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Magic (getmagicnow.com)
1329 points by wittyphrasehere on Feb 22, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 528 comments

Besides questions about revenue and such, can I just say that I absolutely love the landing page. No gimmicks, no parallax, no videos, no fake testimonials, no hero images, no marquees. Just good copy.

Not sure if this is because of how quickly this blew up, but well done.

Thanks! Yeah, honestly, after deciding to launch this we released a really minimal landing page which I saved here: http://getmagicnow.com/index-old.html - As you can see I made that in about 20 minutes, and was not expecting this. After someone posted it on Product Hunt I spent whatever time I could polishing it up. In general though, I agree, simple websites are much better. Thanks for the kind words.

Hm, well here's a startling difference between the HN and Product Hunt community.

The PH comments:

  This website looks extremely untrustworthy, purely from a design standpoint. I feel a lot of potential users would be put off by this!

  Interesting idea. Terrible site design. Unclear if they're charging for this added convenience.

ProductHunt is just a useless hype machine for starts that don't hold any real value at all.

There are those that would say HN is no different.

Not true, Product Hunt delivers quality traffic, with high-level people who are hungry for products and convert very well.

> Not true, Product Hunt delivers quality traffic, with high-level people who are hungry for products and convert very well.

Are you a human being talking about other human beings, or a "market opportunity" about-talking "quality traffic" that "converts very well?" I should write a "quality traffic" bot with "good conversions," then post it on Product Hunt.

High quality SV echo chamber traffic.

I was under the impression a lot of people use it for idea generation/competitive intel & that (in marketing terms) PH is a (small) traffic/link hack...

In other words I'd be interested to find anything on the quality of its traffic.


We launched one of those landing-only email-catching product pitches on Product Hunt and Designer News. It went amazing. We never even topped #1, yet we got lots of useful feedback and more than five hundred emails of potential customers, some of them high-profile (think @google.com or @abc.com)

The quality is very high.

That commenter at PH could tell the original design took 20 minutes, and if you only have resources to allocate 20 minutes to a product page design, how good can the product be? I think there are more in this community would agree about the original design without completely writing off the product's potential.

This was pretty funny, actually. They saw the old version I mentioned above. I was surprised when someone posted it on there and I was actually glad that the reaction was lukewarm, because we didn't think we were ready to launch.

And then...boom.

Time to trade up the chain?

Well, I agree with it. "Anything you want, just give us your credit card number". No explanation of who they are or why I should trust them. Hell, they even accept Bitcoin!

While you have changed the copy and a few other things a little, I was quite amused at how people on ProductHunt considered it untrustworthy mostly through virtue of using Times New Roman rather than a nice Sans. An interesting example in the psychology of running counter to fashion..! :)

Not just the design. No Terms and Conditions, no incorporation, no IDs of owners/operators - really doesn't seem like a legitimate business (despite money being handled by Stripe).

That was my thought when I looked at index-old. It kind of makes it look like an early-mid 2000s website, as well as unfinished.

The typeface of the older design appears as Helvetica on OSX. Edit: realized this is likely due to changing the default font years ago, unbeknownst improving the experience of sites like these. New typeface is certainly an improvement either way.

Times in Chrome on OS X

How come you removed the part of the FAQ that mentioned your fee? I think everyone knows you have to charge one and we're totally cool about it. Did you just feel that subject was best saved for later in the signup process, or did you want to keep the door open for alternate means of revenue?

We noticed that people were more confused by the ambiguity of the nondescript fee, than us just saying that we'd tell you the total amount. You are right though, we do need to figure out a better way to explain this. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

"We quote you one simple price that includes everything: The goods, the delivery, any expected gratuity, all service charges including our own, and any applicable taxes and fees. What you see is what you pay."

Can they use that verbatim? Because they should.

Sure, consider it a gift. Now go forth and change the world. (Or at least the world of laziness.)

It's part of the secret sauce. If Magic is worth something, then so is knowing their numbers.

One thing is that it says chatting is free and there are no hidden fees. It doesn't say how much extra it is costing.

Tip is included.

I suspect just like the concierge at a hotel, the cut comes from the provider of the service (a dozen roses for 100 bucks - they can afford some affiliate fees from that)

If you visit the direct link: http://www.getmagicnow.com/access.php without adding an email address it still says that "You've been placed on the waiting list!". Simple error, but easy to fix so there is no confusion. Great service!

If you visit this link, you can pay them $5,000: http://getmagicnow.com/pay.php?p=500000

Payment pages should really be linked to an order ID of some sort, without which customers shouldn't be allowed to pay. Otherwise, lots of things can go wrong. Depending on how they have configured things on the server side, a customer could change the amount being paid and the system would consider the ticket paid, cheating them out of money. Or a customer could follow an old link and wind up paying twice if they thought it didn't go through the first time.

If you visit this link, they can pay you $5,000: https://magic.bettir.com/?p=-500000

Whoa, seriously? I'm going to guess you're joking since they probably implemented "customer order of amount x".

Edit: they've fixed this now.

I'm not joking, click on it and try to pay. It shows an invoice of ($5,000), a.k.a. $5000 negative dollars. I didn't enter real payment information to see what happens next because of really idiotic interpretations of what constitutes "hacking", but it is a really bad design choice on their part that took me about half a second to find.

Founder, if you're reading this: was this an in-house build or did you outsource this?

The answer is probably they spent around two days building this before demand grew left them zero time to improve infrastructure. Which is more or less good.

Less good? Infrastructure breaking because of load is one thing (concurrency/DB issues) but nothing like this should ever be exposed to the user on general principle.

