You have a free weekend and it’s time to get together with friends. Maybe plan a massive shaker.
After a handful of texts, you realize that one person is out of town, another has date night scheduled, one hasn’t responded, and two others said they’ve got a pile of stuff to do.
Wouldn’t it be great to know – in advance – if everyone could get together?
Ewan May and Thomas Rayment, co-founders of Calgary-based Voco, believe they have the answer.
Voco is a mobile application they’ve built to simplify one’s social life. In an age where if it’s not calendared it doesn’t exist, it can even sync friends’ schedules.
For May, the opportunity arose post-Covid. Everyone was emerging from their nests, taking part in activities and getting together in groups. Finally, May said, they were able to see friends again.
“It culminated in a party, like all good stories do, and we managed to get 60 of our friends together, which was unheard of for two years. It was probably one of the best times in my recent memory,” he said.
He and Rayment were sitting in a hot tub thinking about how they could make these experiences happen for more people. He wanted to bring back the idea of it being easy to get together with friends.
“The most valuable memories of my life are the times that I spend with friends,” May said.
He realized that he’d taken for granted seeing friends in school or on the university campus. People now had work, family, leisure.
“It was sad to see those connections that we spent so long, nurturing, just disappear,” May said.
“We wanted to create a tool that really just made that whole process seamless and easy.”
Wading through the ‘million messages’
May, an electrical engineer by trade, said people are bombarded by different messages. They’re flying at them from all directions – both friendly and randomly. Think of Facebook messages, invites, group chats, etc.
“We wanted to create a tool that kind of combined all of those in an enclosed area,” May said.
It includes a group chat with friends. But the key is calendar integration. You’ve got to find that window in everyone’s schedule where you can pinpoint your next outing.
The app includes a way to gather input from friends and let them know the things they might need to bring for an activity.
Starting it off, May said it was the “Ewan and Tom social group.” As more people jumped on and familiarized themselves with the platform, they started planning things. That led to more invites to the platform.
Today, they have more than 500 people using Voco and it’s growing daily.
Founders need social lives, too
May quipped that one of the bonuses of working in the Alberta Catalyzer – Velocity program is that he’s been able to help the founders start organizing their own social calendars.
“Founders are busy people. They still need to socialize,” he said.
In seriousness, the networking with other founders has been valuable in helping he and Rayment further their business. While he’s the engineering guy, Rayment has a double major in finance and marketing.
That’s helping them solidify their foundation. The tools they’re gaining in the Velocity program are propelling them further.
May said there’s no limit to how big they can grow. It’s a user-based system.
“We would like to be in the pocket of every single person on the planet,” May said.
That’s going to require a city-by-city approach for now. They want to be able to include suggestions for fun activities for people to do. Down the road, an AI engine to suggest a date for friends to get together, along with an activity geared to collective interests is another avenue.
May recognizes that they have to break through the habit of people gathering using platforms like Facebook. He thinks they can do it. That requires focusing on the basics for now and making a platform worth using.
“I think overall, people choose based on value. If they see value, they’ll see they’ll likely make a change,” he said.
“If we can create a tool that’s so much easier to use and so much more likely to lead to a successful outcome. Of course, they’re going to change.”
The Voco app can be downloaded in the Apple and Google stores.