When supermodel Gigi Hadid took to Instagram last year to announce that she’s a founding member of Velocity Black, her followers flocked to the company’s page to figure out what it was all about. Now, with a new year and lofty goals ahead, Velocity Black’s co-founder and CEO Zia Yusuf is ready to bring the exclusivity of the app to adventurous young professionals around the world.
Velocity Black is the brainchild of Yusuf, who says the service came about from customer demand. In 2014, Yusuf launched an app, Velocity, which allowed fine diners to pay for their meals ahead of time. Over time his enterprise grew, eventually becoming Velocity Black, an app that deals not only with fine dining, but with luxury experiences as a whole. Velocity Black capitalizes on the idea that we can curate our own lives, both on social media and through the conveniences that are a natural consequence of technological advancements.
For the price of an annual Velocity Black membership, the thinking goes, it’s possible to have everything from a local restaurant reservation to an adventure in a popular travel destination booked through the app.
You can enjoy a helicopter ride that gives you 360 views of New York City and its major landmarks, or ride in a fighter jet to the literal edge of space. The hope is to provide luxury, adventure, and lifestyle all in one.
Commodifying “experience” isn’t quite revolutionary. Airbnb, Vayable, and travel groups like TravelNoire all do that. What sets Velocity Black apart, Yusuf says, is that it offers both luxury and personalization—from the app-provided car service equipped with personalized iPads on each seat to the cuisine available at the restaurant.
Here, Yusuf discusses what prompted the creation of Velocity Black, as well as what the most fulfilling part of his journey with the growing company has been.
Culture Trip: How would you describe the Velocity Black service in your own words? What can members expect to get out of it?
Zia Yusuf: Simply the most advanced lifestyle service in the world. Velocity Black is the effortless way to get the most out of life in the digital age. Our app is an instant doorway to a world of extraordinary experiences, tailored specifically for you, and available at your fingertips via an app that delivers 24/7, on-demand, personalized service.
CT: What prompted you to start Velocity Black? Was there a single “aha” moment that made you want to transition from fine dining to lifestyle?
ZY: Velocity Black existed in our customers’ heads before it existed for real. We had customers who loved how the app curated and simplified their entire dining experience, and asked if we could do the same for travel, events, in fact all aspects of their lives.
CT: A lot of what we see on the app and website shows these sort of once-in-a-lifetime adventure experiences. Do you offer any culturally immersive experiences as well?
ZY: Absolutely. [The app] is a doorway to on-demand, culturally immersive experiences, too. We have experts who curate and deliver just that. In real-time. From exploring the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza to visiting the Maharaja palaces in India. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is a favorite of our members, too.
CT: Have you tested many of the Velocity Black experiences yourself? If so, what is your favorite?
ZY: I am fortunate to have gotten to try some incredible experiences. It’s hard to choose. We are always seeking that next adventure, but the best so far has been swimming with Orca whales in the Fjords of Norway. A mesmerizing experience, and one that turns borderline spiritual when you hear them sing to each other underwater.
CT: I see that some of your more public memberships include celebrities and influencers. Can the everyday person enjoy the perks of membership, too?
ZY: Absolutely. The membership is for anyone who loves to travel, believes meaningful experiences can drive a lot of happiness, and those who value their time. Our members come from all over the world. We have delivered in over 50 countries already, and from all sorts of fields, from entertainment to technology to finance.
CT: I know the service already has thousands of members. Where do you hope to see Velocity Black in December 2018? What does the future of the app look like?
ZY: Velocity Black is growing rapidly, and the experience is only getting better. Soon the ecosystem will grow. You will be able to access [the app] from your car, in your home, as well in the palm of your hand. Travel is our fastest-growing area, and as our members keep finding out, the level of seamlessness and quality of inspiration is peerless. We plan to formally launch across the Middle East and Asia in Q1.
CT: What has been the most challenging part of your journey with Velocity Black?
ZY: The most challenging aspect has been curating the right team. A team of experts from the worlds of travel, luxury, entertainment, and of course technology.
CT: What has been the most fulfilling part?
ZY: That’s easy. We bring joy into people’s lives, and enrich our customers’ lives, one memory at a time. The feedback we get from customers is fantastic, and for us there is no bigger fulfilment than that.