Jillian Zatta of Lisnr finds community and pride in Cincinnati

Jillian Zatta, head of business development for Cincinnati start-up Lisnr, is enthusiastic and energetic. She has a palpable vibe of excitement that is easy to notice from the first time you meet her.
“Every day here is a blast,” says Zatta of living and working in Cincinnati. “I’m very excited about my job, I’ve learned a lot and it gives me an opportunity to mingle with people that I thought were very distant to me. Lisnr is growing and I want to help the team because I believe in the vision and where it’s going.”
Lisnr is a dynamic content delivery platform in the form of a mobile app that allows artists a new way to connect with their fans. By installing Lisnr on a mobile device, the user can unlock exclusive content from their favorite artists, simply by listening to their music. Lisnr only 'hears' the ultra-sonic frequencies embedded in Lisnr-enabled tracks.
“We use an inaudible soundwave, sort of like an intelligent audio QR code to unlock content on people’s phones through our app,” Zatta explains. “This content helps users engage with the experiences around them and enriches their relationship with their favorite artists, while subsequently allowing these artists a whole new content marketing opportunity.”
Before joining Lisnr in February of this year, Jillian’s life had been considerably different.
“I’m from the New York City area,” says Zatta, who knew next to nothing about Cincinnati as recently as 2011. “I was working in finance in the lower Manhattan area and I wasn’t very happy with what I was doing, but I didn’t think I had an alternative. I just thought that was what you do; you go to school, you work for a big company, you have a nice health care package, you get married, have kids and go along your merry way. I didn’t really fit into that, but I didn’t know what else to do.”
So Zatta trudged along in the trenches of the New York finance industry for a while. Eventually, through a friend of a friend, she was invited come to Cincinnati where his new business was going through The Brandery.
“I was told the business got accepted into a startup accelerator in Cincinnati,” Zatta says. “I didn’t really know what a startup was, and I definitely didn’t know what an accelerator was. But when I told him that his proposal sounded wild and outrageous and I didn’t want to do it, I got sick to my stomach.”
Quite literally going with her gut, Zatta listened to the signs, gave her job two weeks notice, packed up her things and drove out to Cincinnati.
“I had no idea where Cincinnati was, other than that it was in Ohio,” she laughs. “My impression was that it was just an average city in the middle of the country—fly-over territory. I didn’t know about all the history and culture here; there’s such a deep story here that I was totally unaware of.”
Although the initial business Zatta came out for didn’t pan out, she did find herself quickly at the center Cincinnati’s burgeoning entrepreneurial scene. So when she was forced to decide to either head back to New York or stay in Cincinnati and look for something else, she knew immediately what her choice would be.
“In Cincinnati, I had landed myself in a living, breathing community where people knew each other and they were bouncing ideas off each other,” Zatta says. “I found a community where people had come together to do something, not only to better themselves, but to better the city; everybody had a purpose.
“It was just such a juxtaposition to what I saw amongst my friends in New York, where we were just struggling to survive and to matter,” she continues. “Those two pieces had already been accomplished with the people I knew here, so they were looking outside of that and thinking on a different level. And that was just so inspiring and refreshing.”
So Zatta decided to stay in Cincinnati and eventually met Rodney Williams, CEO and co-founder of Lisnr, at a Cincytech networking event.
“Initially, I thought it sounded a little too technical for my interests,” Zatta admits. “Eventually, I realized it wasn’t just a technology, but it was a marketing tool, it was in music but also could go to broadcast, and it seemed like a nimble, dynamic platform that could be used in a number of creative ways.”
Joining the Lisnr team has opened Zatta’s eyes to a new world of professional experiences and possibilities.
“I’m a big music fan, so the fact that I get to walk into RCA and Atlantic Records to do business is still pretty crazy to me,” Zatta says. Lisnr has worked with artists and companies like Swedish House Mafia, Warner Brothers Records, Mondelez International and more. “I feel like it’s a major win just to say that I found a job that I like; I’ve never really been able to say that before. It’s a great reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
Even though Zatta has been living in Cincinnati for a relatively short time, she’s already built up a tremendous sense of pride in the city. She’s been impressed by the growth she’s seen since coming here and hopes that the trend continues.
“I’d like to continue seeing startups coming to The Brandery and staying," she says. "I’d like to continue seeing people from out of town, as well as people from Cincinnati, staying and making a difference. Really, I just want more people to see Cincinnati as a legitimate option where you can live, thrive and make a difference.”
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