Onin wants to solve event planning problems by combining chat and calendar.

Imagine if your messaging and go-to apps could be one thing. Onin is a UK-based startup that aims to make event planning easier by creating a better app for organizing things.

This may sound a little odd, but calendars are having quite a moment right now (ha! Lately (ho! — What with the virtual pandemic that has consolidated our work lives into innumerable meeting rooms. Aka: What number of Zoom calls is it possible for one person to survive on in a single working day?

Digital calendars have been subject to closer examination since COVID-19 was introduced. Are there flaws to digital calendars? They do have some flaws.

In recent years, there has been a surge in startup interest. You can think Calendly or Reclaim.ai to help you manage your meetings more effectively (aka smart calendar assistants) — and Magical which is pushing the envelope by making calendars more collaborative.

Onin takes a similar collaborative approach, but it is initially more consumer-focused. It wants to become your go-to app for arranging things like trips or drinks with friends. The founder is optimistic that it will be able to attract twenty-somethings and work its way into B2C settings through a consumerization backdoor.

You may be asking why you would need to use a completely new app to organize birthday drinks. What is the best app for organizing birthday drinks?

Onin supports this argument because the digital experience for organizing multi-person events can be frustratingly inhumane and fraught with friction.

A typical calendar allows the organizer to control the event and the entire planning process. This means that they are the only ones who can change the events in a way that is compatible with all attendees. There are endless email discussion forums that develop around new group events. People try to figure out details such as who is available when, and what location would work for them all. Then they nag the organizer to make changes so everyone remains on the same page.

Onin’s alternate approach to planning avoids this asymmetry. It combines chat and calendar in a single-stop scheduling dream.

It will integrate with existing calendar software, so events in Onin can be synchronized back to it.

Ryan Brodie, founder of the company is describing it: “We want be the aggregation level for events contextualising the process and third party integrations to ensure that there is zero fragmentation between them. Right now the event is one step behind the convo and each step is repeated.

We will replace the calendar app/webapp and become a client of any calendar provider that you choose (‘bring Your Own Calendar

He also stated that although we are starting with the consumer side and meet-ups, we believe strongly in Onin’s utility across all sectors. The key point is that we chat first, not events first. 95% of planning happens by chat. You can also @mention the group within any sub-group to make it delightfully easy for people to refer back at an upcoming event.

Brodie says that the main problem Onin is focusing on is fragmentation of the long-standing iCalendar Standard — also known as the Internet Calendaring and Scheduling Core Object Specification Format (RFC 5545), which allows various scheduling services to understand and process the calendaring items. This format, which was created in 1998, is what makes group scheduling difficult with the existing calendar apps.

Brodie explains that Onin’s solution to legacy fragmentation is a patent-pending architectural solution — meaning the software always “organizes” the event from a calendaring perspective and not for a particular user. Or, to put it another way: “The organizer is the group email address. We control its sync.

This allows groups to plan things more naturally and avoids fragmentation of events.

Brodie claims that “no one has ever solved this problem before” (his name might be familiar since he founded YC-backed Muslim dating app Muzmatch before moving onto his next challenge).

It’s difficult to do as calendaring standards can be decentralised. Our tech has made it centralised and canonical. You can accomplish everything you can in your native app with very little friction on the web. Every Onin group can be shared quickly.

When asked about software options, Onin suggested that Onin would be “Microsoft Teams done right.” So, er, touche. “A simple product that is easy to understand and powerful enough to scale from one-to-one conversations to large groups of people and seamlessly syncs event information into participants’ diaries, while not being locked into Microsoft’s ecosystem is our goal.

Brodie tells us that we send invites to everyone, rather than using Calendly’s calendar. Brodie goes into detail about how Onin operates differently from its rivals. Events are collaborative, and there is a history of all changes within Onin. However, you cannot change your attendance status in an external calendar. Onin is very sticky because of this!

It’s early days for the product, which gained some attention on Product Hunt last August and launched as an MVP. However, Onin is already attracting attention from investors by raising $1M in pre-seed funding (“with the idea only”) last summer. This seems like an impressive vote of confidence for such a young stage.

The pre-seed includes Entrepreneur First’s Matt Clifford, Hambro Perks on angel terms and a few others who don’t want to go public yet.

Brodie says that over 400 people have signed up for the early-access program within 48 hours. This involved filling out an eight-step questionnaire detailing their calendar problems. Brodie then moves on to listing the integrations the team has been working on.

We already have a Zoom integration, and we are currently working on Typeform & Calendly Integrations (Notion & Google Workspace etc. All targeted. Then, we want to assume control of event-based conversations you have in other applications as a consequence. You can think of the event living in Onin (‘zero switching costs’). When you sign up for the Zoom Call, a context message will be sent to the group – “[Ryan] joined Zoom.” — this is the first time it has been done!

We own the event, which is linked to all of our diaries. It also links to Onin. This unique, patent-pending Chat around time chat interface makes it all possible. It’s very Notion-y in style. This makes it easy to set up follow-up events, and easy to add sub-plans (e.g. TechCrunch interview

Publiated at Wed 15 Sep 2021, 09:49:41 +0000

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