Fei Xiao and Anna Sergeeva graduated from the University of Southern California last year having earned not just a degree, but perhaps a more important credential: their own business.
As undergrads, the co-founders had launched TrueRSVP, a tool that was intended to help event planners better predict attendance at big events. Inc. featured the start-up earlier this year in its Coolest College Start-ups feature.
But in February, after discussing a potentially larger business, the founders began pursuing another idea. In start-up parlance, they "pivoted." They will unveil their new start-up--now named Planana--Tuesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
"We just found a bigger opportunity," Sergeeva says. Though TrueRSVP had existed for less than a year prior to the pivot, Sergeeva says the company's advisors were happy about the new direction. Planana is incubated by OrganicStartup LLC and funded by Tech Coast Angels. "They've been really supportive," she says.
Unlike TrueRSVP, Planana's goal is to integrate with the RSVP or ticketing process for digital ticket sales. Their main product, "Planana Perks," allows event sponsors to reward attendees who "Like" or Tweet an event with prizes like discounted tickets, products, or VIP benefits. The company has also built a dashboard for sponsors to track their analytics in real time.
Since July, the company has been used by more than 200 organizers, and with notable brands like Uber, IZZE, and Treehouse. The name--Planana--comes from a rough portmanteau of "event planning" and "bananas."
"As in, 'Our team is bananas about events,'" explains Xiao. Also, she says, pretty much all of the domain names with "event" in the URL had been taken.
By launching at TechCrunch Disrupt, a popular route for many early-stage start-ups, the founders hope to raise awareness for the new brand and potentially find new sponsors. Plus, now that they're actually out of school, the founders can focus more time and energy on the start-up.
"It was so hard to juggle the business and school," says Xiao. "Graduating has given us a lot of time."