Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Interview with Anna Sergeeva and Fei Xiao, trueRSVP
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Faced with their own issue of "flaky" people who were responding with an RSVP for their volunteer projects, but not actually showing up, the founders of trueRSVP (www.truersvp.com) decided to take things into their own hands, and create a service to provide better feedback to event organizers. The firm was one of the recent startups to launch at the DEMO Fall 2011 conference last week, and has the backing of OrganicStartup, the startup acceleration effort of local angel investor Scott Sangster. We caught up with Anna Sergeeva and Fei Xiao, two of the co-founders of the company, to learn more about the company.
What's the story behind trueRSVP?
Fei Xiao: Back in February, we attended Startup Weekend in Los Angeles. We had been volunteering for projects where there were a number of people who had RSVPd, but hadn't shown up. It's very hard to run projects when that happens, and we found it really frustrating. We went into Startup Weekend to solve that issue. After that, we realized that the issue was not just limited to volunteer projects, it was a problem for events in general, with people flaking on RSVPs.
When you were at Startup Weekend, did you imagine you'd start a company from the experience?
Fei Xiao: We didn't actually start the company there at Startup Weekend. We did get to pitch the idea however. It was a launching point for us, to get into starting a tech company. It sort of grew from there. It was actually our very first tech event.
How is what you are doing different from the many online invitation sites out there?
Anna Sergeeva: The main reason we're different, is that our guest count is more accurate. None of the other sites out there, not one, collects feedback on attendees. With trueRSVP, we give you several check-in options and an algorithm to predict attendance.
How did you connect with OrganicStartup?
Anna Sergeeva: Scott was one of the judges at Startup Weekend--other people said he "tore us apart". But, we ended up connecting with him afterward and chatted. He mentioned he had the same problems with his own nonprofit work, and so we started working together to solve this issue.
What is it about your service that makes it so much more accurate?
Anna Sergeeva: No one else does anything to give the host an accurate count. We track if an attendee has RSVPed and later shows up, so we can reward guests who do RSVP and show up with things like priority registration.
Fei Xiao: Other sites, like Facebook, are not helpful. They offer people the chance to say Yes, No, or Maybe to attending an event, but there's really no way to learn over time those people who have and haven't shown up to an event. It's frustrating for hosts to not be able to do anything about that, or reward people who actually come to an event.
We imagine you have to collect feedback at the even to make that happen?
Anna Sergeeva: We automate the checking-in process in several ways. We will have a mobile app in the App store shortly, and a host can check in attendees online.
How far along is the service, and can anyone join?
Fei Xiao: We launched our beta at DEMO. Anyone can join.
Anna Sergeeva: It was a crazy day (laughs).
What's the funding status of the company?
Fei Xiao: We are working with OrganicStartup, and will be looking in the future for funding.
Finally, what's the next big thing on your horizon?
Fei Xiao: There are so many things to talk about, I wouldn't know where to start. Right now, we're getting great feedback, and are working on the product and user experience. We're looking forward to working with other partners and growing the service at an exponential rate.
Thanks, and good luck!