What if your go-to calendar and messaging apps were really the same thing? That’s the thinking behind Onine – a UK startup that wants to make event planning easier, well, by creating a more organized app for organizing stuff.
If this sounds a little niche, it pays to remember that the calendar is (be!) aka: how many Zoom calls can a human make in a day?
Certainly the limitations of the digital calendar, these rather obnoxious (yet more essential) time-management tools, have faced closer scrutiny since COVID-19 arrived on the scene. drawbacks? Yes they have something.
And so we’ve gotten the attention of startups in the space in recent years. Think of things like Calendly and Reclaim.ai to manage meeting scheduling (aka the ‘smart calendar assistant’) more efficiently – or, more recently, Magically – by trying to make the calendar more collaborative (invite) Trying to push the envelope a little further.
Onin is taking a similarly collaborative move — but initially, with a more consumer focus: It wants to be your new go-to app for arranging things like drinks or trips with your friends. (If this can take off with twentysomething socialites and consumerization from B2C worming their way through the backdoor into work settings, great, there’s the founder’s thinking.)
But why do you need a brand new app for organizing birthday drinks, I hear you cry!?
Because the experience of using a digital tool to organize multi-person events is hopelessly antisocial and Onin argues.
With a typical calendar, an event creator is the owner of the event (and therefore the planning process), so only they can make changes that are synced across all participants. Hence those endless email discussion threads that spring around nascent group events as people try to hash out the details of a plan—who, when and which location works for everyone—and then invite the self-appointed organizer. Everyone stays on the same page to update.
Onin’s alternative approach avoids this planning asymmetry by collapsing and combining Chat and Calendar into a one-stop scheduling dream: “a place to find time and plan events without leaving Chat.” Or, well, that’s the promise.
(And – yes – it will still integrate with your existing calendar software so that planned events in Onin sync back there.)
Here’s what founder Ryan Brody put it: “We want to be the aggregation layer for events, process and third party integration context so there’s zero fragmentation between them and the discussion that creates them (the event in our diary right now is always a single event). The step is behind the convo and every step is copied)
“To do this we would like to replace your calendar app/web app and act as a client for whatever calendar provider you use (‘bring your own calendar’).”
“We are starting from the consumer and consumer side, although we strongly believe (and have already proven) the usefulness of Onin across all sectors,” he also argues. “The important thing is that we are chatting first, not event first; 95% of planning is happening by chat and not by editing event details, thus our hard work to bring the event into conversation (you can mention the group in any of its sub-groups and mention the upcoming event can) delightful).”
Per Brody, the problem stems from a fragmentation related to Onin’s long-standing iCalendar standard – aka the Internet Calendaring and Scheduling Core Object Specification Format (RFC 5545), which allows various scheduling services to understand and process calendaring items. (and was first created in 1998) – which is why, as he points out, trying to do group scheduling with existing calendar apps is such a frustrating mess.
Onin’s answer to this legacy fragmentation takes the form of a patent-pending “architectural solution” – meaning that the software always ‘organizes’ the event “not from a specific user, but from a calendaring perspective”, as in Brody says. (Or, more simply: “The organizer is the group email address and we control its sync.”)
Its effect is to prevent fragmentation between an event and its communication channels – thereby removing unnecessary friction from the event planning process by making group planning content more automated.
“No one has solved this problem before,” Brody claims.
“This is incredibly difficult because the calendaring standards are decentralized and non-canonical (our technology has made our events centralized and canonical). Everything you can do in our native apps, you can do with a very low-friction web first. Can do with experience (each onin group is an increasingly shareable link).
When asked about other software solutions, he suggests Onin is shooting for being “Microsoft Teams, Just Done Right”. So, er, touch. (“An easy-to-use product and easy to understand, not locked into the Microsoft ecosystem, and yet incredibly powerful and versatile, scaling from 1:1 conversations to groups of hundreds of people, syncing events seamlessly all the time Do the information in the participant’s diary, “ambition.)
“We send invites to all users versus using their own calendars, like Calendly does,” Brody also tells us, explaining how Onin actually does things differently versus rivals. “So the events are fully collaborative and provide a history of changes inside Onin but in your external calendar you can only change the status of your attendance as a regular participant. This makes Onin very sticky!”
For now, it’s still too early to have the product — which garnered some attention after launching on Product Hunt in August — and is launching as MVP right now. But Onin has already become a major investor, with a $1M pre-seed round (“just with idea”) last summer—which looks like A remarkable vote of confidence at such an early stage.
Backers in Pre-Seed Include Entrepreneur First Matt Clifford and Hambro Perks (on fairy terms), plus several others that are yet to go public.
Brody says, “In 48 hours we have added over 400 people to the Early Access program, which includes an 8-step form detailing their calendar problems, I am confident that the combination of chat and calendar will help serious is seeking.” The team is working on adding integrations and a list of features to kick off.
“We already have an official Zoom integration and we are working on Typeform and Calendly integration (Notion, Google Workspace, etc all targeted). We then want to take over the event based discussions you have in other apps that result in you thinking of the event as live onin (‘zero switching cost’). For example, when you join a Zoom call a relevant message is sent to the group – “[Ryan] Joined Zoom” – no one has done this before!
“We own the event that is synced to everyone’s diary, it is all linked to Onin. We have a unique, patent pending talk around time Chat UI that makes all this possible. We have a very assumption-y style group/sub-group system, it is a) extremely easy to create follow-up events and b) it’s also easy to create sub-plans (eg a vacation or interview with lots of activities) Product launch with …).”