Plans is a mobile app that helps you stay connected with the people you hang out with, streamlining your social life so you can get the most out of your events, trips, and activities.
New York City, NY
Lee Snodgrass, Co-Founder
What was the hunch that got you started?
Have you ever set out to meet some friends without knowing exactly where you were headed? You call someone to get the name of the place, or dig an address out of an email chain, then try to find it in your Maps app.
You probably do this en route: while you are driving, while the cab driver is waiting, or while you walk down the sidewalk, face buried in your phone, bumping into obstacles like some sort of pedestrian pinball.
Making plans is a fragmented process over texts, emails, and phone calls with a lot of redundant messages and information being passed around. We saw an opportunity to carve all this out and put it in one simple package that was fun to use.
What have you learned? How have you failed? How have you had to pivot?
You can’t just work on your product – you have to use your product. When we set out to build Plans we wanted a better platform for coordinating and organizing information. We validated this in user interviews and focused our efforts on designing and building those features. Once we had something we could use in the real world, it suddenly clicked. We had overlooked the most important part of our app, group messaging.
I already knew that group messaging was useful, as evidenced a couple years ago when apps like GroupMe and What’sApp were blowing up, but we discovered that because our plans have a clear reason to set up (you’re doing something with these people) and because they don’t feel like a big commitment (they automatically disappear when they’re over), we had stumbled upon a more contextual and accessible form of group messaging. Once we understood our app we were able to reassess our priorities, which meant we needed to completely redesign our interface and build a robust messaging platform.
We always wanted to build a simple product, one that’s easy to use and just works. Intuitively, you’d think making a simple product is easy and making a complex product is hard. But the hardest thing we’ve done is try to take a complex vision and translate it into a simple product. Simplicity means you have to make decisions. Your product can’t try to be perfect for every scenario. You have to say “No” a lot. Your product ends up being defined not only by what it is, but also by what it isn’t.
What is your team like? Company culture?
We like to build things. My cofounder and I first worked together when we were 17, working heavy construction for the city of New York. We have since ditched the hard hats but the focus on building has remained.
Speaking of hats, we like to wear a lot of them. I’m not a programmer, but I help the CTO design our algorithms and database structure. My cofounder is colorblind, but he weighs in on design decisions. At this stage, everyone does a little bit of everything.
What is your plan for monetization?
We want to monetize in ways that will improve our user experience.
Our first opportunity is to leverage our data to provide targeted opportunities to our users. If we know what you’ll be doing, where you’ll be, when you’ll be there and who you’ll be with – we can provide you with opportunities to simplify your life. Whether it’s buying tickets, making reservations, or arranging travel, we are well positioned to drive traffic to booking engines.
The second avenue we want to pursue is sponsored plans. We want real world events to have a virtual presence on our platform. Whether it’s a sporting event, concert, festival or conference – we want to give event hosts a better way to engage with their audience as well as let our users connect with others going to the same event.
What could brands learn from you?
As new technologies continue to track more and more data about consumers, maintaining and cultivating trust with your customers will be an even larger part of keeping a strong brand. Lately people have expressed concern about what data their government has access to, but what about their favorite companies?
Over the coming weeks, millions will be scanning their fingerprints into their iPhones. Wearable sensors are tracking our every step, and every minute of sleep. Brands are able to engage their customers any time and any place on their smartphones. Companies know more about their customers than ever before, and privacy is becoming the scarce resource. How brands utilize and act on this data will determine how trustworthy they are perceived to be.
Used smartly, this data can enhance services and provide amazing experiences, but it can also be used in ways that seem invasive. If I feel a brand intrudes on my private life or uses my data in ways I don’t like, I’m going to withhold my data, avoid that brand, and tell my friends. On the flip side, those who use this data in creative ways to surprise and delight their customers and users will create champions for their brand.