LuckyCal Interview: Seeking Growth After Winning in the fbFund

fbFund winner LuckyCal is a social calendar tool that takes advantage of Facebook for its connectivity amongst users and application platform for interactive purposes. Months after being awarded funding from the fbFund, LuckyCal has been pushing forward and seeking growth. One way in which this application is looking to gain more users is through a promotion where users are entered in the chance to win a prize by inviting their friends to join in on the LuckyCal fun. I took the promotion as an opportunity to catch up with LuckyCal, and learn more about the promotion.

Kristen Nicole: LuckyCal is one of the winners of the fbFund from 2008. How was your experience been since receiving funding, and how have you grown since?

Sanjay Vakil: The fbFund was an excellent opportunity for us — getting a bit of funding and exposure are very helpful. In terms of the continuing experience, we’ve watching the fbFund change and grow and morph as the FB team discovers what works and what doesn’t in terms of building the FB platform in conjunction with the recipients. Hence the changes that are in place in each successive round. The primary learning for
them, I think, is that the money is a small part of the value of the program.

In the meantime, the team at LuckyCal has been refining the story and developing better ways of explaining exactly what we do. In some ways, the problem is that LuckyCal is a giant, audacious change in the way that calendars work. Getting people to try it out can be tricky because of that.

The team at Emerson’s done a great job of building a 30s video that captures its essence:

Simultaneously, we’ve been working with local businesses and refining what LuckyCal can do for the business/enterprise user. We’ve had a lot of interest there.

Kristen Nicole: In terms of LuckyCal having a product offering that overlaps with some of Facebook’s own features, how have you dealt with this fact and the potential for losing traction should Facebook merely add to its own functionality?

We’ve kept our eye on Events and how Facebook could extend their own functionality to eclipse ours. I’ll be honest: I don’t lose sleep over it. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how calendar should work, getting the seminal patents on these idea, and then implementing them. Rather than playing a defensive game, I’d rather spend our energy pushing into the future.

In addition, LuckyCal works hard to not have you tied to any particular calendar; Facebook doesn’t have this luxury. Working with all calendars–especially Outlook–avoids unnecessary barriers to entry. A good calendar application is hard to build and the market is already jam-packed with existing, established players. More importantly, it is difficult to get users to switch calendar applications when the majority of users have their software selected for them by their workplace, or have an existing investment of data that is difficult to liberate.

Kristen Nicole: Does this potential feature overlap have any bearing on the difficulty you’ve seen in getting the word out about LuckyCal?

I don’t think so. The primary issue with getting the word out has been identifying the right vector to use to get ourselves in front of Facebook users. They don’t read blogs or press releases or ads. They go to Facebook to talk to friends and live their online social lives.

So how do we reach them?

In addition, I think that the app environment has gotten so polluted with useless, spammy or annoying apps that many users are suffering from app fatigue and are completely unaware that there are *useful*
apps out there!

Kristen Nicole: More specifically, how have you dealt with the recent development that Facebook opened up developer access to both Groups and Events? Any plans for taking advantage of these recent updates?

Groups is largely orphaned, unfortunately. There are too many missing features for it to work in a way that engenders real participation. As it stands, it is little more than a badging mechanism.

The opening up of Events is very helpful. We’ve considered building a full-on replacement UI for Events that links into all of LuckyCal’s capabilities: you’d use LuckyCal as the UI to create an event and it would publish it as a “native” Facebook Event while still retaining the LuckyCal elements.

Again, the question would be how to get usage of a better interface.

Kristen Nicole: You currently have a promotion going on in order to get more users on LuckyCal. How does the promotion work?

The team at Emerson came up with the idea of Fantasy Trips — inviting friends along on trips to beautiful places. Then we thought about giving people actual cash to take these trips, and it all sort of came

The contest is pretty simple: each time you accept a trip you get a chance to win. Each time a friends accepts an invite to join you on a trip, you get a chance to win. The more trips you take, the more chances you have to win!

Kristen Nicole: Any conflicts with Facebook’s Terms of Service in regards to rewarding users with prizes in exchange for their inviting friends to the LuckyCal application?

This is a careful line to walk — we don’t actually reward people for inviting friends to the application. We reward them for inviting their friends on a trip. If their friend is already using LuckyCal, they still get the same reward. This keeps us clear of any TOS issues.

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