New York is overrun with on-demand startups.
Before San Francisco even wakes up, I can Wunwun my morning coffee, Postmates a fresh juice, Uber or Lyft a car to work, schedule lunch with Seamless, clean my apartment with Handy, get a desk massage with Priv, ship a package with Shyp, and the list goes on…. After a long day’s work, I can order groceries with Instacart, do my laundry with FlyCleaners, Minibar some ice-cold cider, retrieve something I forgot at work with Uber Rush, and even Push for Pizza if lifting a finger to cook proves too tiresome.
I don’t live this way. I don’t know anyone who lives this way. But if I didn’t have to deal with the logistics of it all — managing my orders, timing them just right, and remembering which app does what best — maybe I would use enough on-demand services for them to pile up a bit.
Alfred, a personal assistant service, aims to solve this sort of on-demand bloat: Today the company launched in New York and announced a $2 million seed round led by Spark Capital.
“It’s a little bit of a psyche that we feel outsourcing is us being lazy,” Alfred chief executive Marcela Sapone told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “There’s a societal thing that makes it hard to ask for help … but for 80 percent of people, it’s not at all about a place of laziness.” According to Sapone, users “don’t want to have 20 apps for everything [they’re] doing. Let’s just have one be an ally to you,” she said.
For Alfred, the first major barrier to growth may be its price; the company charges a steep $100 per month for a service which essentially needs a new category of users wishing to automate more aspects of their lives.
Even if the company can grow a strong user base, it’s still easy to criticize Alfred’s role as a middleman (a startup-for-startups). Sapone has an answer for that, too:
“The middleman to the middleman — I can appreciate that, but we’re also linking in services that are local services that would not get customers any other way. I don’t actually think it’s a ridiculous level of buffer. We’re just gluing the best services together to make the lives of our customers easier.”
For Alfred, it’s too early to tell if this operation is scalable. Alfred runs the same risks as companies like TaskRabbit — it could start with an incredibly diverse range of services, only to eventually consolidate them based on whatever’s most profitable. But for now, starting today, curious Manhattan and Boston residents can give the limitless, undoubtedly interesting service a try.