A couple of months ago, I reached out to the founder of an early stage startup regarding a potential business relationship. He seemed excited to talk, and told me his personal assistant would get in touch shortly.

My first thought was: "Man, all these bootstrapped companies and this guy's got a personal assistant?"

Sure enough, I quickly received an email from "Amy" with the following message:

Hi Justin,

Happy to get something on John's calendar.

Does Tuesday, Feb 10 at 11:00 AM EST work? Alternatively, John is available Tuesday, Feb 10 at 1:00 PM EST or Wednesday, Feb 11 at 11:00 AM.

What's the best number for John to call?

Nothing out of the ordinary, but then something got my attention. The email sign off looked like this:

Amy

Amy Ingram | Personal Assistant to
x.ai- artificial intelligence that schedules meetings

Hmm. Come again?

Turns out, Amy is completely virtual. Here's how it works:

You copy Amy on an email between you and your potential meeting partner. Amy reads the email, looks for date, time and place suggestions, and then continues the conversation directly with the other person. Once she (it?) finds a solution, she books the appointment in your calendar.

Amy belongs to x.ai, a company that builds and maintains artificially intelligent business solutions. CEO and founder Dennis Mortensen says he came up with the idea for x.ai after manually scheduling over 1,000 meetings in 2012, almost 700 of which had updates or needed to be rescheduled multiple times. The company is only a year old, but already boasts a small list of impressive investors (including FirstMark Capital and CrunchFund).

I'm not currently using Amy (you can add your email to a waiting list here if you're interested), but I can see plenty of potential benefits.

For example, since I live in Europe, arranging for meetings can sometimes be tricky. I had to iron out a few more details with Amy, and I made sure to use the same conversational language I would with any personal assistant. Amy dealt with the back and forth handily, using polite speech and...uh...patience? A kind tone? Wait a second. What's going on here?

For example, after receiving suggestions for meeting times, I wrote:

Hi Amy,

Let's try Tuesday, Feb 10 at 1:00 pm EST. Looking forward.

Amy then responded with:

Hi Justin,

Thanks for getting back to me.

What number should John call? Let me know and I'll send out an invite.

I guess you could say I'm an Amy fan. As for the startup I reached out to, well, that's a different story. Amy's "boss" was late for our first appointment, and a bit difficult to work with. Needless to say, we didn't partner up.

There are some things even a great personal assistant can't help with--artificial or not.

Published on: Mar 24, 2015
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