Founded in 2014, startup x.ai makes an artificial intelligence personal assistant who schedules meetings for you. Recently they have raised $23 Million Series B funding round led by Two Sigma Ventures. Below is our interview with Dennis R. Mortensen, CEO/Founder of x.ai:
Q: What is x.ai? Could you tell us x.ai’s startup story?
A: x.ai makes an AI 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.
Amy (and her brother Andrew) were born out of the pain I had when I was running my previous startup, Visual Revenue, which we sold to Outbrain in early 2013. Later that year, I had a bit more time on my hands, and I counted up all of the meetings I had scheduled in 2012. The total was 1,019 with 672 re-schedules, and I scheduled every single one myself. That’s painful. We know it takes upwards of 15 minutes and eight emails, on average, to set up a single meeting. That translated into about eight or nine very sad hours I spent every single week—usually in the evening at home—scheduling my meetings.
So I brought together my core team from Visual Revenue in late 2013 to start sketching out a rudimentary solution. We then raised a seed round of financing in April 2014 in order to figure out if meeting scheduling was a tractable problem. We launched our beta that month, and began scheduling meetings. Our goal was to collect and annotate enough scheduling related emails to understand whether AI could fully take over the job of setting up meetings.
As it turned out, it is a tractable problem. And over the past two years, Amy has scheduled hundreds of thousands of meetings and processed millions of scheduling related emails. We’ve since raised two additional rounds of financing and have expanded the team to 64.
Recommended: Tervela – Simplifying Digital Content Transfer And Migration
Q: Could you explain the function and advantages of x.ai personal assistant?
A: It’s our mission to democratize the personal assistant. Nearly 90 million US knowledge workers schedule roughly 10 billion meetings a year. Not one of those workers adds something meaningful to the process. In fact, most of us aren’t very good at it; 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. First, by taking over the job of scheduling your meetings from start to finish, Amy saves you time and aggravation. Even better, if both people trying to set up a meeting use Amy (or her brother, Andrew), she is effectively talking to herself. No humans participate in the scheduling conversation, and she can optimize for both parties.
Perhaps most importantly, because Amy is purely AI, we can make her accessible to everyone. Most knowledge workers would hire a human assistant to run their calendar if they could; however, at a cost of $50,000 per year in salary, they can’t afford to. Our pricing will be standard SaaS pricing. This puts a personal assistant within the reach of all of those 90 million US knowledge workers.
Recommended: Ampler Bikes – Takes You Further Without Breaking A Sweat
Q: What makes x.ai unique in the market?
A: There are really three elements that make x.ai unique. The first is that we are pure AI. Humans are not involved in meeting scheduling. As I noted, our pricing will reflect the fact that we are a SaaS product.
The second is that we’ve humanized Amy and Andrew, which was one of the first decisions we took. We then realized we couldn’t hand this task over to a bunch of engineers. Instead, we and created an entirely new role, AI Interaction Designer, to “own” and develop Amy’s voice. The woman who has had that role for the past 18 months is a Harvard graduate who studied folklore and mythology and produced and directed theater. She has spent much of her time figuring out how to phrase Amy’s responses. The tiniest word and punctuation choices can have a big impact on Amy’s personality. For example, if Amy were to use too many exclamation points, she might seem immature and overly casual, too few and she seems humorless.
Finally, we are committed to doing only one thing: scheduling meetings. We want to be exceptionally good at scheduling meetings and nothing else.
Q: You’ve recently raised a $23 million funding round, what are your plans?
A: We will be expanding our data science and engineering teams. We’ll also build out our customer acquisition team as we begin offering a paid version of the product come fall.
Recommended: CONSENSUS Raises $4.2 Million To Accelerate Its Growth
Q: How does the future look like for x.ai?
A: I see happy customers who have gotten hours back every week to focus on more meaningful tasks than playing email ping pong with colleagues and clients. And because the network effects are so powerful, I do see this as a winner takes all market, which means in my best vision of the future, Amy and Andrew are very, very busy.Activate Social Media: