Get to know a Toronto startup: Gijit
Productivity. Just hearing the term leads many to instinctively pull out their blackberry and begin responding to the latest email in their inbox. It's an interesting concept, as the general perception in society is that if you aren't busy, you haven't justified your existence. Just yesterday, I heard a great conversation between two hedge fund managers that went something like this: Navy Suit: "I'm too busy! I proactively scheduled 12 meetings today to increase our corporate synergy!" Pinstripe Suit: "Oh yeah? While you were busy trying to boil the ocean, I leveraged a new strategy to capture the next low hanging fruit opportunity!" Isn't Bay Street a wonderful place?
It seems that everyone is too busy these days, but thankfully, Gijit is going to help us get our life back on track. Heralding from downtown Toronto, Gijit can easily be described as your calendar's assistant. As you book a meeting with someone in Google Calendar, Gijit's friendly assistant goes to work for you. After entering the booking, Gijit will scour the net to find out who you are meeting, what they look like, what their story is and even the type of cereal they ate that morning (the value of twitter never ceases to amaze me).
The idea behind Gijit is pretty simple, it takes the planning and research away from in person meet ups. Need to find a free timeslot between both people? What if you want to find a great restaurant or cafĂŠ to meet at? Or how about local Green P parking? Gijit will coordinate everything for you in advance. I wasn't sold originally, but it's slowly growing on me.
The technologist behind Gijit is Andrew Draper, a successful entrepreneur who already raised half a million dollars in his previous startup, Manpacks. Andrew has always brought some serious game to the startup scene and his latest entry into the business world seems to have raised the bar even higher. I had the chance to spend a couple hours with Andrew to learn a bit more about Gijit and how it's quickly changing the calendar space.
I hate booking anything inside my calendar so I already like the concept. Can you tell me where the idea came from?
The concept really came from scratching our own itch. The first issue we wanted to solve was 'who you're meeting'. I meet with a lot of people in coffee shops and there's nothing worse than walking in and looking around for that one lonely face that may (or may not) be the person you're meeting. It's an interesting situation because you don't know what they look like, or who they are, and they obviously don't know you either. Gijit's job is to connect people's name and email addresses to their social profiles (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook). Our goal is to make sure that you get specific information that's really helpful, saves time, makes things easier, and doesn't make you look like an idiot in the coffee shop.
We like to simply describe Gijit as your go-to app for your next 48 hours. Gijit will show you everything you need to know about your schedule for today and tomorrow.
What's so special about the next 48 hours?
When we started Gijit we knew that using a calendar was a great asset in the fight towards maximum productivity, however, we also knew that working inside your calendar is sometimes even more painful to begin with. Based on our research, we decided that today and tomorrow are the only days that really affect your productivity, anything else is too far out and can be left for future-you to deal with. Focusing on the next 48 hours was really our way of helping people focus on staying productive.
Let's talk more about the scheduling component, how does it work?
The scheduling section of Gijit is called Smart-Invite. The Smart-Invite portion of the app came from a general frustration around how long it can take to get someone to agree to a time and place for a meeting. Other solutions have tried to market this, like Tungle, but it can still take a while for the person to pick a time and finalize everything, not to mention that your time is seemingly more valuable since they have to coordinate around your schedule.
Our premise was relatively simple, if both people are using Gijit, we can do all of the work for them. Using a few simple criteria we can figure out the best day, time and place to meet. Surprisingly, it's actually a fairly hard problem to solve correctly while feeling super simple and easy to the end user.
I get that logic, but what if the other person isn't using Gijit? Aren't nearly all calendars private?
No problem, Gijit can help by sending an email to that person letting them know the value of Gijit while asking them to sign-up. Even if they don't sign up, we simply display the 3 best times and places based on the person's calendar that initiated the Smart-Invite. Obviously, as more and more people sign-up, this becomes faster and easier for everyone.
How many people have signed up for Gijit so far?
We've managed to acquire 1000 users in the last month and a half, which is quite intentional as we needed to create a feedback loop of a decent size between us and end-users. We wanted to keep it manageable so we could iterate quickly and gain valuable data into how people are using Gijit.
Who is the typical Gijit subscriber?
At this point the typical user is an early-adopter who likes trying new things and uses Google Calendar (this will change we add additional support for other calendaring systems). Ultimately we'll monetize around business users and keep things free for individuals. We've already seen groups of 4-5 within the same company come on board.
Who would you describe as your competition?
There are a number of companies that have tried or are doing similar things. Rapportive does a great job at giving you more information about people, but it's only available using gmail on your physical computer, not in your hand as you walk in the door. Tungle is another interesting name, but with their acquisition by RIM and RIM's, umm, troubles, who knows how long that will continue running. There's a few other small companies trying to tackle these problems, but competition in startups is a funny thing, unless you (and your competitors) make it past 3 years, it doesn't really matter. Competing startups tend to be more of a distraction from your core mission, which in general is to make awesome things that people love to use.
Tell us more about the team, where do you guys work out of?
The team is Marc, Mike and I. We're all developers, but I also come from a design background and have marketing and business experience from previous startups. Mike also has some marketing and business experience. He created and ran the Mozilla calendar project for a few years which was a great help. Marc's our core developer and generally fixes Mike and I's code to make it cleaner and better optimized.
On a day to day basis, we've been working out of the Extreme Startups accelerator for the past 3 months, which has been a great experience.
What exactly does a startup get out of an accelerator like Extreme Startups?
Accelerators are a really interesting entity. They usually provide a small amount of investment, but more importantly, they give you access to a fantastic group of mentors who genuinely want to help you build an awesome business. The mentors provide constant feedback, lessons learned and techniques they've found to be successful in the past. You also get to work amongst other startups that are in similar situations which can help speed things up and ensure you've got a shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough.
What are the next steps for Gijit?
Our plan is to keep ferociously attacking product and market fit. We want to ensure we're adding true value to what we're doing until our users can't live without Gijit. Once we've fully integrated Gijit into our user's lives, we'll begin scaling and experimenting more quickly, focusing on building this into a real business.
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