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New Toucanect iPhone app aims to integrate calendars and communication

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 3, 2012 10:19 AM

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In our wonderful world of e-mail, text messages, Twitter direct messages, and Facebook messages, it can still be pretty challenging to coordinate events that involve human beings connecting in the real world. A movie night with friends may exist on your calendar, but there are several separate Facebook messages discussing where and when to meet for dinner, for instance. You may have noted in your calendar that your child's school lets out early, but then you have to remember to text message your babysitter to arrange for an early pick-up.

A new Boston-built iPhone app called Toucanect is tackling that disconnect. It brings events, messaging, and maps together, and it lets you create groups of people who are associated with individual events and kept up to speed on what's happening.

At launch, the app was pre-populated with events like school vacations and early dismissals, to make them easy to include on your calendar, as well as dining discounts that are part of the Mayor's Holiday Special in Boston.

Founder Shayne Gilbert says she was inspired earlier this year to start work on the app, after "I didn't have the right time for an early school dismissal and my daughter was left waiting (thankfully, there was an extended day program, so she was fine). I knew that there had to be a better way to not only schedule, but communicate with my husband and sitter around our day-to-day activities."

Gilbert says that the app was developed by Cambridge-based Intrepid Dev, and that she received some early funding and guidance from several investors who had been backers of CardStar, a mobile app acquired earlier this year by Constant Contact, the digital marketing company in Waltham. Toucanect is free, but Gilbert says its eventual business model will be charging for premium positioning in the event listings, or selling ads related to events, like a pre-theater dinner special, for instance, or hotel conference space for a business meeting.

(I should disclose that Gilbert is someone I have known for a loooong while; in 1999, we co-founded the Nantucket Conference on Entrepreneurship & Innovation together, and have collaborated on many events since then.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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