Stripe doesn't let you send money to cards.

I'm glad to know Stripe's API is sane but you cannot ever rely on that when designing something like this!

Wait, what?

Great MVP, great focus. Few thoughts -

Make sure top phone # is tappable on mobile browsers.

Examples that don't make me question your ability to deliver - airline example seems to be hiding complexity (I question it as I read it), others really good

fyi, there's a typo in the FAQ: "we'll let you know the total price so you can confim"

Thank you. Fixed!

The font on the new page much better.

Is this available in Canada?

We can't do everything in Canada but we can definitely do some things. Try us.

Just take a look at Google's initial page when they started.

But how can you disrupt without parallax?

... And thanks. I thought I was the only one who thought the video fad was dumb. Now it's just a toll booth for getting a product presented, and I never watch them. How about others? Do you find videos actually useful or are they just glitz?

I hardly ever watch product videos. I'm usually in locations where It would be rude and I don't want to put in earphones just to find out what's going on. But I'm a curmudgeon, and may be an outlier.

I groan when my questions aren't answered in print on the page, I don't want to watch a video either.

I will happily join you in outlier-land. I want to be able to read - and quickly grok - what a product is about. Needing to watch a video to understand a product is a marketing fail, IMO.

We should form a club! We can have meeting where we show videos that we all ignore, while we chat over drinks.

I thought that was this site. :)

I'd join that too. I never liked videos that are just some person reading from a script. Just give me the script, I'd rather read it at my own pace and time, and I don't care if you really want to be youtube-famous.

When I want to know what a product does or how I might find it useful, I prefer text. I don't have to wait for a video to get to the point.

However, when I've decided to actually try it out, I find the video extremely useful as I expect it to demonstrate the onboarding process for me (ie how do I get started quickly).

thinking that everybody prefers reading is a typical programmer bias. A good number of people will prefer watching a video. Same with voice, most programmers prefer email or chat for work related discussion. Almost all the sales people I know would rather pick up the phone and sort the issue by talking.

Do both and you can cover both camps. Doesn't have to be as boring as a plain transcript, obviously.

(I very rarely watch videos and much prefer screenshots or descriptions.)

It's not about what people like but about what works.

I don't mind videos but I hate those non informative mood videos.

This site doesnt need video because the information is already there.

Most people can't watch video during work hour. We should always treat video as 'optional extra'.

Case in point, technical support/call center and room where you're constantly 'monitored'(NASA control room/datacenter NOC etc).

Glitz IMO.

Annoying glitz too if they include information in the videos that isn't in text form on their website. Videos play at one speed, I can't fast forward the video if I'm a faster "video-watcher" like I can with reading. And if I'm on a VPN I'd rather avoid loading the video altogether if I can avoid it, which is what my browser plugins are for.

Well, perhaps I could just watch the videos faster, interesting thought experiment.

if youtube in focus on chrome, then shift+> for faster playback

> Do you find videos actually useful or are they just glitz?

If I'm legitimately interested in a service and want to know how it works, sure, but if I just want a quick overview to decide if I'm interested I'd rather have something simple like some text and images.

I don't have time to watch a video for every thing I look at. Give me text that can processed in seconds, not video that takes minutes.

It's extremely rare for me to indulge a linear narrative when I'm looking for information.

My vote goes for the short 1-minute video with understandable presentation of how the product works and solves my problem rather than reading paragraphs of text.

Its also refreshing that afore mentioned good copy got right to the point and told us what they do. No silly vaguenesses about a coming awesome product that they never really describe and then some email sign-up so that they can notify you when they actually have something to sell you.

Just what they can do for me right now. Hat's off. Good luck.

+1 no giant full-width+full-height responsive image

Okay this looks really interesting! And with no full-width+full-height responsive image, I can proceed... it's something different, something not exactly 100% what you would expect...

So intriguing... so what, dear MagicMan, is it? Would you kindly answer dear Sir, because I'm uncertain, and curiously in need of an answer before I text myself down the rabbit hole...


I love the idea, and the execution, but just one nit -- you say "no hidden fees", but I think bundling the fee into the total price is the definition of a hidden fee. If your examples itemized the fee it would be a different story. Other comments here express a similar anxiety, e.g. how much [extra] am I actually paying for this?

Also, I know you're busy, but FYI CA state law requires you have a Privacy Policy. I would like to know how long you retain records and who you are sharing them with before doing business with you!

When you're using a concierge service is not the time to pinch pennies.

Corollary: When you're pinching pennies is not the time to use a concierge service.

The whole point of a concierge service, such as this, is to have someone on call to whom you may say "Here is my problem. Make it go away." Such services generally come at a much higher rate than Magic appear to be charging.

I hope their business model is to provide sane-cost concierge.

I think there's a fallacy here . . .

Is there, though?

Sure, it'd be preferable to have a full fee schedule available, for cases where it's needed. But, given that using a concierge service is perhaps the definitive case of spending money to conserve time; given also that this is a side project which has suddenly blown up in its creators' faces; and given finally that said creators appear to be working unbelievably hard to scale it up and out to meet the demand they've discovered -- given all that, I think it's pretty unreasonable to shit on the people who've made concierge service cheaper and more accessible than ever before because, in scrambling to meet unexpected demand, they have yet to get around to polish. Give them a month or two to get everything shaken out, and if they still haven't put up any fee information, then go after them. Until then, calm yourself; you are, after all, free not to use their service, if it fails to meet your requirements.

Well it's not hidden because they tell you up front, before the order is placed, how much it will cost. If they told you $20 and asked for $25 when they got there, that would be a hidden fee. Like AT&T saying you can get cable for $20/mo, but your cable bill always ends up being $32.88.

