Meet Amy, an AI Enabled Assistant
X.AI, the creator of the personal smart assistant “Amy” is one example of a company that’s built its entire business model on “digitizing” how administrative tasks are carried out and disrupting the role of personal assistants. Traditionally, when two people want to schedule a meeting, they may go back and forth, looking for times that work, optimizing for attributes like timing, location, etc. Users looking to schedule a meeting through Amy AI can now simply add Amy to their email chains, at which point Amy will email the user’s guest on the chain with suggested times.1 The user can then go back and forth with Amy to find a time that works, and once an agreeable time is selected, Amy AI will automatically send a calendar invite to both parties. 1
For X.AI, it’s hoping to monetize this service offering to businesses by expanding access to a personal administrative assistant to a wider range of employees, given traditionally only more senior positions in a company had personal assistants. X.AI’s value proposition is centered around increasing productivity and cost savings. On the productivity front, tasks like scheduling can now be an afterthought, taking up less mindshare and removing yet another low-value add task for the user. According to X.AI’s rough estimation, a user today can spend as much as 10 hours per month on scheduling meetings. 2 The cost savings for users will come from the tradeoff between paying X.AI $39 – $59/month2 for a license to use Amy AI, and potentially replacing multiple FTEs that currently help users with administrative tasks. Furthermore, the reduction in time alone translates to about $700/month per person. 2
Is the Future Bright? And for Whom or What?
While Amy AI may sound like a great piece of technology that can potentially save us a lot of time, and also take on more tasks in the future as it evolves, the dark side to this (depending on who you ask) may be a widespread replacement of human administrative assistants and secretaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 4 million jobs within the “Secretaries and Administrative Assistants” occupation, earning a median income of $36,500 per year.3 Salaries alone from this occupational group are almost $150 billion. 3 Suppose these jobs in the future were replaced with smart assistants like Amy AI, the new “operating cost” to run on AI assistants will be about $3 billion (assuming the $59/month subscription). 2 Of course this is some rough math and assumes that Amy AI can carry out all the tasks that human assistants do at the current price point. But if this is where the trend is going, we can see an entire occupational function wiped out, raising questions about unemployment, the skills gaps, and public/social costs.
Skeptics may question how widespread Amy AI can get in an organization because it just schedules meetings. And the fact of the matter is administrative assistants do more for an organization that just manage calendars. However, one of the key thesis of any AI technology is that over time it will learn, in this case about a user’s habit, and for X.AI this data can drive the company’s future functionality design for their product. Amy AI may only be able to schedule meetings today, but tomorrow it may be able to help you book travel and/or help you take phone messages as well. Furthermore, we already see a rise in smart assistants aiming to take more administrative tasks off of a user’s plate. Some examples include Ozlo, an AI-enabled chatbot that helps users find restaurants, and Mezi, a personal shopping assistant.4
The Business Case: What else for X.AI
X.AI is still a relatively young company, having only raised Series B funding of $23 million in April 2016. Some speculate that the company is only worth about $100 million in valuation, a tiny amount compared to the lights of Google, Amazon, etc. 5
Moving forward, I think X.AI should accelerate its product development to include more productivity based functionalities such as booking conference rooms, booking travel / lodging, ordering dinner, etc. Given the competitive landscape and multiple startups coming online to compete in this space, wider functionality can be a point of differentiation. Additionally, X.AI should also expand the functionality of its free offering to users (non-business) to build out greater scale and leverage data from users to inform future product development. Having a large dataset can help X.AI and Amy’s underlying AI technology/algorithms become smarter as data and more usage are key inputs to how quickly Amy can “learn”.
Word Count: 762