Anyone is building a marketplace for advice, one 5-minute call at a time – TechCrunch


Story by: Natasha Lomas TechCrunch » Startup

Everyone, an audio app that creates a “marketplace for advice” with a five-minute phone call, is bringing new versions of their iOS and Android apps onto the market today * and starts onboarding to a limited extent after operation on a large scale. Closed beta for the last six months.

The app – which was founded around 18 months ago (i.e. before the pandemic) – has a simple premise: Advice is best given verbally, concisely and one-to-one, in a time-limited format.

Video is distracting and is difficult to fit into busy people's schedules. Texts are time consuming and prone to misunderstandings. But a simple phone call can – quickly and sensibly – have an impact, so people think here.

Hence the decision to stop after a five-minute phone call. The app ends every call automatically after five minutes – no ifs, no buts (and hopefully also less time-consuming "Um" and "Ahs").

To finance the development of the marketplace, the team has raised a total of around 4 million US dollars so far – mainly consisting of a 3.6 million US dollar seed round that was created by Berlin-based Cavalry Ventures with the participation of Supernode Global, Antler and a number of high profile angel investors (contributing angels include Atomicos Sarah Drinkwater and Sameer Singh; and Matt & # 39; Mills & # 39; Miller from ustwo et al).

By and large, online audio has proven its resilience through an ongoing podcast boom and, more recently, a buoyant moment for social audio through developments such as Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces – reflecting a general feeling of pandemic-ridden "zoom" Talking Exhaustion ”as remote workers take full advantage of video calls at work but still crave meaningful connections with other people at a time when opportunities to meet in person are limited compared to pre-COVID-19 .

However, many social audio files can still be very loud, and everyone wants to be anything but. This is a short, topic-specific audio.

Why five minutes? It's short enough that a busy person almost doesn't have to think twice about taking a cold call from someone they've probably never spoken to before – while it's just long enough that in those 300 seconds some useful advice is distilled and can be passed one-to-one connection.

Of course, the short format does not allow group / conference calls. It's only one to one.

Every CEO also believes that this "intimate," short audio format could help promote diversity of advice by encouraging people, whose voices may be underrepresented in traditional mentoring forums, to be more comfortable with their time and to make their knowledge available to others. (He promotes a current 50:50 user distribution between men and women who offer specialist knowledge via the app – and 25% people of color.)

"It's not about taking long meetings and compressing them – it's about having conversations that would never have happened … and making them happen," says CEO and Co-Founder David Orlic, pointing out that Mainstream calendar apps have a default meeting window that is set to half an hour or an hour. So the broader thesis is that our current tools / infrastructures are simply not designed to help people give and take bite-sized advice. (And, well, anyone can claim to be an expert on the Internet – but of course you cannot rely on the quality of the "advice" that is freely floating around on the Internet.)

“Our belief is that there are many five-minute problems that we could solve – while there are many 30- or 60-minute problems for which solutions have already been developed. So we're building this for the talks that don't take place, ”he adds.

Orlic suggests that the intention is also to make everyone's callers a little hungry for more – to meet the demand for more five-minute calls and thus stimulate transactions across the market.

“If you look at the demand side – the callers – there are always multiple calls involved. So people are going to call a lot of people and basically ask them the same question or come up with ideas. And then they will combine these findings into something that is far more valuable than a single conversation, ”he continues. "So it's like building an advisory board."

The idea for the platform came after Orlic and his co-founders realized that they could trace important career decisions back to a handful of brief conversations – brief moments of consultation that ultimately profoundly influenced the course of their working lives, to the point where they looked back on them years later.

“None of us in the founding team had a network worth mentioning when we were growing up. And we had relatively few opportunities. Alfred comes from a small village in the middle of nowhere in Sweden, I grew up in an immigrant family and Sam is a working class guy from Leeds. And when we look back on our careers, we could trace them back to those handfuls of conversations – those random moments when someone gave us critical advice, ”he told TechCrunch. "For them it was just another five-minute chat, but for us it was life-changing."

“For Alfred, it was a bit of advice on how to get a job at Google that he managed and spent almost a decade working on Google Chrome and other things as a growth man; to Sam it was how to start a company; for me it was the suggestion that I should do an MBA as a creative – which I eventually did. So we began to think long and hard about the concept of counseling and were obsessed with opening up these closed networks. ”

The goal of Everyone's Marketplace is to make similar crucial moments accessible to all types of people – by giving users of the app the option to call any expert vendor on the network (assuming they can afford the fee) and theirs Ask a question.

A slogan on his website asks "Imagine you could call anyone in the world" – which is certainly a poetic-sounding moon shot to shoot at, even though the size of the user base is far from that global vision is removed at this early stage.

"What we are building is really the telephone directory of the future," says Orlic, adding his elevator pitch to our ~ 30-minute telephone conversation. "We are building a place for unique 5-minute one-on-one experiences – which is really different from most social radio plays."

