Early Days with Spreadsheets
In 1980, as a junior in high school, I bought an HP scientific calculator to help with my math and science classes. While it helped with my trig and physics homework, what really fascinated me were its programming capabilities. Over the course of several months, I learned how to write dozens of programs for it and, in doing so, discovered my passion for technology. By mid-year, I had decided to quit my yearlong architectural drafting class in order to take the first ever computer programming class offered at our school. My architecture teacher spent an entire lunch period trying to convince me that switching classes would be a big mistake, but I’ve never regretted that decision.
Later that same semester, I found a part-time job at a local computer store, The Byte Shop, which sold several brands of personal computers, including the Apple II and Commodore PET. Home computers were still a novelty at that time, and customers were curious how these machines might be useful. Ads in those days suggested using computers for balancing your checkbook, checking stock prices, organizing recipes, and playing games. But productivity software, especially for word processing and spreadsheets, provided the strongest justification for purchasing a personal computer.
Indeed, only a year earlier, the first spreadsheet program for a personal computer, VisiCalc, had debuted exclusively for the Apple II computer. For the first time, consumers could use personal computers to construct digital models of their paper-based worksheets of numbers and calculations. My co-worker at The Byte Shop, an energetic college student, could hardly contain his excitement over VisiCalc. He would attempt to solve just about any problem a customer described using some form of spreadsheet. He experienced what I call a “spreadsheet moment.” This is a tipping point in time when a user realizes how much more effective using special purpose software is compared with their own traditional methods.
Over the next several years, VisiCalc helped legitimize personal computers as serious productivity tools, beyond hobby uses and games. While VisiCalc led the market on the Apple II, two new entrants, Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft MultiPlan quickly captured the dominant spreadsheet positions for the new IBM PC, released in 1981. When Apple released the original Macintosh computer in 1984, Microsoft recognized the long-term potential of its graphical user interface (GUI) and developed Excel, the first GUI spreadsheet, released first for the Mac in 1985, followed by a version for Windows in 1987. After graduating with a B.S. degree in computer science from UC Irvine, Microsoft hired me as a software design engineer to help develop new versions of their applications, Word and Excel. I was fortunate to have had early exposure to spreadsheets in high school and just a few years later work on a what would become the industry’s #1 spreadsheet application, with over a billion users worldwide.
The point of my spreadsheet story is that it provides a good analogy for the digital transformation that event planning is now experiencing. Over the past four decades, personal computers and software have revolutionized traditional paper-based analog models resulting in easier creation, manipulation, duplication and distribution of information. Among the first software categories to emerge were word processors and spreadsheets, transforming writing and accounting. Other categories to follow included design, education, reference, messaging, scheduling, gaming and other forms of home entertainment. Like spreadsheets years ago, event planning is now experiencing its own moment, thanks to recent advancements in cloud computing, wide adoption of smart mobile devices, and new specialty software specifically designed for event planning.
Event Planners Deserve Better
In my last article, ”Help! Event Planning is Driving Me Crazy,” I shared my experience planning monthly events for my son’s Scout troop. The time and effort required for this seemingly simply task was driving me nuts. Eventually, I decided to do something about this problem and developed Eventene, an online software solution to simplify event planning. My goal from the outset was to identify and streamline the planning process by combining the essential elements from spreadsheets, emails, and online survey services, that organizers have relied upon to plan and run group events.
However, while designing Eventene, I realized that the event planning industry in fact needed its own revolutionary moment; that tipping point in time where event organizers realize they could achieve major productivity gains by using special purpose software rather than using a combination of traditional tools. We launched Eventene version 1.0, or “MVP” (Minimal Viable Product) in January 2018, and encouragingly, since then many of our early adopters tell us they have experienced their own moments.
Just as spreadsheets proved invaluable for working with numbers and data across many vertical markets, we designed Eventene to handle a range of event complexity, from simple dinner parties to weeklong city tours and larger scale events. By identifying the essential building blocks, Eventene captures the core components of an event, including its details, description, participants, itinerary, imagery, and assignments. Once in digital form, organizers can make changes to their events and easily copy and repeat them.
Of course, planning for social events with less than 15 people can be handled quite simply by sending out a few emails. For events that small, it might not seem worth the effort to spend the time to set up an event in a digital framework with automated sending and tracking. As soon as the invitation count climbs to 15 or 20, however, it’s more efficient to leverage software as a “third hand” to automate the sending, tracking and distribution of the event information. And so, for any event planner that manages events of different sizes, the small time-investment in learning special purpose software can lead to massive long-term savings in time and effort. Eventene can easily handle invitations and tracking for dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people, making it a powerful tool for event planners at any scale. Inevitably, the more people in the event, the greater time and effort saved for the organizer and the more powerful tools like Eventene become.
So, it is clear that we have reached a unique moment in the event planning industry. Event organizers deserve better software solutions to become more productive and save time and energy. The time is right to create a service for organizers to take a substantial step up in productivity, just as users across the globe have experienced with spreadsheets over the past four decades. With that goal, we are building Eventene to revolutionize event planning, to provide our customers with a better software solution to make event planning more efficient and fun. Each time I observe one of our customers experiencing their own moment, I smile and recall my job in high school, watching our customers’ faces light up with wonder and awe upon seeing a spreadsheet for the first time.