“Text us to get whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you are – it’s really simple and cool,” says GoButler co-founder CEO Navid Hadzaad.
He could of course be describing Magic, the Silicon Valley startup (and Y Combinator alum) that offers an SMS-based virtual assistant and promises to get you anything on-demand.
Unlike Magic, however, GoButler is based in Berlin, Germany. Along with Hadzaad, who was previously co-founder of on-demand laundry app ZipJet, the company is founded by a number of other ex-Rocket Internet executives.
We can already see the traction and lock-in effects by relationships built with customers.
And whilst GoButler can be seen as a Rocket Internet-styled clone, in one aspect at least, it represents a very un-Rocket-like story: Hadzaad and his team launched GoButler in early March as a weekend project, but within 48 hours had quit their jobs at Rocket, raised seed funding, and saw the service receive 10,000 requests.
In fact, Hadzaad says that demand was so high that after only two hours the startup had to revert to a waiting list. Just three weeks later, GoButler is available in Canada, UK, Germany, Austria and Switzerland and has processed over 100,000 requests. Its now 30 ‘butlers’ are handling more than 5,000 requests per day.
“People love it. We can already see the traction and lock-in effects by relationships built with customers,” he says.
Like Magic, you simply send a text message to GoButler and the service’s ‘butlers’ — who act as virtual assistants — process your request, keeping you informed along the way. So, for example, you could have GoButler book a movie or order your favourite pizza.
“We want to make convenience services actually convenient and personal,” says Hadzaad. “We want to be the meta-aggregator layer above all vertical market services – online and offline. We are your one-stop-shop for everything you need.”
Interestingly,along with location, GoButler’s business model may diverge from Magic too. Aside from paying for the goods and services you request, GoButler itself is currently free to use (presuming you can get bumped up the waiting list in your respective country) and Hadzaad says the startup isn’t planning to change this anytime soon.
“The obvious part would be monetising on the customer end through premiums, but where we see the real value is on the supply side,” he says. “If you understand the way e-commerce and lead generation works, you understand what value this business has; some VCs are referencing “the future of search” in the discussions we have with them. The goal is to have customers going through us for whatever service, product or information they desire, and we’ll make it happen.”
That suggests some kind of affiliate revenue model. Or perhaps more direct partnerships with retailers and service providers. “The value you have when you’re the market maker on an aggregator level is very clear,” adds Hadzaad.
But how scalable is a service like GoButler? By its very nature it requires humans to act as your virtual assistant.
“You won’t be able to eliminate human interaction at some level (and quite frankly we don’t want that at all), however, you can generate a lot of efficiency gains by developing the Product/IT/Database to a high level of sophistication,” says Hadzaad.
“Think of it this way: in 6 months, when you tell us “I want my favourite pizza now. I’m at home” – we know what you’re favourite pizza is, we know where you live, we have your payment details. In the background, our integrated-API with our food delivery partner will trigger the order, the payment will automatically be processed and you’ll get a confirmation. Isn’t that convenient?”
Convenient, yes. And infinitely more attractive to VCs. To that end, GoButler is currently raising a Series A round that it expects to close in the coming weeks. The startup’s early backers, who invested a “six-digit-figure”, already include Jan Beckers (co-founder of HitFox), Cherry Ventures (the VC arm of Zalando/Quandoo founders’ Filip Dames, Christian Meermann and Daniel Glasner), and Gunther Schmidt (co-founder of Ekomi).
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