He points to a trend that other apps are deliberately setting boundaries in order to modify / define the user experience in behavior-shaping ways (like Poparazzi, a self-proclaimed "anti-Instagram" photo sharing app that doesn't You can take selfies so you can take more pictures of your friends and vice versa; or the Thursday dating app, which limits users to one active day of use per week to prevent endless swipes and nudge matches to an actual personal date).

The marketplace component of Any’s app is of course another deliberate restriction. Calls are not free of charge by default.

Putting a price on everyone's personal advice is a way to weed out dubious (or even abusive) users from those who sincerely seek the expertise of others on certain topics.

But primarily it is there to create an incentive for people who have worthwhile specialist knowledge to make themselves available for cold calls (even very brief ones) from strangers / people outside their existing network of contacts.

The prices for a five-minute call are set "anonymously" by the users. So the call fee can vary from nothing (if the user hands out a free voucher code) to $ 5 or up to $ 500 (!), Which sounds pretty expensive. However, Orlic Notes users can choose to donate their fee to a charity if they do not want to financially benefit from the advice they hand out (so there may be cases where a high fee has a philanthropic component).

With such highly variable fees, the app needs to have a good security mechanism in place to reconfirm that a user really wants to charge the specific fee. (And, God forbid, to avoid the risk of the butt … 😬)

"When you are trying to connect with someone, I think it is reasonable to taste the scarcest resource on the planet that is someone's undivided attention," argues Orlic, suggesting that many mainstream technologies are transitory Confuse 'access' with attention. “We have access to people everywhere – we can listen to them, read them, follow them. But that's not the same as attention … a person's undivided attention is a remarkable, remarkable thing. And the five-minute limit forces you to be very clear and to the point of what you want to talk about. "

With its intentionally attention-grabbing infrastructure – which manages ephemeral contacts in precisely measured and billed units – "you suddenly have all these conversations that would not have taken place thanks to this manageable type of connection with people", is the claim.

Every user who wants to register on the marketplace to sell personal advice must create a profile showing their availability for answering calls and some basic details (name, career details, location, etc.) determining their five- Minute fee.

You must also provide details of the “topics of conversation” on which you are happy to provide advice.

The profile of co-founder Alfred Malmros includes examples such as: “Take the plunge. Quitting a dream job to do it alone ”; "Rising Fast in a Large Organization – Politics vs. Talent"; and “It takes a fool to be sane. Successful as an employee ”- the topic management should not only be specific, but perhaps also convey an impression of the personality of the individual in order to help those seeking advice to decide whether they want to spend five minutes of this person's time.

The risk of scammers or poor quality advice is controlled by a "review and review" that all consultants must go through before they can sell, according to Orlic. "Beyond the review, we've put a lot of work into making sure everyone understands everyone, what constitutes good advice, how to avoid projection and bias in conversations, etc.," he adds.

The platform also contains a rating system – again in an effort to maintain quality across the market.

Everyone's early adopters are a mix of creators, founders, and investors – including many first and second founders as you might expect, according to Orlic, with the pandemic providing limited personal startup networking opportunities.

He also says that mid-career they attracted a lot of people looking for advice on how to quit their jobs and get into something entirely new – again, likely fueled by the pandemic which has many things surrounding ours Reconfigured way of working (and, more generally, how we can think about work-life balance).

"When you make such a big life decision, you really want to get in touch with a lot of people and ask around", he suggests to the interest of established professionals who are looking for advice on a career change. "In addition, I would argue that there is a high willingness to pay when you are in this position."

“Businesses are a huge marketplace for advice,” adds Orlic, noting that a record number of companies were launched last year. "Investors – by the way – love that for the deal flow, because they can meet many founders more quickly and then choose who to continue with."

Parents are another community of early users he highlights – who say they both offered and solicit advice during the early testing phase. One of the best pieces of advice he's had personally through the network, he says, was a conversation about parenting, adding, “I've had some really in-depth conversations with other fathers. People who know a lot more about parenting than I do – who have given me real actionable advice and support. That was a big deal for me personally. "

Orlic also says he's excited about the potential in mental health – and suggests that the short format might be helpful in getting people to have conversations about therapy that she's so snappy and limited, may not be an intimidating introduction to receiving more sustained support.

He also mentions that he is enthusiastic about the potential of civil society to use the platform as a tool for promoting public engagement and raising awareness of issues and campaigns.

Appropriately, Any's team operated dogfooding by using the app to get advice on building the startup. (Orlic admits he asked someone on the network how to get TechCrunch's attention and was advised by the unnamed investor to showcase this reporter – so it sounds like he got some solid advice there;)

The app had around 1,000 test users during the closed beta phase – with around 12,000 on the waiting list that Orlic says will be taking on board in the coming weeks.

The network structure – that is, the expansion of the user base on both the expert and the demand side – will clearly be a central challenge here. (And in particular Orlic emphasizes the network effects expertise of his angel-backer Singh.)

