Better Meetings is our exploration of startups that make meetings suck less. Today, we’re interviewing Alice Default from the Sunrise team. Sunrise is the beautiful calendar app many people have been raving about for the past few years. There’s a high chance you heard about Sunrise again when they were bought by none other than tech giant Microsoft back in February 2015.
Thibaut Davoult (Solid): Hi Alice. To start off this interview, can you tell me a bit about yourself, the Sunrise team and its story? Why and when did the founders start working on Sunrise? What led them to the idea?
Alice Default (Sunrise): I’m in charge of Product Marketing at Sunrise, building the links between our users, our partners and our team.
Today, there are 18 people in the team, all obsessed with the product. The 2 co-founders are both designers, so a great design and an intuitive product are what drives the entire team. Pierre and Jérémy actually met when they were both designers at Foursquare (Pierre as an UX designer, and Jérémy on UI). At that time, Pierre was feeling frustrated with his iPhone’s native calendar (he usually forgets meetings if they’re not written in his calendar). A lot of apps were entering the market with the goal of improving on the native apps’ experience (WhatsApp for the Message app, Spotify for Music, Evernote for Notes…) but no one was doing anything about the calendar. This was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.
He explained the idea of a better calendar to Jérémy and they both started working on it back in 2012 as a side project. It started with a daily email newsletter that would aggregate content from different sources (your Google Calendar, Facebook, …) that you would receive every morning. They got a lot of traction and their email rate was crazy high, which is unusual for a daily email newsletter. They decided to go full-time, quit their jobs at Foursquare, hired their 1st engineer and started working on their 1st iOS app. In the next following 2 years, they hired more engineers and designers, raised funds and built an Android app and a desktop app as well.
TD: Can you tell us a bit about the core Sunrise users? Who is it appealing to?
AD: The user base is quite wide actually and very diverse. Obviously we have a lot of tech-savvy users but the wide range of our integrations (Outlook, Google, iCloud, Evernote, Wunderlist…) gives us the ability to appeal to a lot of different types of users. But if I was to draw the portrait of the user the app is most appealing to, he or she would have the following characteristics: doesn’t mind to mix personal and professional life (likes to have everything in one spot), as a variety of different accounts (email and social), uses to-do apps like Wunderlist or Todoist.
TD: Right after being acquired by Microsoft, you pushed quite a big update: Meet, a feature to more easily schedule meetings. What has changed for you and the team since the acquisition?
AD: Meet had actually been in the works for over a year when we launched it. The fact that we just had been acquired by Microsoft didn’t change a lot about the way we would have launched the feature anyways, if it isn’t for the extra visibility we received thanks to that. On a higher level, we’re now part of a bigger group and this changes a lot for us, coming from a small team. We now have access to a wide range of resources, knowledge and experiences that we didn’t have before. This helps us build our product in a better and faster way.
TD: Some users of Solid are on Office 365. They’ll be interested to know: What can they look forward to when it comes to integration of Sunrise with the Microsoft suite, now that you’re part of the family?
AD: First big news: we now support Office365 accounts on mobile AND desktop! Our users had been asking us about it for a very long time and we launched the feature about a month ago. It’s only the beginning though. We’re also working on a lot of different projects with Outlook to improve how our apps work together.
TD: Is there a piece of news you want to share with us? An update that’s coming soon, or numbers you want to brag about?
AD: If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out our Meet feature, it lets you schedule one to one meetings in no time right from a custom keyboard on mobile. No more back and forth emailing to find a meeting time that works for everyone. We had 40k Meets created on the 1st day of the launch! This was totally unexpected and blew us away. Now next step is to start thinking about group meetings. Stay tuned
TD: Finally, I like to end interiews with cool user stories. What is your favorite feedback or use case you received from a Sunrise user?
AD: This isn’t really a use case but it’s a Sunrise fun fact. The #1 most loved feature in Sunrise is the smart icons that appear when you type the name of your event. A mug for “Coffee with John”, a balloon for “Anna’s Birthday” and so on. We constantly receive messages from users saying that it’s probably the main reason why they’re using Sunrise, before our integrations, interesting calendars… It’s the smallest things that go the longest way
Who else should we interview next? Let us know!
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