Interview of Hank Leber, Founder of GonnaBe
Hank Leber is the Founder of GonnaBe, a social media social networking app that helps you share your plans with your friends to tell them where you are going to be. In this interview, Hank shares with us about the app, his team and what it is like to graduate from the first class of StartEngine accelerator.
Here is the transcript:
Giang: Okay. Hi there, it’s Giang Biscan from TheStartupAngel.com and have with me today Hank Leber from Gonnabe. Hi Hank how are you?
Hank: I’m doing fine Giang, how are you?
Giang: Very good, that’s such a cool name, Gonnabe.
Giang: What is that?
Hank: You know it tumbled straight out of the…out of an actual need that we had in the world. Some friends of mine, when we were working in advertising. Gonnabe is a social media social networking app, it helps you share your plans with your friends more socially to tell them where you are going to be. And that’s where the name came from, what we found was a, you know that maybe, every Friday, Saturday night around 6 Pm we found ourselves sending a whole bunch of text messages to our friends to find out where everybody was going to be later, and that just seemed inefficient. We wanted a planning tool that wasn’t so rigid and clanky like an event invite which you wouldn’t send for drinks after work and plancast really didn’t fulfilled the need, it wasn’t very social didn’t have a good of mobile alleges. We decided we’d make something better, so that’s what we did.
Giang: Okay, so it’s not like event part by space is not clunker space.
Giang: I see. So it’s not in the eventbrite or plancast space. It’s too formal.
Hank: Yeah, it’s for more casual like activities, like you use event bran and plain cast for official things, meet ups and panels and things like that but you wouldn’t use them for planning drinks after work with your friends or for a beach day or for a movie night or something like that. There isn’t a tool that’s like light enough to be worth your while to do that, we found that you a Facebook event page is technically you can do it there, but it takes about three minutes to set one of those up, and that’s allot of time. We wanted to do it in a more like 10 seconds, something as easier as maybe like as instant grade picture you share with your friends, we wanted a plan o be that easy to share.
Giang: But what wrong with text messages? I mean I remember been in sent an SOS and my phone was ringing constantly with all these texts coming in, “Where are you?”, “I’m in such and such party”, I mean what wrong with that?
Hank: Now, that a good question, when we started this we found that we didn’t want to be sending so many text messages, so we started asking people if they thought it was a problem. And they said, “Oh no it’s fine, I send texts all the time, why is a big deal?”. And then when we showed them that the designs and prototypes and some of the first working models, they said, “Wow! This is going to make my life a whole lot easier, I didn’t know it was a problem until I realized there is an easier way”. I suppose it’s like back when we were all relying on our OSS and Google search to find cool articles before twitter came along, no body would have said they have a problem finding information but Twitter changed the way they thought how quickly they could digest it. So we are in the same space only that we are digesting, social planning information, instead of Internet articles and things like that.
Giang: Very cool, so how exactly does it work, like say I wanted to and grab a drink tonight…
Giang: What can I do?
Hank: So, Gonnabe is an open network but also can be closed. Think of it like an Instargram where you have a list of followers and most of the people that you’re following, but when you share out a plan that you may be you can share to your social channel. So what you do, you open up Gonnabe and use Facebook connect so you always have your profile, everybody does, and you will choose a category between for categories, drinks, coffee, food or miscellaneous. Choose a category, put in a city, the place through the [00:12:02] locations, very similar to finding a location to check in on four squares. So the city, the place, the time if you know the time, if not, you don’t have to put that in and submit it, maybe put a little note in there about what you’re doing and one attach to Twitter, one attach to Facebook or you can choose just to share it to your followers, which might be, your favorite 20 friends and that’s it.
Giang: I see, so I get to choose who I want to involve in that process?
Hank: Yeah and down the line, we have got a 2.0 coming that will, allow you to invite only specific people, so if you have like maybe, your four girlfriends you want to go out for some drink, you don’t have to tell all of your Facebook friends or all of your followers that’s happening. We are working on that but we just came out of a start engines programs, so we are trying to build it as fast as we can.
Giang: I see, and then what happened to the finds of seeing this in the filed, what do they do, do they [00:12:53], do they?
Hank: So, again think of it a little like what happened with the Instargram pictures, where you can click on the short link right there on your Facebook field it takes you to a little web version of the plan. And you can find all other information you need right there on that web version and opt in to the plan, right there from your computer or you can do it from your phone also. So somebody that doesn’t have the app or doesn’t even have Smartphone, nor is there a Facebook friend of yours or a Twitter follower, they can opt in your plan and be part of the action just the same. Yeah, it’s a very simple opt in thing, where once you opt in, it just send a little notice to the original person that posted it, saying, you’re into their even and that you will be there later.
Giang: Very cool, it sounds very simple, light and fun. So that’s very true
Hank: Yeah, we’ve worked really hard to make it as sinless and simple as possible. We had a big giant wall, a web wall full of features that we could add to a service like this and we had to say, “No guys listen, we help you do the simplest possible thing and figure out what features belong later”, because the truth is, we are trying to compete with the text message and the email and we got to do better than that, doesn’t matter how many features there are. It’s not easier that text message; nobody is going to want to do it.
Giang: What about competitor like Highlight, or you know, that type of…how are you different?
Hank: There’s actually allot of competitors in connecting people space these days, Highlight is one that is about [00:14:21] and proximity, right? So you open it up and you can see the people around you, that are friends of your friends, which is actually a very cool service. We are exited to see where that goes. Gonnabe is going to be a bit of a different space world, where it’s mostly just about planning for the future in a few hour or tonight or tomorrow, or this weekend, so our competitors are…they are more on the planning space like Wellwer and [00:14:44] and Focus are the big ones right now, that happen to be out there trying to help people start their plans. The issues with those are, they are well build ups, they are available in [00:14:54] but they each have the tragic floor or two because they are not, they are not solving the same kind of problem that we are in the same way, like take Wellwer for example, it’s for tonight only and it only allows you to communicate with your friend that are on that app already. So it’s a closed system and it’s very limited because you can only plan for tonight. Focus has been around for about a year now and I think they really had a cool thing where you can check in to somewhere in the future, it’s like Forespare, only a future check in. But all year they didn’t allow you to invite friends or to opt into each others plan, it wasn’t a planning app, it was just an [00:15:31], they are now just getting into the planning thing but I don’t know if there is still a closed network where you have to be connected with just your Forespare friends. And it’s also closed to someone who can’t browse, other strangers and see what’s going on in your town. And then Globe life is the biggest one right now, I think out of the UK and they are like the gamefied version, we have like bodies and hangouts and points and all these different stuff, I mean they are making a game out of something that really should be just a simple utility.
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