My Punch Bowl


MyPunchBowl is a Boston-based startup that is diving into the relatively stagnant party-planning market. Just launched last week, they take a workflow approach to the party process. The site walks you through saving the date, finding a party store, creating the invite, managing the guest list, and creating an afterparty page.

MyPunchBowl makes it very easy to flow through this process with an ordered left-side navigation bar. It has chosen a couple of third-party integration points that serve it’s users well. They use a very simple Plaxo widget for getting people into your invites. It will pull in your contacts from Yahoo, Hotmail, GMail or via a text file. I was wary of this widget at first, but Plaxo doesn’t keep the access or contact data. When crafting the invite they have a smart Flickr integration that allows you to pull in CC-licensed photos (or your own) to theme your party’s page. They also provide a Google Maps interface and local search for finding a party store.

They do a good job of bringing the people of the party together. When the invite is sent out, the invitee is presented with all of the pertinent party information – the date, the time, the location — in the email. Upon clicking through to the invite, the user is able to RSVP and then join in a forum discussion with the other partygoers. They don’t need to create their own account to access their party page. The other place where they focus on bringing people together is on an afterparty page where photos can be shared and the party events can be discussed in a single place.

Their focus for this initial release was on the invite process, but there is definitely room for the site to grow. There are some integration points with calendaring systems and social networks (I think that MySpace badges are a must for any social site these days) that I’m sure will happen in the near future. They could also venture into the public party space currently the realm of Upcoming and new entry Google Calendar. My only real complaint about the site is that I can’t see who else is invited to a party (or at least who has accepted) until I accept. As a user I always like to know what is going on and don’t like the prospect of RSVPing yes only to find out that the party would be me and 5 exes. Matt, one of the founders, told me that this was an explicit choice as they didn’t want invitees to see a bunch of “no” RSVPs when making their decision, but personally I think that this will lead to more people accepting (just out of curiosity about the attendees) and then not showing up.

Now I have to put out some disclosure here. I really dislike Evite. I use the service, but only out of necessity because other people invite me to things through them. I feel that instead of focusing on its users Evite seems optimized to increase pageviews. Everything requires a pageload – the guest list, the party details. Evite’s site hasn’t changed in years, or at least not in a positive way. I think that the time has come for someone to give them a kick-in the pants and I think that MyPunchBowl is definitely going to get them paying attention again.