Monday, October 10, 2011
Interview with Patti Rogers, Rallyhood
Last week, Austin-based Rallyhood (www.rallyhood.com) announced its first mobile apps, for both iPhone and Android, for its online service for helping groups, busy mothers, and others to manage different group activities. Rallyhood's founder, Patti Rogers, spoke to us about what the whole idea is behind Rallyhood and the story behind the company.
What is Rallyhood?
Patti Rogers: We are a group coordination app. The whole idea is making it easier to bring people together and get stuff done. What we've kind of found in life today, and what I have found personally, is that there are lots of conversations about groups, but the actual productivity piece as its applies to consumers and everyday life is not being well addressed. While there are lots of social networking sites which bring people together, they tend to be very noisy. Plus, those groups on social networking sites tend to be more of a permanent gathering of people who are either very active or passive. But, how Rallyhood works, is it helps you manage the many different, temporary groups that make up life. Whether you are coming together because of a school class, a club, and just friends helping friends, these groups come together for not a long period of time for a specific purpose, theme, class, or club.
With these kinds of groups, you don't just need social tools, you need sharing tools, productivity tools to support that purpose--hence our name. We rally people together with enthusiasm and purpose. In the past, if a consumer wanted to try to solve the group organization effort and use digital tools, they either would have to muscle through lots of email and attachments, or many use a variety of sites, to share photos, share files over here, and so on--creating even more chaos and many different logins. That's more likely to create disenchantment with a group, and is just frustrating.
What Rallyhood is, is we bring people together with all of the tools, in one place, making it easy communicate, easy to share, and easy to be productive. As a really busy mom or parent, and parents who are part of larger organizations like sports, scouts, clubs, and after school activities. Trying to manage all of that in your life just fills up your inbox and calendar with all of this data. Simultaneously, you're trying to organize your own time commitments which may or may not be part of that group. The idea is that we give groups all the tools they need, in one place, to make it easier for leaders and participants.
Can you give an example of how this might work for a user?
Patti Rogers: A great example is what happens within a school environment. Not only do you have parents trying to support an activity, you might have a PTA or PSA type of organization and different committees supporting all of the activities within the school--whether that would be the carnival committee, the green committee, or what have you. You also have student clubs, sports teams, and so on. All of those groups have all this noise, email communications going back and forth, and you need to share a calendar, coordinate tasks, and the volunteer effort. You also need to share photos and share the experience. Things like field trips, for example, require parent involvement. Plus, when events happen and I want to share my photos on one photo sharing site, you might use another, and there's really no sense and no easy way for a group of parents to come together. It's the same in the team environment. Every team parent knows the story, of a coach firing off emails with team schedules and practice times, and many attachments. Then, an hour later, an email from the same coach saying sorry, that schedule is wrong, and use the following attachment. For a parent, you have to open that attachment, manually enter all of that information into a calendar, and remember to be there. It's hard to keep up with that, trying to look at an attachment in a carpool lane or at a stop light, hunting for lost attachments on your phone. It's wildly ineffective. In the same example, from a team standpoint, you need to coordinate the volunteer effort, work the scoreboard, snacks, and all that. That's really a simple example.
Everyone who has been a team parent knows how wildly painful that can be. Rallyhood gives that team one, central place to post files, share calendars, and if that coach has to change the schedule, everyone is going to have the information, without lots of back and forth emails. You can coordinate tasks, have a place to share photos, and a place to collect money. You've got all of the tools you need to communicate, share, and work together.
So how did you get into this, and what's the story behind the company?
Patti Rogers: I've been in the marketing and design world as a freelance and consulting agent owner for twenty years. Everything about that world is about bringing a team together around a project. The success of that usually depends on the organization of the information, and making sure the process is organized in an efficient way. All the while, I've also been living the very different life and job of being a mom and being a volunteer. While those other groups are not work related, they still require organization and still require a team effort. What I really saw was a lack of those tools for consumers. There are lots of project management tools for businesses, but non really designed for the consumer, no matter the group, size, or cause. My real "a-ha" moment came when I went through an experience with breast cancer. I was really lucky enough to be loved and supported by an amazing community. People really worked hard to bring me meals, run errands, and give me their good wishes. In the end, I was well, but I realized that this group had done an awesome job to manage all of that. The sort of "aha" came when I realized that there was no good, consumer friendly tools to make it easy to rally around a person, group, or cause, or any other common purpose. That became my new mission in life, and I am really excited about the team we've assembled, and the rock star group of people on my advisory board. I've been very fortunate for that, and also for the really fantastic beta customers, who have given us fantastic feedback on the features and functionality, and are really supporting our sincere mission to make it easier to manage groups, of any size and purpose.
How were you able to take your experience as a freelancer as marketing and design, and turn that into a software startup?
Patti Rogers: My design background is in web design, and my husband and I are both entrepreneurial people. He's in the software space, and together entrepreneurship is something we've talked about and what we always think about.We're very intrigued by software and mobile apps solving everyday problems for people. So, it was a very natural thing, and next step for me to take my experience in marketing and brands, and building a functional tool which could make a difference. I was lucky to find the right partners and right people to make it happen.
Talk about your new iPhone and Android apps?
Patti Rogers: The site has been in beta for the last nine months. We recognized very quickly, that in order for it to really be a useful tool for our users, we needed to provide a mobile application. Because most of our users are on the go, the sort of questions nagging them are what time was that event they need to be at, when are we supposed to be there, it is my day to bring snacks--all those basic questions are hard to check on while you are on-the-go or in line at the grocery store, or stopped at a stop light. We really knew a mobile app was important. The idea also was that we could aggregate your groups. The more you use our product, the easier life gets. As more groups participate and use Rallyhood, the benefit is we're now able to aggregate all of the events and tasks you are signed up for, in one place. So, we can push reminders to you via an app, and use a dashboard as an online app. Plus, with the touch of afinger, you could have on-the-go sharing, posting photos from your phone to Rallyhood from any galleries you have, see an immediate message, and be in the loop if there is a last minute loop, such as a game is cancelled, or a meeting was moved to a new location.
How long did it take for you to figure out that mobile would be a big part of this service?
Patti Rogers: Honestly, we knew from the beginning that we had to build a robust set of mobile tools into our online app. But, we wanted to first get the user experience right, making sure we were really providing the features wanted. I felt that the initial part of startup mode was for us to build that minimal product, listen to our customers, and tweak and continue to improve it every day. Part of that listening was we were reassured that the mobile app was going to be something that the customer really wanted.
What's the next step for the company?
Patti Rogers: That's a great question. Our next step is to build a customer base. It's a joy to bring Rallyhood to people, and bring it to different groups. Whether they are consumer groups, work groups, church groups, or professional groups, or just some people meeting together every week, we want to introduce Rallyhood to them. We want to get them using it, to make it easier to get stuff done. We continue to be relentless about feedback and making the product better. We have a saying--less chaos is happier people, and happier people is a better world.