Charging more than you say is not a 'hidden fee' it is fraud. Hiding the fee in the total price is exactly a 'hidden fee'.

To this point, look at @exogen's extremely helpful demo of the service he posted. Can you tell how much the fee was? I was curious, so I actually went to Octo Sushi's site and tried to mock up a fake similar order, and I couldn't figure out if there even was a fee added on top of Octo's price or not.

The minimum order is 25$, not including tax, and I don't know if that includes the delivery charge. So the final Octo Sushi price has a minimum of around $27.50-30.00.

Getting someone to push back on ATT bill errors would be an amazing feature if Magic could make it work.

We're happy to call ATT on your behalf :) Try us out!

The last time I had a problem with ATT I had to make multiple calls and spent over an hour in total on hold. How would you charge for that?

I'd have gladly paid for someone to take that pain away. There's probably a viable business model in there somewhere if someone can independently put a competent customer service layer in front of companies like ATT.

There's a service that will negotiate with them to reduce your bill. I remember reading about them last year, it's some Berkeley MBA who likes to practice negotiation, he might handle this too:


This looked quite interesting and useful right up until it asked me if I /really/ wanted to close the page.

That's very poor negotiation in my books.

This would actually make a lot of sense if you could detect when a call came off hold. A small pool of operators could deal with calls as soon as the operator on the other end becomes available.

And if they're all busy, they could put ATT on hold. That I would love to do, even if they just immediately went on to the next call.

Do you have the authority/credentials to make customer service calls on my behalf? Like if I wanted a refund on my flight or wanted to reduce the cost of my ISP payments?

I would love to see a report on how this, or something like this went. That really would be a valued service. Whether the value is set high enough is a very good question. Transaction costs are very low so that provides more leeway.

There's potentially high value add in exactly these tasks. Dealing with the workflow in large companies is something that takes a lot of mental energy, and a company that could produce a strong workflow to stay on top of it and drive it could be far more efficient at it than most of us. And it's something you'd be glad to pay for.

The fact that there is a fee is hidden though.

Although after thinking about it I disagree with your post, I had the same initial impression.

I think it is because the wording of the texts make it seem like they are quoting the price of the service you are requesting, but the quote actually includes their fee. There's nothing wrong with that, but for some reason I didn't realize it on first read -- maybe a small wording change can make this more clear.

I take "hidden fees" to mean asterisks. That is, offering something for $10 and adding 7% for tax, a $1 service charge, 10¢ convenience fee, 5¢ concierge vetting fee... you get the picture.

They could make everyone happy by switching "hidden" to "extra"

I think "extra" means wrong things though.

Perhaps it should be something along the lines of "final price exactly as quoted including tip, nothing more" the key being that they aren't one of those services (like so many others) that advertise one price and charge you another.

"no hidden fees" is a recognizable meme though, and being pedantically correct is perhaps – and this is a pedantic concern – not as valuable as the phycological grab of that phrase.

Well, they're showing Magic being used for a lot of delivery services where the deliverer will expect a tip, so it seems like there is a hidden fee in the same sense...

Unless they're working out something with the provider where the third party will not expect a tip, which would be a miracle.

Edit: I stand corrected. Someone quotes the site as having:

> It's completely free to chat with Magic. When you order something, we'll let you know the total price so you can confim it before you are billed. There are no hidden fees, and tip is included.

The price that they quote you is the only fee. It's up to you to decide if it is worth it.

> CA state law requires you have a Privacy Policy

Who does that apply to? Companies based in CA? Companies doing business with anyone in CA?

Interesting. I'm not sure I understand how California can make laws regulating companies in any part of the world.

There is fairly length set of rules and case law governing all of this. The short version is that if your company is engaged in business with Californians, there's a decent chance that California law applies to you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_contacts

This isn't entirely unique to California by the way (although California is notable for reaching further than other U.S. states). For instance, there's a famous case (or series of cases) concerning the application of French law to Yahoo with respect to activity taking place on U.S. servers but accessible to French users. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LICRA_v._Yahoo!

On a practical level, if you're worried about California law, you should consider if you have any people or resources located in California. Or in the U.S. generally. Or if you plan to expand to California at some point. It's one thing to break California law. It's another to have any assets that California can go after.

They can't, but if you make CA mad and they decide to sue you, you'll be out much more than it would've cost to just copy and paste a boilerplate privacy policy. A great deal of legal mechanics work this way -- sure, someone can't technically make that kind of mandate, but since it costs a lot of money and time to have a court case where that kind of thing gets proven, you're better off just making sure no one even tries.

Pretty much any civil action is similar. Unless it's on a massive scale, ask a lawyer what you should do when someone appears intent on pushing a frivolous copyright suit on you. Sure, you have every right to use that content, but do you have the tens of thousands of dollars (minimum) and months or years in court to prove it? It's practically always easier to just accept that you've been bullied out of exercising your rights and replace the contested content with something that the claimant won't launch a frivolous suit over. Lawsuits are only worthwhile when the workaround is more expensive, which is often a hard standard to meet -- that's why most cases end in settlement.

Bad idea: Giving legal advice without a license.

Worse idea: giving incorrect legal advice without a license.

Jurisdiction is complex. With the Internet, you do not need to have a physical location somewhere to do business there.

Fortunately for us, no reasonable person would construe my generalities as "legal advice".

>With the Internet, you do not need to have a physical location somewhere to do business there.

Although this is true, the rule of thumb has generally been that sites are governed by the rules of the principality where their servers reside, because it's the only effective or practical way to determine jurisdiction in a worldwide network. (It's likely that most websites have something hosted in CA, by the way).

