Meet Cron, a new calendar app for the Mac that wants to bring some innovation to this space. The startup directly mentions Sunrise as an inspiration (for those of you who still remember it; Sunrise used to be a popular calendar product that was acquired by Microsoft).
Cron attended Y Combinator’s winter batch of 2020 and raised a $3.5 million seed round in March 2020. Garry Tan from Initialized Capital is leading the round, with various business angels also participating. Some of those investors include Elad Gil, Figma founder Dylan Field, former LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and Sunrise co-founder Jeremy Le Van.
If you look at the company’s website, there’s no feature page and no download link. “We haven’t really announced the company and the product yet. We’re kinda in semi-stealth,” Cron founder Raphael Schaad told me.
I haven’t used the app myself, but Schaad shared his screen during a call so that I could see the app with my own eyes. While it isn’t ready for prime time just yet, it already looks like a well-designed calendar app with a couple of nifty features.
More importantly, it feels like a strong foundation for additional features that could differentiate Cron from other calendar apps out there.
“I started scheduling meetings with myself,” Schaad said. “I was thinking I should build a layer on top of the calendar,” he added. But first, he realized he couldn’t build a layer on top of the calendar without a proper calendar app that handles multiple time zones, meetings with other people, notifications, etc.
Image Credits: Cron
The main Cron window looks like a calendar app with a week view in the center, a tiny month view in the corner and a list of active calendars on the left. If you’ve used Apple Calendar, you’re going to feel right at home.
Cron also features a column on the right side of the main window. When you click on an event, you get details about the event in that column. From there, you can change the time and date, add a participant, add a conference link and more.
Whenever you change the duration of an event or move it to another day, the week view gets updated in real time so that you can see how it affects your week before hitting Enter.
If you haven’t selected an event, it shows the next event with a button to join the meeting if there’s a video-conferencing URL attached to the event. Cron supports Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Whereby, BlueJeans, Around, Skype and Google Duo. If you're a Fantastical user, you're probably already using that feature every day.
Cron lets you create an event quickly with a command menu. You can hit a keyboard shortcut and start scheduling the event with natural language. You also can search for events or people from that menu.
There are a couple of features that I find particularly interesting. First, you can share availability in an email conversation or a WhatsApp conversation quite easily.
Most scheduling features in calendar involve generating a link with a bunch of availabilities. It doesn’t work well, as you can’t quickly see when someone is available without clicking the link first.
In Cron, you can hit a keyboard shortcut to enter a different mode called "Share availability". After that, you can select time blocks in your calendar directly. It generates a text block that you can copy and paste in Gmail, Messages or whatever you’re using to talk with someone — text is still the most universal protocol after all.
It looks like this:
Would 30 mins during any of these times (all Central European Time) work for you?
And Cron works better as a team as you can see when your coworkers are available from Cron directly. In the sidebar, you can add someone you’re working with. After that, it works pretty much like another calendar.
You can show and hide their calendar to see when they should be available. You also can click on their name in order to drag and drop their name in your calendar to create an event with them.
Schaad has a big vision for his startup. “We want to build the time layer of the internet,” he said. Right now, Cron is available to some users in early access and the app only supports Google accounts. But it should be available soon to everyone with support for Microsoft and iCloud accounts.
It’s still the early days of the company but it’s going to be interesting to follow Cron’s updates to see how it evolves. Some people are still going to prefer Fantastical, as it’s a polished, native app for Apple platforms. But it’s good to see that there could be an opinionated alternative.
Image Credits: Cron