OpenCal aiming to organize your business appointments
by Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First
published in Business in Vancouver October 19-25, 2010 issue #1095 High
Tech Office column
Arash Shiva of Vancouver startup OpenCal (www.opencal.com)
admits that there’s nothing new about keeping your calendar on a
For instance, Sidekick was released in 1983 before either Microsoft
Windows or Apple’s Macintosh put an appointment calendar on millions of
Lots of you are probably using Microsoft Outlook – part of the
Microsoft Office package – as your calendar, possibly making it
available across the network to colleagues – but not to clients or
others outside your closed network.
Others (including me) are using Google’s online calendar, which can be
accessed on any computer or device that can go online. I’ve embedded a
Google Calendar into a web page. It’s displayed online but no one can
edit or add events to it from there – not even me. (Depending on what
you want, that’s either a feature or a limitation.)
OpenCal’s service offers something different from these. Its goal is to
let potential customers of small service businesses book appointments
online, while giving businesses the tools to manage these appointments
and to do it all with tools that are attractive and easy to use.
An estimated 25 million appointments are made with 11 million
businesses every day in North America, mostly using telephone, pencil
and paper. OpenCal hopes that its service can provide an alternative
way to book many of these and offer a better way for customers,
business owners and employees to stay in sync.
The “open” part of the name doesn’t imply open source software, as in –
say – OpenOffice. Instead, as with the OpenTable service widely used in
the restaurant industry, it implies that potential customers can book
an open slot 24-7; no need to wait for business hours to set an
Both of OpenCal’s founders, Shiva and Simon Vallee, come from design
backgrounds, and it shows in OpenCal’s clean interface. Shiva notes
that their goals were to make booking online faster than making a phone
call and easy for first-time users. Time slots can be dragged to make
them longer or shorter as needed, while appointments can be dragged
between staff members.
Businesses signing onto OpenCal get a snippet of computer code to
insert into their website. It provides a book-online-now button linked
to an appointment page hosted on OpenCal’s server. It also shows days
with openings. When customers pick a day, they’re offered their choice
of available time slots. They pick a time, enter contact information
and they’re done.
Businesses can require that clients add additional information –
perhaps address or allergy information or feedback following their
appointments. As well, businesses might prefer to approve appointments
manually or automatically and to automatically send out email
reminders. The business may allow customers to make their own
cancellations or to change appointment times online.
Once a client has entered contact information, it’s stored in a
built-in database; businesses can quickly find client information and
appointment history by typing the first few letters of their name.
If a business lacks a website, OpenCal offers free space for a simple
web page – business name, logo, description and that all-important
OpenCal is offered at two price points: $19 per month for a
single-staff appointment calendar and $39 per month for multi-staff (up
to 10) businesses. Both plans include a 30-day free trial. Shiva notes
that while the founders imagined consultants and contractors, beauty
salons, health-care providers and the like using the service, it’s also
being used by a Singapore client to book hotel rooms.
Because it’s an online service, updates and improvements to OpenCal
immediately become available to all users. OpenCal plans to add a
variety of features, including Google Calendar sync, PayPal payment
integration, mobile apps and email marketing integration.