Emergence of Conversational Commerce — 14 hot and upcoming startups

New startups are merging the ubiquitous human activity of texting with commerce. Investors include prominent VCs such as Sequoia and Greylock Partners. Founders are from the Uber, Expa, Twitter and Made in Space leagues: startup bigwigs Robin Chan, Garret Camp and Mike Chen; Stanford business school enthusiasts Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck with a penchant for taking mundane tasks to the next level — are all leading the breed.

Despite apps and feature-rich smartphones, these startups are betting on the most fundamental way in which humans converse today — texting. Speed, efficiency, affordability, simplicity, personalization and customization are the defining parameters. Decision support on the go, for the very busy and maybe for the lazy too. All you have to do is send an sms. Human beings and algorithms on the other side will enable everything else, 24 hours. No signups, no forms to fill and no multiple clicks.

Here is data from Tracxn.

An answer to a text message is human response aimed to foster a connection and build trust

When you send a text looking for what you want, it is a different form of search. A search that leads to an answer and a service that fulfills the need as soon as possible. Take meetcloe.co for example. Cloe, your local ‘text-message concierge’ does not just reply. She ‘converses’ just like a cheerful neighbor ready to help you. Ask for advice on what to wear, where to find the best desserts, gyms, restaurants in the city, etc. and you will get the best possible recommendation.

So far, getmagicnow.com has grabbed the largest capital of $12 million Series A funding from Sequoia in 2015. It is a concierge service with a touch of craziness. They claim to get you anything that is legally possible. You have a price to pay for two aspects — for sending a message and if they use another agency to get what you want — you pay for that too. It is free to talk to them and the full cost of delivery is shown before customers are billed. They make reservations, get grocery, run errands, book preferential air tickets, etc.

Another promising startup helloalfred.com has also grabbed a significant funding of $12.5 million Series A. It is currently in the process of enabling a conversational extension of its already thriving service model. They offer an ‘in-home’ option wherein Alfreds visit homes and finish all errands at $99/month. Their virtual Alfred service is under beta. What distinguishes helloalfred from the rest is that they offer their employees medical insurance and other benefits.

In the vertical segment, ecommerce-oriented operator.com is even more ambitious. Users text, operators
or rather ‘experts’ chat with them and come up with specific solutions. They then interface with the necessary vendors/services to complete the loop. In co-founder Robin Chan’s own words, “a transaction simply becomes an expression of high fidelity communication between two sides. We are introducing Operator with retail partners first, to give people a taste of how interacting with a store can be richer and more efficient.”

In the vertical segment, there is firstopinionapp.com. Users can chat with real doctors. Opinion allows one free consultation every month. Additional ones start at $12 for a package of three sessions with the same doctor.

There are a dozen more interesting startups which are either mildly funded or upcoming, yet show promising confidence in conversational commerce. Here is data from Tracxn.

Startup getondemand.us also sources medical consultation or home remedy from certified health practitioners, apart from handling errands.

Luka.ai offers more than a normal hotel recommendation service. It suggests the best restaurant instead of showing up a list in a category. Apart from booking tables, Luka knows what your individual preferences are and suggests accordingly.

As the paradigm shifts, safety of personal data and our private homes,
user authentication, security of payment information and labor issues will become key concerns.

At Tracxn, we know that food, shopping, delivery and transport are the usual beneficiary sectors which are majorly funded. The concierge service startups could easily tie-up with these service providers. Can mobile commerce get any better? The founders only want us to wait to experience more!

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