When we last spoke with PlanHero, the startup was looking to get its social planning app off Facebook. Five weeks later, that transition is partially complete. Last week, PlanHero was one of 10 companies at Startup Edmonton’s annual Launch Party, along with Mover and Poppy Barley. It was a chance for them to show off the new platform, which they’d released as a web-based app earlier that day.
“That was the last five weeks,” says Dave Chmiel, and it’s really only the first step. While the app is no longer in Facebook, it relies on Facebook’s back-end and user accounts to function, which means only those with Facebook accounts can use the app. Long-term, says Chmiel, that’s not a viable strategy. “If we’re not helping the planner and getting as many people as possible interacting with the app, we’re failing on the first step. The only way we can help a planner is if all their friends go and use it.”
That work prompted another change, as founder Kyle Huberman has decided to take a step back from the startup. Initially, he says, his lack of programming expertise wasn’t a major factor, since nobody in the company was particularly experienced. But now that they’ve hired Richard Aberefa as a programmer, Huberman feels he’s mostly just getting in the way. “Me working on the thing is actually a detriment to the project,” he says. That’s not to say that Huberman will be completely hands-off. Instead, he’ll turn his focus to his other company, web design and marketing firm Pixel Designs, to earn income that he can then funnel back into PlanHero. “I still wanted to maintain my equity and my relationships in the company,” he says. “I still wanted to be a part of it, knowing that me actually working on it didn’t make any sense.” Huberman plans to contribute $1,300 per month to PlanHero, and remain involved on a less constant basis. That funding will allow PlanHero to continue paying Aberefa when the $15,000 investment from Startup Edmonton’s flightpath runs out, and potentially pay for other employees in the future.
This is part of a trend for PlanHero, which has already had two other co-founders, Sean Collins and Graham Swan, step back from the company. But Chmiel doesn’t see that as a bad thing. “Every time we’ve had founders walk away, it’s always been amicable,” he says. “Sean was [at Launch Party] last night, supporting us and helping out. Our founders, just like Kyle, they’re still involved, they’re just not involved for the 60 hours a week that Richard and I will be. They’re there we need them.”
The next step is making the separation from Facebook complete, reworking PlanHero’s backend so it’s not dependent on the social network and users can log in using credentials from whichever platform they prefer. Huberman and Chmiel say that will be A months-long process. They’re also in the midst of building a long-term business plan. Currently, the app charges participants a $2 surcharge to make PayPal payments to planners, but they hope to introduce advertising later by providing tailored offers to people planning activities and trips or looking for hotels.
Next week: We check in with BeauCoo, which recently launched the beta version of its iPhone app