Scheduling meetings and events is a pain in the ass. It’s one of those rare tasks whose digital solutions seem no better than the analog equivalent. Baydin, the company behind Boomerang and the Email Game, gets this and has set its sights on solving the problem.
The 500 Startups alumni launched a public beta of its Boomerang Calendar extension today to take the hassle out of scheduling meetings. Plus it has a fun name that makes me think of Aussies. I like Aussies, (but I digress).
Boomerang Calendar is a browser extension (currently available only for Chrome and Firefox) that integrates directly into Gmail. The tool uses natural language detection to automagically recognize dates and times in the body of an email and then highlight the text with red, yellow, or green to indicate free/busy status. Users also get a handy “+” sign next to each proposed time that allows the detected events to be added to their calendar with one click. The first time I saw this, it was like Siri was actually a helpful little elf living in my inbox, playing with crayons.
Coordinating the schedules of more than two even marginally busy people is an exercise in patience and mental flexibility. Boomerang Calendar eliminates a great deal of the back and forth with its group scheduling feature. The tool allows senders to imbed fillable forms within their email that propose multiple meeting times and visually track the availability of all the participants. The forms update dynamically as each participant responds.
The color-coded visualization makes it easy to compare one’s own availability to that of the group. Hopefully this even leads the less flexible among us to compromise more often when realizing that they are the only friction to an otherwise workable event.
One feature that I instantly wanted to see was the ability to see the time and location of the previous calendar commitment (and possibly the next). If I am invited for drinks at 5pm, the fact that I don’t have any commitments at that time is only half of the story. The other half is where I’ll be prior to that time and where I have to be afterward. Like they were reading my mind, I hovered over the color-coded time, and I was greeted with the events preceding and following in a simple pop-out window. Sweet.
Baydin raised $375,000 in April 2011 from angels including Dave McClure, Manu Kumar, David Cohen, Peter Weck, and others. Now 18 months post-launch, it has had more than one million downloads of its Boomerang for Gmail browser extension and is operating profitably.
The company is just entering its beta phase with its calendar product and has not yet finalized pricing. Its initial Boomerang for Gmail extension is sold on a freemium model, with tiers at $0, $4.99, and $9.99 per month. It’s fair to expect a similar model for Boomerang Calendar.