Startup Spotlight: Raj Singh, CEO of Tempo

This article first appeared in Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 9: Thinking Different

I’m always on the lookout for apps that solve a problem in a new way, particularly ones that manage to look good whilst doing so. This is why Tempo, the Calendar that also wants to be your new Virtual Assistant, caught my eye.

In some ways, Tempo is much like any of the other front-runner calendar apps, in that you can use natural language to input a new appointment, browse calendar and list views, get reminders etc. What’s different though is what it does (or tries to do) in terms of integration with your social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and how it tries to overlay insights about the people you’re meeting into your appointments.

For example, if you’re meeting someone with whom you share a connection via LinkedIn, Tempo will display contextual information – from Facebook – about that person in your appointment. Tempo also offers a number of assistive measures, such as integrated conference calling from the app, easy options for messaging that you’re running late, etc.

I liked the look of Tempo, so I decided to catch up with the CEO, Raj Singh, to talk a little more about how they’re trying to solve an old problem in a new way.

“We started out by asking ourselves – can we provide a tool that can help you to prepare for what’s next? Initially, we were focused on the whole meetings experience and the app was built around that, with a very simple user experience, but we quickly realized that the Calendar is a great UI for the meetings stuff. Most other calendars are just a presentation layer for your calendar, but Tempo will tell you where to park, give you an estimate for how long it’s going to take to drive to your meeting…it’s a fully assistive service for business professionals.”

It’s no coincidence that there are parallels between what Tempo is trying to do and how many of us would like to use Siri. The tempo team originated from the Stanford Research Institute, where Siri was first originated. I wanted to know a bit more about how the team cultivated their creativity.

“We follow a traditional process to evolve and iterate our ideas. We talk to users through what we call an “evolving and deductive” interview process. We rank their pain points, and what they see as benefits in order to build a picture of the priority requirements. We take surveys of likes and dislikes and we do beta testing with our existing user base. We even do a bit of Craigslist blind usability testing and work with some of our industry peers who fit within the target demographic. We do a lot of research and analytics; it’s sort of like A/B testing, though that’s quite hard to do on mobile versus the web, where you can change things much more dynamically.”

Raj spent a number of years developing for large firms like Motorola and this discipline is evident as he talks, focusing heavily on the development lifecycle and the science of understanding your users. I pressed him on whether you can innovate successfully within the constraints of standard development processes.

“You have to be analytical to draw out decisions from data. But you also have to be creative. When you narrow yourself too much, you end up with something mediocre. That’s why you need a vision or guiding principle; something that tells you what you want to be or where you want to go. Our is Tempo is a calendar that provides you with insights on the people you meet. We’re also very clear about our target segment: Mobile business professionals, those people with busy schedules and limited time. By keeping this persona in mind we can stay focused on their core requirements.”

As the CEO of a technology company, Raj knows all about time pressures and the need to stay productive. How does he manage his productivity?

“I’m an obsessive note-taker, but I also think that productivity relies on the adoption of a good set of tools. I’m a big believer in GTD, so I don’t like remembering my todos and I write them all down. I also triage my email, but try not to live in it.”

The clock hits the hour and it’s time for Raj to move onto his next meeting. He leaves me with one parting thought:

“We married an assistant with the calendar to create an enhanced experience. Today it feels like a separate app, but in the future, it’s going to be a “layer”, not an app…I mean, what application wouldn’t benefit from having an assistant component? A few years ago, location was something that you did separately to other apps and now it’s built right into iOS. Intelligent assistance is going to go the same way.”

You can check out tempo at Tempo.ai