Say goodbye to email ping-pong with x.ai
Originally published at siftery.com.
Founded in 2014, x.ai makes an artificial intelligence personal assistant who schedules meetings for you. There’s no sign-in, no password, no download; all you do is CC email@example.com into your email thread, just like you would a human personal assistant. Amy then takes over the tedious email ping pong that comes along with scheduling a meeting.
Can you tell us about what you are working on ? What is x.ai?
x.ai makes a personal assistant who schedules meetings for you. On average, it takes 15 minutes and 8 emails back and forth to schedule a single meeting. For the 99% of knowledge workers who do not have a human personal assistant, this frustrating and time-consuming task falls on them.
x.ai is democratizing the personal assistant. We have developed the first fully autonomous AI meeting scheduling agent, Amy Ingram. There’s no app, nothing to download. Simply cc’ firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll take over the email conversation and negotiate with your guests to get your meeting scheduled. Even better, if meeting participants use Amy (or her twin brother, Andrew), she is effectively talking to herself. No humans participate in the scheduling conversation, and she can optimize for both parties. (We call it “scheduling nirvana.”)
Why are you building this? What problem are you trying to solve?
Amy was born out of the pain I had when I was running my previous startup. I personally scheduled 1,019 meetings the year before we started x.ai. Even worse, 672 of them were rescheduled at least once. I think anybody going through that amount of pain will mull over a way to remove it. The only viable solution, as we see it, is one where you don’t change the preexisting process and instead emulate a human personal assistant through artificial intelligence. So far we’ve made some great progress.
Nearly 90 million US knowledge workers schedule roughly 10 billion meetings a year. Not one of those workers adds something meaningful to the scheduling process itself. In fact, most of us aren’t very good at scheduling meetings. We forget to follow up with our guests. We pick a location that may work well for us but not so well for our guest. We forget to send an invite so that all participants know the meeting has been scheduled.
An AI personal assistant can do better than humans. By taking over the job of scheduling your meetings from start to finish, Amy saves you time and aggravation. Most importantly, because Amy and Andrew are purely AI, we can make them accessible to everyone.
Who are your top competitors & how is x.ai different from what’s already exists in the market?What’s unique about what you are building & why do you think companies should use x.ai?
There are companies that pair some sort of intelligent software with humans to schedule meetings, and these do indeed look like competitors; however, their outsourcing model keeps humans in the loop, which is expensive. Our mission is to democratize the personal assistant. We can do this by making meeting scheduling a pure AI process — which means the cost to the customer is trivial.
With that said, I think our biggest biggest competitor in the short term is yourself (the individual user who continues to take on the scheduling pain, not knowing any better).
Who uses x.ai? Can you tell us a bit about the different customer segments using x.ai? What types of roles do your customers have at their companies ?
Our customers work in a wide range of roles and industries, from CEOs and founders to sales and business development people to HR professionals to lawyers. Current Professional customers include employees from Walmart, Salesforce, LinkedIn and The New York Times among many other companies.
How are your customers using x.ai? Could you share a few different use cases?
Our customers simply CC in Amy or Andrew to let them take over the task of scheduling a meeting.
Amy and Andrew only work on one task — scheduling meetings; however the types of meetings can vary for different types of customers. Salespeople tend to schedule a high volume of virtual meetings with one or two individuals (prospective clients). VCs schedule many in-person meetings with entrepreneurs and they favor their offices. HR teams and Hiring Managers have Amy schedule interviews with candidates, a mix of phone and in-person.
We have a running series of interviews with our customers on our blog here.
We also just launched the Business Edition of x.ai on February 28th of this year to help seamlessly onboard entire teams and companies. We’re super excited about the use case here. If everyone is using Amy or Andrew, then she’s essentially talking to herself and can schedule the meeting nearly instantly (we call it “scheduling nirvana”). There are some other cool features as well, like having Amy on your own domain and a dashboard that shows usage trends and how many hours Amy saves your team every week.
Have there been unique use cases for x.ai that you hadn’t thought of or expected?
One of my favorite stories is from of a customer who is a composer. She was commissioned to write a new piece of classical music by 50 violinists in 45 countries, and she meet with everyone individually over Skype and had Amy organize every single one of those meetings.
Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?
There’s a built in virality or natural virality each time our product is used. Because of the nature of meetings, non customers/guests are exposed to Amy.
Right now is also a great time to be in an AI space. Everyone wants to be in the know and talk about it, and given we are a very tangible real-life example of AI we tend to be talked about a lot.
What were some of the biggest challenges while building the product early on and how did you solve them?
Early on we decided that we needed to humanize Amy. So we gave her a name (first and last!), and we put some real energy into identifying her key character traits. You’ll notice she even has a LinkedIn profile. We did all of this for two reasons: we want both our hosts and guests to interact with Amy as they would a human assistant, which makes these interactions feel almost magically easy. And this has the added benefit of giving us good data on which to train Amy and make her smarter. We don’t believe people should have to use machine syntax to operate an intelligent agent, and if they attempt to, then their weird phrasings could mess up our data set.
Our biggest challenge continues to be getting Amy to understand human communications, which are notoriously ambiguous, even when we think we’re being clear. We’ve made tremendous progress but it’s a steep hill to climb!
What are top 5–10 products that you depend to run the company & how do you use them?
Amy@x.ai of course,G-Suite, Slack, AWS, GitHub. We use them exactly as you would expect. All of our tools are optimized for transparency and collaboration. We believe that it’s important for all team members to have access to information about what’s going at the company from code being pushed to recent financials and notes from executive meetings. These tools make that kind of immediate, honest, and thorough communication super easy. As we say in the x.ai pledge “I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of our team.”
Do you use x.ai and recommend them? You can do it here https://siftery.com/xai?recommend.