Any five-minute format can be snappy enough to encourage users to share good experiences they have had on the platform in their (broader) social charts on popular social networks. Although the calls themselves between the two interlocutors must certainly remain private, there are some hard limits for the viral distribution of app content.

(At the time of writing, a link to Everyman's Privacy Policy wasn't working, so we asked to confirm the privacy of calls – and Orlic told us, “All calls in the new app are fully e2e-encrypted and there is no way to overhear an ongoing conversation. For the safety of the user, calls are recorded, anonymized and stored in a secure environment for a maximum of 30 days. In the event that a user reports a certain call in the app and requests a refund, or when an advisor on harassment or other serious problems Draws attention to problems, we can deal with them sustainably. "

At the same time, it is not difficult to imagine a platform like Twitter (or indeed LinkedIn) that sees value in offering a similar one-to-one function for user calls – and anchoring it as a function in an established network, extensive social graphs have already been set up in the user. So if anyone's idea really takes the risk of cloning down, the risk of cloning could become very real – meaning that building / growing the network with attention to the quality of the community it is building and innovations in Must bring harmony to keep its users happy (inevitable.). smaller) network.

In a statement in support of the app, Claude Ritter, managing partner at Cavalry Ventures, said: “What sets Any apart from other audio apps is the quality and connection of the 1: 1 advice. The team recognized the potential of audio and the advent of the creator economy long before the hype. We are impressed by what they have achieved so far and by their mission to build the telephone directory of the future. ”

According to Orlic, around 9,000 five-minute calls have been made through Everyone's platform to date – who says the target they will shoot at if they open up now is to get 100,000 calls within a year .

The business model initially provides for a simple 20% reduction in the consulting fee.

On the fees side, there is also the possibility that things will get bumpy once the concept gets going – as platform giants are known to take a predatory approach to pricing when trying to take on the creator-supporting competition from newbies on their own Close fist -following clones. (See, for example, Facebook's recent entry into the offer of a newsletter platform – for which authors are paid upfront for contributions and, at least initially, no cuts in their subscriptions are made.)

It is clear that everyone needs to pay special attention to the quality of the advice and community they are building. It may even be necessary to serve certain niches and specialties in order to take advantage of the differentiation from larger, more generalist networks that have the advantage of a larger user base should they decide to switch to the same "quick call" site.

At the same time, there is evidence that some of the craze for social audio fades to a hmm when the hype subsides and app users get tired of all the noise. But that's also why anyone who intentionally keeps the audio page short looks smart.

"We feel part of a movement that is rebuilding the Internet as we know it and creating something more sustainable and healthier – and really creating value," Orlic says of the changing landscape around social apps. “Closed social is a topic that I'm very enthusiastic about. We have seen this with Slack channels and WhatsApp groups for years. We've seen social isolation for a lot of different reasons – and with Geneva and lots of new, really cool startups and platforms, we see everything focused on communities. People build communities around specific industries and then monetize them in different ways. So we are definitely a part of this wave.

"Many of our most active users are people who have built an audience on a particular topic and want more meaningful connections to that audience – the Substack writers who use us to connect with their existing readers as well as also attracting new superfans if you will, because if you've had a five minute chat with someone and then log in to read their Substack, after that kind of intro you'll read everything they write, so we're definitely one Part of this closed society, but as a company we're a marketplace – we're obsessed with the idea that someone's undivided attention is a very scarce resource and that we see the "cameoification" of anything and everything. And it will stay. "

“Monetization – in a way – sounds like a really stark and cynical concept, but at the end of the day we want people to build income streams from things they are passionate about and know a lot about. It's a wonderful, wonderful thing at the end of the day, ”he adds. “A creator middle class is a very exciting concept because if we look at all the big platforms and old social media, we know where the money is going – it goes to the top 0.1% of influencers and creators. While small and medium-sized creators do not make money to feed on their passion. For that, you have all of these cohort-based courses through Maven. And platforms like us that enable people to connect directly to one another in a one-to-one environment.

“We think it's very cool that we're doing an idiosyncratic, one-on-one, five-minute audio-only platform because that gives us a unique positioning. And that excites the team. To see how these stories come out of it – and these stories wouldn't come out of it if it were just another show or a clubhouse. "

It is, of course, no small irony that it was precisely because of the proliferation of mobile connectivity and apps – which have added value by giving people on-demand access to so much data (and people) – that the traditional "quick" call has been derailed, creating conditions where a startup feels that there is an opportunity to build a dedicated marketplace for scheduled quick calls. (However, one that aims to scale up to a much wider network that the average person had in their phone book in the 1980s, for example.)

But as software and connectivity continue to eat up the world, forcing technical upgrades and reconfiguring learned behavior, it is clear that the resulting disruption can create the right conditions for new tools to repackage some of the old convenience – which maybe a bit lost in the noise.

* App Store Review, The Gods Are Ready


Story continues…

Source References: TechCrunch » Startup