find common tastes and preferences in cuisine, but now, I’m working to make my service cover all of those other bases while still keeping the process simple and intuitive.”
Liz wants to make Simili a ubiquitous household tool for meetups. “I want Simili to be the go-to method for people when they say, ‘Hey, why don’t we all get together?’” she says. “They’ll go straight to Simili, and know that it will take care of every step along the way.”
Simili incorporates elements from various different planning tools, from the group coordination offered by Doodle Poll to Yelp’s location-based business suggestions or Evernote’s organization platform. “Simili should be a single hub for finding the overlap in a group’s preferences to make everyone as happy as possible,” Liz states. “That’s what I think I’m bringing to the table. There are plenty of apps or websites that can recommend things based on one person’s preferences, but making something for collective decision making and experiences is what really interests me, and I think it’s something unique.”
The time this summer at the iLab has already had a profound effect on Liz. “The people and the networking opportunities that I’ve been thrown into have been amazing,” Liz says. “I’m a very shy person; in the past I’ve generally tried to avoid talking to people, which was obviously a big mistake. Being encouraged and supported and just having conversations with other iLab teams and mentors is wonderful.”
Something Liz has been grappling with is the speed at which to expand Simili. “I think that I struggle with wanting to move fast,” she reflects. “I need to move in a deliberate way going forward, and make sure that I’m taking in information from customers. A lot of what I’m learning in the iLab is focused around listening to the customer, and not just building what you think needs to be made. I’m slowing down in order to go faster later, and that’s a little uncomfortable for me right now,” Liz concludes.
Liz waxes eloquent about the love she’s found for entrepreneurship and the freedom it provides her. “It’s really empowering. You have no one to hold accountable but yourself. You just have to figure it out,” she says.
Liz goes on, adding, “You have to truly believe in yourself and your capability to bring your idea to fruition, but on the other hand, many of us are also doing all of this for the first time. Being humble and accepting advice is a skill all its own. Striking the balance between sticking to your guns, your gut, and your vision versus being receptive to feedback and guidance is vital.”
“But it’s yours, you know?” Liz says, smiling. “That’s important, too. I like that this is mine. For years, I’ve worked for other people who ultimately have the final say. This is my turn to own it.”
To see how Simili can give you more time to do your own thing and “spend less time choosing and more time chatting,” you can try Simili now at https://www.simili.co.
About The Founder
Liz Heinberg is a marketing and branding professional with a passion for verbal identity and naming, in particular. She received her B.A. from Yale University and went on to attend the VCU Brandcenter, where she got her M.A. in Creative Brand Management. Before founding Simili, Liz served as the Marketing Director for Marpac, a growing company specializing in tools for sleep. She lives on a small farm with her husband and various farm animals and enjoys all of the vegetables and life lessons that result. Liz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Christopher Nelson is a rising second year at New York University in Shanghai, China. He has experience in business operations as well as legal research and contract work. Christopher is currently interning at the UVA Darden School of Business Innovation Lab this summer as an interviewer and journalist.