Meetings. They’re a nuisance before you even show up. Why? Following an endless stream of emails, text messages, and Doodle Polls, you’ve spent so much time figuring out when to meet, you’ve forgotten what you were supposed to talk about. Having lost so much time, you start to think, “Somebody needs to hold a meeting to discuss how to plan meetings.”
Better put that conversation on hold, as there’s finally a better way. Introducing Calmeet: a revolutionary app that helps you and the people you care about find the ideal time to get together. Calmeet imports user calendar information from sources like Google Calendar, iCal, and more before a patent-pending algorithm suggests possible meeting times for your group by checking everyone’s availability. The app also integrates your contact information from your phone, email, and social media platforms to save you trouble in reaching out to your group. The best part? It’s all free.
Calmeet was founded by Aditya Rahalkar, who graduated from Cornell in December of 2014. In this interview, Aditya took some time away from Calmeet and his full-time consulting job to talk with Entrepreneurship@Dyson about his success and the thrill of being an entrepreneur.
How did you come up with the idea for Calmeet?
It all started with my junior year internship at PwC. A lot of enterprises have calendar meeting software that enables them to plan very effectively. There’s this giant database that functions as a giant address book for everyone in the company. At the company, if I want to plan a meeting with you, I can open up your calendar, see when you’re free, and put a time to meet on your calendar. I don’t have to send you emails, I don’t have to ask you when you’re free, and that’s it. The functionality is great, but the user interface is terrible.
What’s this process like for the everyday consumer who wants to plan a meeting?
On the consumer end, for programs like Doodle Poll, if you’re the host, you’re sitting there waiting for everyone else to fill out the poll, and half the time people will ignore your poll altogether. We wanted to combine the enterprise functionality with user interface and design, and bring all of this to consumers for free.
How are you monetizing this if Calmeet is free?
It’s completely free for consumers. There are no ads, nothing. On the front-end, it’s a calendar app that will save you time, but the true value went into developing the back-end, which allows us to have companies interact with consumers in ways that they never have before. We have a mutually beneficial relationship with programs like Google Calendar and iCal that encourages users to update their calendars and integrate them with Calmeet.
What was your biggest challenge in developing Calmeet?
The biggest challenge was attracting the coding talent. A lot of times you’ll see new business founders outsource the development to a firm in India or the Philippines, or hire someone to build it for them who then leaves. That presents problems, especially because I wanted to have a deep understanding of every aspect of the product, of the company, of everything. I spent a month sitting down and teaching myself iOS programming. That allowed me to attract my co-founder who is very technical with an engineering background.
At what point would you say Calmeet is a success?
I don’t see it as a point. The arbitrary point could be to say we’re successful when we have 200,000 users, but I obviously would prefer 300,000. We want to help as many people as possible. The way I look at it is that every day there are successes and failures, and most days, there are going to be more failures than successes. I see it as learning from the failures and enjoying the successes when you’re working on a project like this.
What has been the most important step you’ve taken to advance Calmeet?
The biggest step has been thinking about the problem as consumers. I faced the problem, my co-founder faced the problem, and we recognized that we faced the problem very early. There are good and bad motives for starting a company, and the most important thing is making sure that you’re solving a real problem. We made sure we surveyed the population, and Cornell was great for that.
What inspired you to take the leap and actually start Calmeet as a business?
At the root of it, I wanted to solve a problem. We found that over 90% of people in our surveys wasted time planning meetings, and nothing really existed to solve that. I graduated from Cornell a semester early, in December of 2014, to work on Calmeet. From January to July, I was couch-surfing to lock myself in a room and focus on Calmeet to get stuff done. I even told my girlfriend not to come see me because I was that focused on this, and that passionate about making Calmeet a reality. That may have been a bit extreme, but it was such a good learning experience. If I didn’t have that level of passion, I wouldn’t be able to do it. For other entrepreneurs, it’s about finding that one thing you’re really passionate about and going for it.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The biggest advice I have is don’t be afraid to fail. There’s this stigma that causes people to say, “I have to impress my friends, I have to make money.” There’s a big focus on doing things for someone else, but if you do things for them and not for yourself, it won’t be personally valuable to you. I encounter failures every day, but I’m not afraid of them. I learn from them, and it’s a constant learning process. The other piece is to do it for the right reasons. Find that passion, find that problem, seek to solve it, and figure everything else out along the way.