JennyJ 270005N3F5 Visits (711)
INTERVIEW WITH CO-FOUNDER: ANNA SEGREEVA
JJ: Can you explain a little bit about what Planana does?
AS: What Planana does is we are connecting sponsors to local events in a way that is more engaging for actual event attendees. Right now the way the sponsorship works is you go to event with attendees and a logo on a front page or banner and get some random slots. We have a rewards platform that’s tied to our paid ticketing process, which can offer perks like benefits or discounted tickets to enhance the experience for attendees who then promote the event using traditional social networks. From our back end we track the analytics in real time so we can see the engagement levels and the attendee breakdown.
JJ: Tell us a little bit about your original idea and how it has evolved.
AS: Fei and I started TrueRSVP when we were juniors at USC. And what TrueRSVP did was it created an algorithm that analyzed event data and attendee reliability giving sponsors flake proof events. We launched it our senior year and ended up raising a seed round of funding from a group of angel investors. We then decided to graduate early and work full time starting in January. When we focused on the company full time we realized there were bigger opportunities that we weren’t attacking, primarily in event promotion and sponsorship so shifted our concept from TrueRSVP to Planana.
JJ: What types of alterations did you make to your original business plan to make this transition most effective?
AS: We never really had a business plan, we had a product and PowerPoint set that we used to pitch investors. We took the platform that TrueRSVP was built on and we applied that to what we are doing with Planana. We also spent a lot of time researching the market and the opportunity, talking to event organizers, and creating general ideas as opposed to a concrete business plan.
JJ: Do either of you as founders have a background in tech?
AS: Neither of us have a background in tech. The spring of our Junior year, we were both in a entrepreneurship program and we snuck into a tech event for an assignment. We both became really excited about the opportunities and what sort of innovative ideas were happening in the industry as well as the lack of any sort of start up cost, so we jumped in head first. We started working with a Master’s student in the Computer Science Department at USC, but then he graduated before us and his visa expired in America. We hired a CTO, about 4 months ago; he has about 15 years of experience in the technology industry. We learned from the Internet as well as other resources about how to make a tech company successful.
JJ: Was this a scary process?
AS: I don’t think it was necessarily scary; I think it was more that we had really little idea about what we were doing, so we probably made more mistakes than we would have otherwise. The learning curve was relatively steep, but I think it was really exciting for us to be able to really work towards a goal that we believed in and hiring a team that could help us achieve that.
JJ: What was something that you wish you would have known to make that process a little smoother?
AS: I don’t know if there was much we could have done to make the process smoother. The first time that you are starting a company, you have to learn from your own mistakes. It’s great to have advisors and mentors to guide your career. They can tell you to avoid this or avoid that, but in order to really learn from the mistakes; sometimes you have to be the one who made them. Learning and improving quickly is really what’s important.
JJ: What’s the most effective sources of social media that you’ve used?
AS: I would definitely have to say Facebook is the most effective in terms of just spreading the word of what we are doing, as well as the events our organizers are putting on.. We also use Twitter and LinkedIn, but we are working on incorporating other social networks like YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.
JJ: I’ve noticed that when I go on your site and want to sign up for an event, it allows me to do so from my Facebook account. Why have you incorporated this and has it helped you in any way?
AS: I think that logging in through Facebook has really helped because it allows you to humanize the people that have signed up to go to the events. It’s also helpful for us to collect the data about the people who have logged in, their age, location, and demographics, as well as bringing in sponsors that want to target that particular audience. I think that the drawbacks are that some people don’t want their information to be that public. I think those views are changing more now, and people are more open to using their Facebook accounts.
JJ: Do you think it’s beneficial to try to start a company while you’re in school or would you recommend waiting until you graduate?
AS: I think that one of my best decisions while at USC was starting a company during my junior year because I still had a buffer of one year and my parents supporting me to take different kinds of risks. What I think was really difficult for us was trying to be a student full time, build a company full time, having friends and other extracurricular commitments; it became too much, which is why my partner and I graduated a semester early.
JJ: Do you have any other advice you want to give?
AS: In terms of general advice, I think that anyone who wants to start a company and has any sort of idea should just do it and start it now, especially if you’re in school. That learning curve, especially in a few months of trying to start your own company, whether it fails or succeeds, is really invaluable when you actually enter the real world.
MAJOR TAKE AWAYS FROM ANNA: