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March - 2007 - issue > Entrepreneurship
Scheduling-Meetings,-the-iPolipo-Way
Sriparna Chakraborty
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
If time is money, then scheduling meetings is costing you a fortune.

When the clients or business colleagues you need to meet with are busy or traveling, you can wind up trading phone calls and e-mails for weeks in order to find the perfect time in your respective calendars, and scheduling group meetings can be a nightmare. On an average, it takes seven e-mails to schedule one business meeting, and executives estimate they spend up to 200 hours each year just trying to arrange their meetings with key people.

Hari Shetty and Rajesh Setty know all about this expensive problem – as high-tech executives, they dealt with it every day for years. Now they’re turning this business problem into an opportunity. The two longtime friends – they were schoolmates in India – have used their experience in enterprise software to design and develop a web-based service that will help busy executives schedule meetings. After fourteen strenuous months, their online calendar service is ready to launch – and so is their new company.

Connecticut-based iPolipo (“polipo” is Italian for octopus) permits calendar sharing over the web and dramatically reduces the time and cost of scheduling meetings across and within organizations.

Shetty and Setty bootstrapped iPolipo and ventured into a massive market anchored by software like Microsoft Outlook, which has about four hundred million mailboxes – but very limited capacity to share calendars between users. iPolipo makes the Outlook calendar selectively accessible on the web, powering some very productive interaction.

“Using iPolipo is simple,” says Shetty, the company’s president and CEO. “One can download the iPolipo toolbar to their Microsoft Outlook and use it immediately.”

Users can share selected ‘available’ time slots on their iPolipo calendar with colleagues and clients, who can see only those slots. The client selects a time and an e-mail is automatically generated to both participants. Responding affirmatively to the e-mail automatically confirms the meeting.

The iPolipo application, which costs $99 a year by subscription, has many other features that improve utility while protecting the user’s privacy. The calendar can be shared for a restricted time, perhaps one week, with contacts who don’t have an ongoing business relationship with the primary user. Contacts can be automatically categorized by priority or use – for example, the user can make morning timeslots available for contacts in the ‘Business Group’ category while restricting members of the ‘Golf Buddies Group’ to weekend slots only.

“iPolipo effectively automates what we all do informally,” says Shetty. “We make ourselves available or unavailable to meet people depending on who they are in our business and in our lives. iPolipo does that for you and leaves your time free for more important activities.”

Shetty believes that sharing a calendar is of tremendous business value. “By providing access to your calendar over the web, you are enabling clients and colleagues to communicate with you more easily, which helps every business process,” he says. “And if you are an executive or consultant who charges $150 an hour, and you’re spending up to 40 non-billable minutes a day trading e-mails and phone calls about meetings, iPolipo will pay for itself the first day you install it. That’s the kind of value that the business world understands immediately.”

iPolipo is still in its beta stage, but its first 50 test subscribers are already enthusiastic. “It’s ended the ‘are you busy?’ e-mails and IMs,” says one testimonial.

Both Shetty and Setty – who joke about being brothers because of the similarity of their names – have distinguished resumes. Shetty spent nine years in development and sales management at Aspect Software, a global leader in contact center solutions. Setty was the founder and first CEO of Cignex Technologies, a leading integrator of open source enterprise software. Setty is currently involved with several other startups in some combination as an investor, board member and an advisor.

Shetty and Setty have recruited an experienced development and marketing team in India, and their next objective is to build a plug-in similar to the Outlook application that would work for other calendars, like Google Calendar. That enhancement – and a round of VC funding – are expected to be completed before iPolipo officially launches this spring.
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