Thursday, November 8, 2012

WalkaboutNYC: OpenPlans - Trip Planning At Its Best

If you're just joining us, welcome! This is part two in my series about my recent participation in WalkaboutNYC, a free program during which startups in the city open their doors to the public in order to showcase their work, educate people about what makes startups tick, and build connections within the community.

For an introduction to Walkabout NYC, check out my first post: Walkabout NYC 2012 Recap: Startup-Hopping In the City

You get to choose one of several startups during each hour-long slot throughout the event, so I selected OpenPlans as my first destination.

The first thing you notice about OpenPlans is, understandably enough, the swift elevator ride that whisks you up to the gorgeous penthouse office overlooking a vast swath of lower Manhattan including Little Italy, Chinatown, and Tribeca. If you're lucky enough to check out the site, don't miss out on the rooftop garden, a secluded oasis which feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

But enough about location; OpenPlans has much more to offer than just a pretty face. Their Kickstarter funded iPhone app, OpenTripPlanner, will help fill in the gaps not currently being served by existing trip planners (we're looking at you, Apple Maps!), especially when it comes to public transportation options such as the much-anticipated, upcoming New York City Bike Share. OpenTripPlanner is scheduled for a beta release sometime in the near future.

OpenPlans isn't new to making public transportation a whole heck of a lot better. Previously, they partnered with the MTA to develop Bus Time, a mobile site used to find the location of buses in real time. It wasn't an easy problem to solve - for example, the skyscrapers in New York can block GPS signals, which requires a work-around solution involving special devices on the buses themselves. If you're a frequent bus traveler, you can imagine how valuable it is to know exactly when your ride is going to show up.

My big takeaway from OpenPlan's presentation was the importance of partnering with large, well-known brands and organizations. This is a strategy that translates well to any sort of business; as a freelance writer or aspiring novelist, you form strategic partnerships with media brands, established bloggers, and published authors. The tricky part about connecting with these entities is establishing a unique value proposition to differentiate yourself from the crowd. What can you offer that others, who are competing for their attention, can't? What alternate methods can you use to approach your targets where your voice is more likely to be heard? Figuring out how partnerships fit into your overall marketing and branding plan will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for you to get noticed in your niche.

To keep up-to-date with OpenPlans, follow them on Twitter: @OpenPlans
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