I agree that this issue can become complex, but it's really only a side note to the intent of the post, which is that under our current legal structure, people are regularly bullied by plaintiffs that make exercising legal rights and obtaining justice much more costly than just complying with their original demands. The privacy policy thing is just one example of this.

It would be more worthwhile if you pinpointed what exactly the poster said that's incorrect. At least one place in their post, they suggested consulting a lawyer, so I'm pretty sure no one's construing that post as Official Legal Advice.

I'm not a lawyer, so I could just be talking out of my ass, but it annoys me to read uninformative "you are not a lawyer" comments, as though people who are not lawyers are wholly unqualified to even informally discuss law on a message board. Of course it's true that anybody who takes serious business action on account of dubious message board advice is a fool, whether that's legal, medical, financial, tax, or otherwise.

The core problem is that practicing law without a license is illegal. That actually is a pretty low standard to accidentally break unless you read and re-read your posts to make sure every statement is non-specific enough. I am perfectly qualified to discuss law (I took several law classes in my life, several from a top-4 law school) but I don't do it, since a post like this takes an obscene amount of time relative to a normal post. The same is true of many qualified non-lawyers on the Internet, so most of the people who do comment are either sufficiently clueless about the law to not know they shouldn't, confident of anonymity, Ina different jurisdiction, or similar.

In this case, there are many issues (indeed, most of what idiot wrote is not correct), but to give one: op is taking money from people in different states, placing orders with delivery services there, etc. Contrast that with idiot's statement about no jurisdiction and frivolous lawsuits.

Doesn't stop them trying.

When you pay at the restaurant you don't know about the extra of putting it together, and so I don't think they're morally obligated, but it's certainly controversial and something to think about.

A magician never reveals their secrets...1st rule of magic.

Hey everyone - this is insane. My friends and I created Magic a few days ago as a side project and it's completely blown up by accident since then. We're getting stormed with messages and orders.

We thought we'd launch it ourselves later if it did well, and other people have been posting it on Product Hunt, Reddit, HN themselves...

I'm here to answer any questions, although we've hardly slept!

So I used to use something like this with Amex's concierge service. Like getting a Wii on release day, or getting a gift somewhere.

I stopped using them after this bad experience. I asked them to send about $100 of good chocolate as a gift, and they just sent a $10 bar, 10 times. Duh.

Anyways, I felt a very good sensation looking over this. Probably because it's just such a PITA to do things like order pizza. Gotta talk to people, decline sales questions, etc. What a relief to not have to deal with that day-to-day stuff. Or just going out to the store or grabbing lunch before the place closes. A personal assistant I pay on demand for anything? Sweet.

Probably because it's just such a PITA to do things like order pizza

Is this sarcasm? I can't see how wrangling an order through an intermediary is easier than just ordering from the local pizzeria's website.

Not to mention that it takes a non-trivial time to confirm - in exogen's example above, it was 69 minutes plus delivery time. Small questions about relatively trivial things really drag out that confirmation time.

What?? No, not sarcasm at all, I'm dead serious.

Often I'm just on my phone at night, no tablet/laptop. So say I want to get some food. I've got to go find the damn website. Remember a login maybe. Or deal with some JS-laden thing that doesn't render smoothly on my 6" Android. Sort all that shit out. Wonder if I have cash for a tip, cause I feel obligated most times.

Or calling. I gotta actually dial, talk to someone. Deal with all their questions if I want combos or the offer and I'll save $2 if I just say yeah, and what's my phone number and address again?

I realise I should get over this. That I'd do better in life (especially if I'm gonna sell my own software) if I got more comfortable just calling people and telling them what to do.

Meanwhile, I'm already imagining how awesome this is gonna be next time I'm in SF. I leave the office, start walking home. Text Magic and say "hey get me some X from Y". Get home and unpack my mind and someone comes and gives me food.

If it's an hour confirmation time, that's not as magic, but it's not a show-stopper. With less coordination than making the order myself, I can just pipeline things to work out.

Perhaps this reflects badly on me or is a commentary on society or laziness or I dunno. But I'm pretty fucking happy to imagine I can have someone else unlock the city for me if I'm not feeling up to it.

Here's how sick I am: I would order lunch via this every day, versus trying to get myself to go at the right time. Not too early because of the lines, but not too late because then they run out of good stuff or close. But I should probably get out a bit more so I won't use it every day just because of that. Otherwise I totally would. Hell, if they are streamlined enough, I'd even do it to order a cup of frozen yogurt (I'd probably pay $15-20 twice a week for delivery alone). I do prefer to get out and walk and take breaks, but sometimes it just doesn't work out, or it's too far, or whatever lameass excuse.

Agree generally, but I do wonder why in 2015 this has to be driven manually by humans. I understand we're flexible decision makers, but we're also a significant cost in these sorts of processes. I can appreciate this definitely follows the "do things that don't scale" line.

If there was a standard by which browsers stored payment and delivery details, a little beefed up from what we have now, would that get us part way? And then an endorsed way of interacting with an ordering system that can answer questions by default (no newsletter signup, no insurance, no warranty, default shipping, etc).

Loads of security issues, but we're going to have to solve this sort of thing eventually.

>If there was a standard by which browsers stored payment and delivery details, a little beefed up from what we have now, would that get us part way?

Isn't that basically the idea of PayPal or Amazon Payments and similar things?

I'm pretty sure Google Chrome has an API hidden away for payment info. Google seems to market it towards ecommerce developers (that's how I found out about it), but I can't find my documentation on it. Plus it's not on track for any sort of standardisations.

