Face-to-face meetings are a necessary part of the decision making process, but meetings have picked up their negative reputation for a good reason. When no one has time to prepare for a meeting, meeting-goers may not be aware of who they are in the same room with, and have trouble sticking to the meeting agenda. When the meeting is over, many times you don't really know if everyone is on the same page. On top of that, technology in the meeting room may have hurt meeting efficiency more than it has helped it; it's far too easy for colleagues to hide behind their laptop and not use the screen in front of them in productive ways.
But iPads are starting to become the weapon of choice for many corporate warriors, and Helsinki-based Punos Mobile Ltd has come up with solutions to many of these problems by developing an iPad app called Meeting Assistant. Based on their beta testing, some of the most sought-after features allow the users to keep their meetings on time, track to-dos and send notes to everyone right after.
To help you know who you're talking to, Meeting Assistant takes the email addresses of the people participating in your meeting, then pulls up information about them from publicly available sources like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and so on. To tackle easy scheduling and planning of the meeting, the app integrates into users' existing workflow and tools, such as your native calendars, email, popular business apps, and social media.
"And in the execution phase, with people in the same room actually trying to outline and resolve issues face to face, Meeting Assistant is designed to allow you to concentrate on interacting with the people you’ve wanted to see," says Hannu Alakangas, CEO of Punos Mobile. "The app offers a range of ready agendas for various common purposes, allows you to efficiently keep and track time between agenda items, and provides for a clear division of labor: to-dos. Everyone can get the meeting notes right after in their email and there is a private note-taking facility, too." A nice side-effect of sending those meeting notes out is that the app does it's own marketing.
Currently the app is in private beta testing, but they will launch in the Nordics in August with their core features. A global launch should be following later this year, where they will then target the U.S. market and include more integrated tools for their users.
For what this solution will cost users, Alakangas says, "Our iPad version will be one time purchase with possibility to buy subscription as an in-app. Notes exist in application and email, but for subscribed users our plan is to provide an option to use external cloud storages for storing notes and other data from the application. Thanks to our technology choice (HTML5 hybrid application), other platforms and complementary services are also on the roadmap. This is just a start!"
To help get their project up and running, Punos Mobile has gotten some assistance from Tekes Tempo, a relatively new program that seeks to get mobile solutions rapidly to market. Here is CEO Hannu Alakangas' take on their experience.
What are the general details of your Tempo project?
Alakangas: The purpose of the first Tempo project was to develop a prototype of the Meeting Assistant mobile device users. The project length was about 4 months (last winter) and it was very successful - proofed our concept and especially got some excellent partners interested. After that project we have continued the development in the new, bigger project. We’ve now got onboard some serious talent and our team is now really delivering.
Did you find out about Tempo, or did Tekes steer you into Tempo?
Alakangas: I got the initial idea for the application early 2011. I contacted Tekes on spring 2011 and got information that they are planning to launch Tempo program in few months. I spent couple months on planning, getting the right people onboard etc. When Tempo officially launched, we had a meeting with Tekes, everything went smoothly, company was founded and the project started.
Have you been part of any other Tekes projects before? What has your experience been like with Tempo?
Alakangas: In my previous company Nobultec Ltd (acquired by QPR Software Plc in 2011), I was involved in a couple of Tekes projects. Compared to those experiences I have really liked the way how e.g. reporting is much leaner with Tempo, just as young and focused companies would expect. Tekes wants the participants to have real results and market validation as soon as possible, which is great. This helps to cut the old Finnish method of developing and then developing some more, and in the end finding out the market is not there. In general, I have a feeling that Tekes wants to have more active and open communication with their client companies. And as a small startup with limited resources, one big thing was also that the size of the project doesn't have to be as big as in the past for Tekes projects.