‘Tis the season for never-ending Christmas parties, family get-togethers, and New Year’s Eve blowouts. And while you might be the Martha Stewart-type who sent out your hand-written invitations weeks ago, most people these days are using technology to create and manage their events.
The services typically used, however, are web- and email-based, not designed for today’s smartphone-driven world.
Enter Hobnob, a Honolulu-based tech startup that’s disrupting the party invitation and RSVP space with their eponymous service. It uses a combination of text messages and mobile websites to send invitations and gather both responses before the event and photos afterwards.
The service has been steadily gaining steam, and it could be the solution to your last-minute party-planning needs this holiday season.
The Hobnob team, from left, Jason Axelson, Mark Quezada, Tiffany Quezada, Tommy Hanks, Tina Fitch and George Lee.
Courtesy of Hobnob
Hobnob, founded in mid-2014 by Tina Fitch and the husband-and-wife startup team of Tiffany and Mark Quezada, grew out of a combination of ideas that included photo sharing and event planning.
Fitch met the Quezadas a few years earlier, as she mentored them during their work on their first (now shuttered) startup Minded, which provided gift suggestions based on the recipient’s Facebook profile.
With Hobnob, the team set out to modernize party planning without requiring invitees to download an app or limiting the guest list to only those with iPhones. Their service lets you create and manage an entire event totally from your phone, with no laptop or design experience needed to craft and send out nicely-designed invitations.
Invitees can receive, read, and respond to invitations without ever downloading an app. That’s a huge advantage, helping Hobnob both rise above the Android-versus-iPhone debate and eliminating the need to impose an app download on your invited guests (not to mention the costs of developing native apps for different phones).
The approach seems to be working well, and it’s been enough for their team to have grown to six full-time employees.
“We’re seeing all kinds of events and all ages of people using Hobnob,” said Mark Quezada. “It’s incredibly surprising to see such a wide range, especially since we set out to target busy Moms.”
Hobnob’s invitation templates have a high-end look to them, showing the team’s obvious attention to design while letting users customize their invitations. It’s also allowed Hobnob to create stunning invitation themes for everything from birthdays and date nights to holidays.
Hobnob sends invitations to your guests via text message, allowing them to respond via text or by tapping on the event URL. Guests never need to download an app and can reply regardless of their phone’s operating system.
Courtesy of Hobnob
“We started with Halloween designs a few months ago,” said Tiffany Quezada. “Then we added Thanksgiving designs, and now Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But we were careful not to pigeonhole the designs. So, for example, we have winter themes that would be as nice for a holiday party as for a ski trip.”
Once a host sends out the invitations via Hobnob, guests receive a text message with a link to a mobile website. Guests can then RSVP, add comments, get directions, and add the event to their calendar. No app required!
You might imagine this text-based service being used mainly by millennials and the younger set, as I did. Wrong.
“We have church groups using it and we have groups of metal-heads organizing concert trips,” said Mark. “And we’ve seen a lot of two-person events for date nights.”
Added Tiffany, “We’ve had people plan birthday parties for 1-year-olds and 100-year-olds! There have been weddings, funerals, graduation parties, you name it. We even had a cute invitation from a young girl inviting her parents to her bedtime.”
Speaking of cute kids, I asked the team not about working on a stressful, demanding startup together as husband and wife, but doing so while also adding a daughter to their family just a few months ago.
“Parenting is pretty similar to running a startup,” Tiffany explained. “Both make you sleep deprived, both have their emotional highs and lows, and both look much more glamorous from the outside than the inside.”
Added Mark, emphatically yet with a hint of exhaustion, “But I wouldn’t recommend doing both at the same time!”
Hobnob has recently added the ability for attendees to text photos back to their service, allowing everyone to share their party photos. “The event becomes a sort of container for the photos,” Mark added.
Currently, only those with Hobnob’s iOS app can create invitations, but the duo said that Android and other versions should be out very soon. They also mentioned that they’re working on expanding their available invitation template designs and moving beyond sharing of just simple photos.
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Jason Rushin has nearly 20 years of experience in software marketing, consulting, and engineering, and currently works as a marketing consultant for high tech clients, both locally and in Silicon Valley. Prior to relocating to Hawaii in 2010, he led marketing at several Silicon Valley software startups. Once in Hawaii, he launched and subsequently sold his own startup, and has been an active supporter of Hawaii’s small-but-growing startup ecosystem. Jason holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.