If you look at exogen's example, there was the same back-and-forthing that you get on the phone or with a website. Need to spend $11 more for delivery? exogen made it easier and said "surprise me", but if he didn't, cue a back-and-forth over what would make up enough of an extra order.

Alternatively, what if exogen wasn't willing to increase the order price by 50%? Back to the drawing board for another round at a different shop. It seems like a slow way to get food unless you're particularly laid back about pricing and what arrives, or you know exactly what's available at the shops you want to source from.

I imagine I'm gonna setup Magic. Then before I'm packing up to go home, I'm gonna text "Get me a lamb korma, hot, and some naan from Little Delhi, cost + $12 for delivery is fine". Then they're gonna say "ok, btw total is $25". By the time I get home and change, ding-dong food's here.

Of course, it'll depend on their execution. They're gonna have to keep a reputation of not totally ripping me off, like Amazon. With Amazon, I don't ever, ever, price compare. If I was gonna buy a 256 GB SSD and Amazon said it was $300, I'd go "well shit, I guess they went up" and that's that. If they keep abusing me, I'll figure it out, so keep the abuse low, and if I get pissed off, comp me and make me feel special.

There's no reason Magic needs to be slow and involve lots of back and forth so long they don't give me a reason to distrust them.

Edit: But you're right. If it's always slow, always back-n-forth, always weird pricing I need to check, then it wouldn't be great. So I'm just gonna hope they do a good job.

In your home town, it's probably not a big deal. But if you're travelling in random towns, I could definitely see this being useful. Bonus points if you can tie it into a 'what's cool to do around here right now' service. Or 'what's the best craft beer place near here'. That kinda thing.

Whoa, I've never used my concierge benefit and didn't even think about it on hard to get items like console launches.

How did that go? Do they just find you a scalper and you pay the overcharge, or do they find you one at retail price on launch day?

In general it was fairly reasonable. On the console, they managed to find a store not too far away that had stock and reserved it for me. No fee. Their travel agency also seemed pretty useful.

Best concierge thing was going to a packed restaurant, told it'd take a long time without reservations, making a call and turning around to "right this way". No fee from Amex. They really wanna sell the flattery/status idea to get you spending more and feeling the $450/$5000 annual fees are worth it.

Curious -- what card do you have and what restaurant was this? I'm wondering how often this works.

FWIW Amex Business Platinum card holder here. Their Concierge got us a reservation for 6 people at 8 pm, at the French Laundry, the next day.... That's as close to magic as I've ever seen.

I had Platinum and the option of the Centurion (black). People I know with Centurion cards actually just don't use them that much after an initial "fun" period of showing off. Using them at clubs, for instance, is just a great way to get extra charges thrown in, since people will guess you aren't carefully reviewing your statement and have extra money.

OTOH if you don't mind coming off as a dick, you can pull out a Centurion card and try to bully/bluff people with a "don't you know who I am" kinda deal. Though I did love the one time a friend tried this and the clerk just laughed and said "we don't take Amex". Also, other banks are issuing "Black" cards so there's a lot of people trying this not even being Amex holders.

Centurion used to come with more benefits, but they've been pulling them back and making it more of a show-off "I'm so elite" kind of thing. (A big blow was losing Continental elite status, since United is Chase's bitch.) They're building out airport lounges now to help compensate. And in Toronto Pearson, because Canada is just so incompetent, airlines don't have faster lines for security, just Air Canada and Amex. Rather annoying if you're a United 1K or otherwise paid for first class. That's probably the only reason I'd consider getting an Amex card again.

Nowadays, even random VISA cards will have concierge services, because it's fairly cheap, underused, yet makes people feel special. And for the cost of a Platinum card ($495 for primary, then $195 I think) you can use a lot of other services. And Centurion cards were $5000/$2500. I think you could just carry $5000 in cash and get the same kind of "respect".

(I haven't used Amex in years. Despite paying on time, always, and having a runrate of over $250K a year, they did a financial review, requesting my tax/employment records. I told them to fuck off and that was that.)

I had a great experience with the concierge if it was an extremely simple task with clearly defined results. If I asked for recommendations/to make a vague hotel reservation, its absolutely worthless. I had an operator actually begin reading off the first 50 hotel names until one "sounded good". I let her read a few dozen of them to see where this was going before I eventually told her I would book it myself.

Are you OK with people using Magic for things that don't result in a purchase? Something like "Is the 4:30 train from Greenwich to NYC late?" or "What hours are my local DMV office open?"

"Anything you want" makes it sound like people can use it like they'd use Siri.

There was a UK service called AQA that would answer questions for £1 back in the mid 2000s. They started off super super useful, but quality degraded enough as they scaled that it was no longer worth it. Used to be able to say "which shops in a 20 mile radius have xus in stock", or "who should I complain to about the service in xyz bar" and get great answers, but as they automated it more and more you'd just get back vague info

I was briefly an AQA employee. You were paid per question, so all you really cared about was how quickly you could send an answer and move onto the next question. The quality of the answer didn't matter, unless the customer complained and got a refund, which virtually never happened.

Poor metrics win again!

Yeah, we've been receiving a lot of requests like this. Right now we are doing our best to handle them all because we believe that happy users will be purchasing customers. We'll have to see how it goes.

That could be done by charging a standard fee for the operator's time spent searching.

Or a Magic Gold premium membership, if people want to ask non commerce questions beyond the first three free ones.

Seems like maybe a get-together with Watson api docs is in order.

With no pun intended, Watson isn't magic.

Maybe they could respond "sure, our researchers can find this for you for just $3, here's a link to add your credit card to your profile".

