If someone had asked entrepreneur Mark Hendrickson his own plans three years ago, chances are he wouldn’t have put ‘entering the deadpool’ on his list. But after launching his event-sharing startup Plancast in November 2009, he now finds himself writing a post-mortem about his ‘Foursquare for the future,’ a tool that helped people share their plans openly, and discover relevant events.
Prior to launching starting Plancast, Hendrickson was a writer for TechCrunch, and the outlet covered the company’s launch. In fact it wasn’t just the tech press that was interested in the company - it seemed like Silicon Valley and startup insiders around the world were quick to adopt the new platform and its cute penguin logo. But despite raising an $800k seed round of funding from a who’s-who list of investors (and an iPhone app, widgets, API, and more), Hendrickson says the service just never took off outside of a solid group of early adopters.
The service is helpful for discovering new events – since users were able to follow anyone, it was easy to find out about top-tier startup events. The built-in sharing options seemed to help with content volume and virality – sync with Facebook and it pulled a user’s Facebook events into their feed, sync with Twitter and it shares any events a user plans to attend. This meant despite the small number of users there was always content, even if it wasn’t user generated but rather pulled in automatically from users’ social accounts. Plancast was the most useful during big conferences like SXSW. With small meetups, panels and parties happening at all hours of the day in every venue in Austin, Plancast was a great way to see what events were planned, who was signed up for which events, and to keep them all straight.
But the events management space is busy. Established players like Eventbrite and Meetup are the go-to tools for event organizers, with up-and-coming tools like Guestlist gaining popularity. Startups like Lanyrd aim to help attendees make the most out of conferences, while Sonar helps attendees connect relevantly with people at the event. These tools all focus on more than just discovery – creation, management, promotion, and networking. In his post-mortem Hendrickson outlines the difficulties of treating events as content. Because while you could count yourself in to events on Plancast, to actually RSVP you had to leave the site and visit the actual event page.
It’s demise is representative of a bigger question that seems to plague startups: after the launch dust settles, and the early adopters have moved on to their next new, shiny startup, will a product or service be able to survive? Hendrickson says his team was misled by the amount of traction they received after launch. “While the initial launch and traction proved extremely exciting, it misled us into believing there was a larger market ready to adopt our product,” he wrote on TechCrunch. 100,000 users was a great number to launch with, but not enough to sustain the service long-term.
But like any good serial entrepreneur, Hendrickson already has his sights set on his next startup. It’s called Lift, and it’s in the behavior improvement space. “We’re basically making a mobile application that’ll (hopefully) help people develop good habits,” he said in an email interview. This time, he’ll likely look beyond the launch buzz and the early adopters.