On Wednesday night, the Lab attended a Product Hunt NYC Meetup on service apps that do not have a user interface (Invisible Apps). The session was led by Harry Raymond, the organizer of Product Hunt and co-founder of Swig, a SMS-based service to discover beers and spirits. Four startups were featured in the session, including: Larry, SMS-based law advice; Alfred, text-based concierge service to help cross off items from your to-do list; Stefan’s Head, the first SMS-based retail brand; and xdotai, an AI personal assistant to help you schedule meetings via email. The founders did not give demos of their products but instead gave a brief background on launching their startups and then shared some lessons they had learned thus far.
Christian, the business development manager from Alfred, illustrated the difficulty of a truly on-demand service where a user can get anything at any time. Some companies that attempt to take this on have failed due to the inability to fulfill numerous and outlandish requests. In order to differentiate from those predecessors, Alfred offers an automatic recurring service as opposed to always-on on demand. This way, a user has their personal “Alfred” show up at an assigned time and date each week and handles all the requests that had come in throughout the week. This allows the company to vet and keep a stable of trained employees who have set schedules as opposed to a fleet of contractors that are not necessarily equipped for the jobs at hand.
As more people attempt to streamline their app usage, invisible apps that can be accessed via SMS, email, or voice commands have the potential to become more and more prevalent. From a marketing perspective, as users change their behaviors around how they request services and order products, brands will have to identify unique ways to collaborate with these existing platforms and quite literally, find their voice.
Header image courtesy of Product Hunt NYC’s Meetup page