I have a concern:

How do you plan to handle security related dangerous items? For example, an user may ask you to deliver a package taken from one place to another place and you may arrange that but that package may contain dangerous/destructive/harmful materials which may be against law of the land where you operate.

You can ask user to confirm contents but he/she may lie and faithfully you may try to deliver and in between you may get struck in legal issues. If the origin is well known or reputed enough, then risk may be less but otherwise, there is an element of risk. Have you considered it? and how do you plan to handle it safely? Thanks.

That was an immediate concern I considered as well. Like, a drug front that sets up a little website that looks like a restaurant or something. Only customers would ever really know about it, but Magic service providers would find it when someone asks for it. Customers place "secret code" orders with Magic. Magic unwittingly delivers drugs (or whatever contraband) throughout the city.

But...then I concluded that surely it's ultimately cheaper and safer to just hire your own drug couriers. Given the slightest risk of discovery, they're less likely to reveal anything about the sender or to know the identity the recipient, unlike Magic.

So yeah, some people will always slip some shady stuff through every now and then. But I don't think Magic is the best solution to any of those illicit problems. No illegal arms dealer is sitting around thinking, "If only I had someone to deliver all these gun orders, I'd be rich!"

Same concern exists for all couriers, doesn't it?

From the landing page:

"We'll order what you need from the appropriate service (e.g. DoorDash, Instacart, Postmates, etc.), and deal with them"

All of these services handle the delivery when you order directly through them, so I don't think Magic is accepting a hand-off from them and then adding an extra leg to a trip. It sounds like Magic is just acting as a middle-man in these cases. I don't see anything on their site which suggests that they ever actually handle your stuff.

Hey, just here to recommend that you use or otherwise build a CRM interface around the SMS conversations. This will allow you to scale the number of messages without being overwhelmed by operator costs.

Best of luck to you. I see a lot of hard work in your future.

Here's hoping you can scale up fast enough to outpace demand and give everyone a good first impression.

What are you guys using to manage in-bound text messages? Something like sendsonar.com or something home-grown?

Plot twist: it's the founder's cell phone.

I'd love this in Australia - I'm in a wheelchair and it'd make shopping much much easier.

I am in India and I want to send a gift to my friend in the US. Possible?

Why are you posting here? Send them a text and ask.

Hmm...Because I can't send a text from India from my phone at least.

Maybe make a google voice account? It lets you text.

There must be other services that let you text internationally, or pretend to have a US number.

there is also https://nomadsms.com for that.

How are you scaling it up?

In our previous businesses we have scaled large customer support teams efficiently, and we also have handled a lot of online chat-based systems. As long as we can charge appropriate fees, this should be solvable. So far, so good.

Yeah, and that. :)

Uber-ize it.

How do you generate revenue?

By charging a premium on all services and products. For people who just want things completely handled.

You said you created it a few days ago. Do you happen to have many helping hands to handle the deluge of messages you will be getting? Coz first impression is going to be the last impression.

Way to go, Mike! Exciting that this is blowing up on you.

good luck folks!

I discovered this through a Facebook thread that has a ton of comments on it from non HN or techie peeps. Thought you might want to know what normal non-techies think.

"I think it is a great idea that has potential but I personally wouldn't use them because I can't find anything about them on the website. Looks like a scam."

"They need to re-design their website so it doesn't look like it was slapped together in 10 minutes and add an about page so we know who they are."

"Not even a business at this point."

"This stuff kind of annoys me actually. I get the minimal product concept to test the market but when stuff like this is pushed out there it makes consumers very wary."

"These guys will take this to some bay area VC's and probably get funded because it blew up on Reddit and HN with a bunch of other techies. Meh!"

"It is going to take some serious $$ to get a service like this going. The support alone for handling inbound texts and having reps look for and book deals is a very big undertaking."

"Yay! Another useless service that creates more low wage service jobs that cater to the wealthy."

>"Yay! Another useless service that creates more low wage service jobs that cater to the wealthy."

... What.

This just doesn't compute. In what mindframe does this ever make sense as a complaint? If you're creating new jobs, even if they're low wage, you're just giving people more choice - they can now work at one more place than before, no one's forced into that, it literally can't do harm. And direct transfer of wealth from the wealthy to the poor is a positive, right?

I'm so confused.

Part of the issue is that instead of creating traditional jobs that come with healthcare, benefits, strong legal protections, training and company car/whatever, the platform 'task economy' businesses often cut out these benefits and treat everyone like piece workers. So whereas previously eg a customer service rep got low wages but at least their tax was done for them and they had health benefits, now they get a low wage and have to do all that themselves. There's little chance of on-the-job development and training because all the business needs is more tech engineers to polish a front end or analyse data. Their workload (and therefore wages) can go up and down randomly leaving them out of pocket. All the while it puts some traditional businesses out of business because they can't compete on price/service with these companies, so ultimately there are less and lower quality choices. It pushes the burden of doing business down onto the workers rather than up towards richer investors. I'm not saying this 100% applies to Magic, but it's a general and very valid criticism of this type of "the Uber of X" business.

I think that's a bit naive. In the micro, one new task economy startup might be a net gain, all other things being equal, but if it's part of a macro trend where skilled jobs are disappearing and being replaced with commodity task work, we might be sliding down a dangerous slope. Your final question sound kind of like the slightly more extreme argument that yacht factories enrich otherwise unemployed people. To me, that argument always rang hollow because how much wealth is really being transferred when demand for such things is fundamentally limited. I think ideally you want a broad base of jobs that can actually provide people with a middle class livelihood.

