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Onin tries to fix event planning by combining calendar and chat – TechCrunch

What if your calendar and email apps were actually one and the same? That’s the idea behind Onin – a British startup that wants to simplify event planning by creating a more organized app for organizing things.

If that sounds like a small niche, it’s worth remembering that calendars have had a bit of a time (ha!) Lately (ho!) Aka: How many Zoom calls can a human survive in one? daytime ?

Granted, the limits of digital calendars, those rather obnoxious (but still more essential) time management tools, have come under more scrutiny since COVID-19 first appeared on the scene. Defaults? Yes they have a few.

And so we’ve seen an explosion of attention from startups in space in recent years. Think of things like Calendly and for managing meeting scheduling (aka “smart calendar assistants”) – or, more recently, Magical – trying to take the envelope a step further (invitations). trying to make calendars more collaborative.

Onin takes a similar collaborative approach, but with more focus on consumers initially – it wants to be your new go-to app for organizing things like drinks or trips with your friends. (If he can take off with socialites in their twenties and work their way from B2C to work environments via a backdoor of consumerization, then so much the better, thinks the founder.)

But why do you need a whole new app to organize birthday drinks I hear you cry !?

Because the experience of using a digital tool to host multi-person events is frustrating and non-social and filled with friction, that’s Onin’s argument.

With a typical calendar, an event creator owns the event (and therefore the planning process) so that only they can make changes that sync with all attendees. Hence those endless email threads that crop up around fledgling group events as people try to itemize a plan – which is free, when and what location works for everyone, etc. everyone stays on the same page.

Onin’s alternative approach avoids this planning asymmetry by collapsing and combining the chat and calendar into a single planning dream: “One place to find time and plan events without leaving the chat. Or else, that’s the promise.

(And – yes – it will still integrate with your existing calendar software so events scheduled in Onin sync to it.)

Here is founder Ryan Brodie explaining it: “We want to be the aggregation layer for events, contextualizing the process and third party integrations so that there is no fragmentation between them and the discussion that forms them. (at present the event in our logs is still a step behind the convo and each step is duplicated)

“To do this, we want to replace your calendar app / web app and act as a customer for the calendar provider you are using (‘bring your own calendar’). “

“We start with the consumer side and the consumer meeting, but we strongly believe (and have already proven) the usefulness of Onin in all sectors,” he also said. “The bottom line is that we discuss first, not events first; 95% of the planning is done via the chat and not by modifying the details of the event, hence our hard work to bring the event into the conversation itself (you can also @mention the group in any of its subgroups with reference to a delicious upcoming event). “

According to Brodie, the problem Onin is focusing on stems from the fragmentation associated with the long-standing iCalendar standard – aka the Internet Calendaring and Scheduling Core Object Specification (RFC 5545) format, which allows different scheduling departments to understand and process. calendar items (and was first created in 1998) – this is really why, as he puts it, trying to schedule groups with existing calendar apps is such a frustrating mess.

Onin’s response to this legacy fragmentation takes the form of a patent-pending “architectural solution” – meaning that the software “always” organizes the event “from an agenda perspective, not from a calendar perspective. a specific user, “as Brodie puts it. (Or, more simply: “The organizer is the group’s email address and we control its synchronization.”)

This has the effect of bypassing the fragmentation between an event and its communication channels, thus removing unnecessary friction from the event planning process by allowing groups to plan things together more spontaneously.

“No one has solved this problem before,” says Brodie (whose name may be familiar as he co-founded YC-backed Muslim dating app Muzmatch, before moving on to his next app challenge) .

“It’s incredibly difficult to do because calendar standards are decentralized and non-canonical (our technology has made our events centralized and canonical). Anything you can do in our native apps, you can do with super low friction web experience first (every Onin group is a quick shareable link).

Asked about other software solutions, he suggests that Onin is becoming “Microsoft Teams, just done done”. So, uh, touched. (“An easy-to-use, simple-to-understand product is not locked into the Microsoft ecosystem, and yet is incredibly powerful and versatile, going from 1: 1 conversations to groups of hundreds of people, synchronizing all the time. transparent way the event information in the agendas of the participants ”, this is the ambition.)

“We send out the invitations to all users rather than using their own calendar like Calendly does,” Brodie also tells us, explaining in more detail how Onin does things differently from his rivals. “Therefore, the events are fully collaborative and provide a history of changes within Onin, but in your external calendar all you can do is change your status as a regular attendee. It makes Onin very sticky!

For now, it’s still very early days for the product – which garnered attention after it launched on Product Hunt in August – and has only just launched as an MVP. But Onin has already turned investors’ heads, raising a $ 1 million pre-seed round (“with just the idea”) last summer – which looks like a noticeable vote of confidence at such an early stage.

Pre-seed funders include Entrepreneur First’s Matt Clifford and Hambro Perks (in angelic terms), as well as a number of others who are not yet set to go public.

“Over 400 people joined the early access program in 48 hours which involved an 8 step form detailing their timing issues, I am very confident that there is serious demand just by combining chat and calendar “, adds Brodie, before continuing by unwinding a list of integrations and features that the team is working on adding.

“We already have an official Zoom integration and are working on Typeform & Calendly integrations (Notion, Google Workspace, etc. all targeted). We then want to resume the event-based discussions you have in other apps, thinking of the event as living in Onin (“zero switching cost”). For example, when you join the Zoom call, a pop-up message is sent to the group – “[Ryan] joined Zoom “- no one has done this before!

“We have the event which is synchronized with everyone’s agendas, everything is linked to Onin. We have a unique, patent pending Talk around time Chat UI that makes it all possible. We have a very Notion-y style group / subgroup system, it’s a) extremely easy to create follow-up events and b) easy to create sub-plans too (e.g. a vacation with a lot of activities or a product launch with TechCrunch interviews…). “

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