Sick of people flaking out on your events? Fei Xiao and Anna Sergeeva, seniors at the University of Southern California, want to solve that problem.
"We were going to volunteer events, and we thought there was a big problem in that a lot of volunteers didn't show up," says Xiao. "So we decided we wanted to build a solution to help these non-profits get higher attendance rates. When we looked into that, we realized it wasn't just non-profits that had this issue. It was all events. That's why we started trueRSVP.”
trueRSVP launched at the DEMO Conference in September 2011, a launchpad for emerging start-ups based in San Francisco. It's the only event planning system on the market that predicts event attendance using a proprietary algorithm. Essentially, trueRSVP keeps track of users' attendance over time: The algorithm interprets how many times the users RSVP to an event, versus how many times they actually attend. The company then establishes each user a "flake rating" which can gauge the likeliness of them showing up.
Shortly after the Demo Conference, where the team won a DEMO God award, they secured their first seed round funding from Tech Coast Angels. Now, the company has two employees, working on developing the site and algorithm.
It wasn't the first business idea that Xiao and Sergeeva had come up with. Previous ideas, like some "pretty terrible Groupon clone ideas," were quickly nixed. But after researching the market, the founders realized there could be huge potential to scale. According to Xiao, there are about 60 million events planned online every year and 11 million people visit event sites each month.
"We did our research and we realized the market was huge and there was this great opportunity, so we decided, 'Okay, we're going to go all in.'"
The service is still in beta, and can be used for free. But eventually, the founders plan to charge event planners a small percentage of each ticket price. Also, the company will add premium features, such as a tool that not only helps gauge flake levels, but will help increase attendance.
"Before getting into all of this we thought we were going to get a job in the corporate world [after college,]" says Xiao. "But I did internships in those types of jobs and I was sort of unhappy in them. I didn't understand why. But we got into tech and we love it. We work all the time but we get so much creative freedom."