In addition to all this, let's be clear. The only wealth being "transferred" here is that of the minimum wage to workers. Everything else is making someone else rich, likely already rich investors.

Justified inequality is good as long as it filters out high quality from low quality. The genius should be compensated more than the low-life.

Systems that classify human potential at birth though are rather unfair and amount to nepotism. The opposite of objective quality. No matter how many jobs a King or Queen creates, the upper class is always above the lower class.

Also, absolute transfer of wealth doesn't mean relative transfer. Slavery nowadays is actually more expensive then just hiring illegals because of housing and food costs. Wealth here is transferred in an absolute sense.

That said, many Uber drivers are very happy with the steeping stone it lends them. Flexible hours, and rather decent pay.

I think it's inherent that every economy needs a number of "lower-tier" employment opportunities for the "upper-tier" to exist and function well. And until robotization becomes viable and accepted, this will continue to be the case.

I see both sides. Seems like there are way more low wage jobs out there though. Plenty to choose from.

Does it have to be low wage? What if people are paid a base wage but also got a percentage of the fee? Those that truly became experts at finding a service/product that matched the customer's request could become increasingly proficient.

As for the "low wage jobs" comments, I'd pick this over being an Amazon warehouse automaton!

"What if people are paid a base wage but also got a percentage of the fee"

That would be great!

Given the context, it doesn't need to compute. Its how someone feels about the product. People aren't rational. That doesn't mean they aren't worth going after.

> "They need to re-design their website so it doesn't look like it was slapped together in 10 minutes and add an about page so we know who they are."

It's interesting the contrast of first impressions. HN is often fortunate to receive a behind the scenes look into projects. Here we have a first-hand discussion with the creators commenting and answering questions, such as their previous businesses [1] and general updates [2], which helps us gauge the business more than perhaps a general user encountering the site. From the top-rated posts it also appears many here are so used to typical design choices that there's an appreciation for the more straight-forward approach.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9087931

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9088208

I understand what you are saying and agree with a lot of it. Not saying I completely agree with all of the comments, instead simply pointing out what your average non techie/HN people think.

The "general user encountering the site" will most likely be the users using this service so imo they are just as important as the HN crowd.

>>"Yay! Another useless service that creates more low wage service jobs that cater to the wealthy."

That sort of comment annoys me actually. Is it not great that "wealthy" people pay for all of those service jobs? Out of all things, I literally can't see any problems with this. Unless the wages are below living wage of course,but it looks like the commenter has a problem with service jobs in general?

In Mountain View, California minimum wage is below a living wage. I understand the sentiment: The scarcest resource for me is my time. Money is how we let people decide who gets to tell whom what to do with their time. A system where 0.1% tell 99.9% how to spend their precious time alive is not morally just. (I'm not saying we're quite that bad as a society -- at least not yet.)

"A system where 0.1% tell 99.9% how to spend their precious time alive is not morally just"

Welcome to modern-day capitalism. This is exactly what it is, with or without Magic. Don't like it? Neither do I, but then we need a new socio-financial mechanism to redistribute wealth, which goes well beyond the scope of services like Magic.

> A system where 0.1% tell 99.9% how to spend their precious time alive is not morally just.

Says who? Where's the cutoff between just and unjust?

Exactly at the point where I place it.

I think a common sentiment about on-demand service startups is that it can lead to a dangerous situation for the lower-level employee, who is typically working as a 1099. Relatively low pay, and they're responsible for their own benefits, taxes, etc.

This is something I have a lot of interest in at the moment, so if anyone would like to chime in, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

There are plenty of decent paying service jobs. Plumbers, Roofers, etc. There are also tons and tons of low paying, low skilled service jobs. I suppose this is an entire different topic of discussion but something that needs to be looked at for the future of our kids. We need more higher paying skilled jobs regardless if they are service jobs or not.

Since I can't edit anymore - my comment went from well above 1 point to negative 2. Could people explain what do they don't like about my argument, instead of downvoting please? All I said was, that I don't see anything wrong with people creating service jobs which pay a living wage - if you think otherwise, explain why.

I just decided to try this out in Seattle. Here's how it went! http://brianbeck.com/images/magic.png

(the minimum was from the sushi place, not Magic)

That's awesome. And I think it scales for just long enough, too. I don't think hiring real, intelligent humans to make on-the-fly shopping decisions like this (think, an old-school concierge desk at hotel) costs more than the incremental value they'd bring in. If 90% of the requests can be handled automatically, then you can afford to make magic happen (and delighted customers) in the 10%.

It falls apart at a certain global scale, but I'm sure the business has pivoted twice by that point.

Nicely done.

Awesome demo! Can you update the shot while swiping left to show the timestamps?

Sure! http://brianbeck.com/images/magic-times.png

The first couple responses were pretty slow, sounds like they were getting absolutely hammered with requests. I could have done it a lot faster myself for sure, seems promising though!

That actually doesn't seem very good. If I'm craving sushi as 7pm, getting delivered at 9:15 isn't really going to do it for me.

Isn't that because he had no credit card attached to his account, and needed one before anything could progress?

In addition to the high demand they're going through, right now, I'd say it's understandable.

It was 3 minutes from CC request to CC info done.

Definitely not in the long run. But cmikec's latest update here put it in perspective – they had to limit access while this request was being handled because they were getting totally flooded.

The more trained and properly staffed they are, the faster it'll be, I don't think it's representative

One and a half hours to order something (plus delivery time - which they set would be another hour!) for 33$. Wow.

Given their explosion in requests around this time, I'm not fazed by it. Try the same request a month from now...if it's the same turnaround time, then I'd be worried that the company can't handle the volume long-term. Which would be a shame, this seems really useful.

What were the extra pieces?

Edamame, some sushi rice, and escolar sashimi which I've never tried before. (edit: some kinda soup as well)

This is horrible compared to my daily experience using Seamless. Why would a person craving sushi want to exchange 8 text messages and then click on a web link and get sushi 2+ hours later?

They had to click a web link because it was their first time using the service so they had to add their credit card. How else are they supposed to charge you?

Well right. But my description of the experience still stands. It doesn't seem like an improvement.

Because it's seamless when you want takeout. And instacart when you want groceries. And something else when you want office supplies. And a fourth thing to make dinner reservations...

Because they want to feel they have their own personal servant.

And how was it? :)

Not sure about surprise additions, but isn't it bit overpriced for one person quick lunch?

Well, the additions weren't really a surprise given I told them to just meet the delivery minimum for this particular sushi place ($25).

Offtopic: your iPhone is pretty long :) or you used something like Stitch It! ?

did it manually, I'm afraid.

Get the app Tailor; it'll do it for you. :)


Maybe the Magic people should promote a tool, since word-of-mouth promotion can be hard without.

Thank you. Every once in awhile I need stich some mobile screenshots together and this seems perfect.

How much did they surcharge?

I just put the same items into an order on eat24.com, which is how I'd normally do this. The order came to $30.38, which is exactly $2 less than what Magic quoted. That's before you have the opportunity to add a tip.

So either the Magic surcharge was $2 and they tipped $0, or they tipped $2 and were doing some free introductory thing. ($2 off coupons for eat24 are also plentiful, so I guess Magic could have also made $4.)

This reminds me of an opinion that I have which I've been looking for an opportunity to flesh out and share. Despite all of the research and engineering that's gone into the user interface (and "experience") of smartphones, text messaging as an interface has one massive advantage: the perceived cost of sending a text is miniscule in comparison to other operations. I don't have units, but it's probably an order of magnitude lower in any reasonable ones.

Maybe I'm projecting onto "the general public" when I make this generalization, but performing operations on a smartphone (aside from call/text) are oft accompanied by the very real risk of squandering your time away. Especially when a browser is involved.

There is something elegant about the interface of a dumb phone, especially a flip phone: You pull it out of your pocket, whip it open, type your text, send it. And then crucially, you flip it closed and stop thinking about it. This is the key. You're using it when you're using it, and you're not when you're not.

Even grander generalization and possibly controversial opinion: I hope that consumer technology begins to cater more to those of us who wish to use technology in this way - as a tool that you pull out of your pocket and promptly put away upon achieving your ends.


"Chetan Sharma counted the total active SMS user base is now up to 5.9 Billion humans or 91% of all mobile phone owners, in May of 2012. So SMS is nearly 6 times larger by reach than Facebook. SMS is 3 times bigger than TV and has 2.5 times more reach than email. As less people place voice calls from their mobile phones than send SMS text messages, this is the most used telecommunication method - and most used digital media - on the planet. Yes, humble little SMS."

Open Standard -> broker -> Walled Gardens?

I project the opposite way, though I know I might be in the stark minority:

My perception of the cost of text messaging for something which requires a dialogue on a portable device is unnecessarily high, compared to a less than 1 minute phone call. This isn't just due to the slowness of typing vs voice.

All of the examples of this service are conversational. Conversational idea description through text messages is generally slower and more ambiguous than through voice.

When trying to get our thoughts communicated into somebody else's thoughts, we need feedback to let us estimate how close the other person's thoughts match ours, before pulling the trigger on a transaction. In text, the packetization of messages delays all opportunities for feedback, and has a more limited bandwidth of expression compared to vocal inflection and body language.

For sending simple status notifications to others, text works great. For unambiguous, unidirectional communication, text works great. When time spent communicating doesn't matter, bidirectional texting is fine. For dialogues where you describe something you want done, text sucks.

Yes, but with sms you're not easily sending your current location, for example. Here in China sms is being replaced by wechat, which can also be very fast, but has more power.

Hmmm... I don't find using my phone for legitimate tasks tempts me to waste time with it in other ways. I find I only really "waste time" on my phone during the dead moments of a day or when I've set aside time to do things like read on the internet on my tablet at the end of the day. There's not a lot of draw towards using my phone when I shouldn't.

So...a smartwatch? A limited interface to do the most basic smartphone functions with none of the cooler, more engaging (or distracting) features.

Do you know what would really be magical? An on-demand service that provided a guarantee that all of the humans involved were beneficiaries of living wages, unemployment and workers comp protection, health insurance etc. I really enjoy the convenience these services provide, but ultimately that's all it is - convenience. To me, no convenience is worth watching an entire class of people get 1099-ed into poverty, at the expense of the social safety net that so many people struggled to establish.

When I discuss these issues with my peers (I live in the SF Bay Area), I find that many of them share my concerns, to varying degrees. Does anybody know if such a service exists?

I think this sentiment comes from the notion that employers should be the basis of the social safety net, which I find odd. Employers will never fully serve this role. It's relying on organizations (corporations usually) to make the trade off between profit and employee well being, two things that are almost always at odds.

It seems to me that it shouldn't matter where your income comes from, the social safety net should be there regardless. The ACA was a step in that direction by requiring people self insure if the did not get that benefit from their employer. I think we need to go even further and separate safety net benefits from employers. Then people would be able to choose whether they want the job security of a W-2 position or if they prefer the flexibility of a 1099 position without having to sacrifice the safety net.

(Side note: I'm a 1099 contractor who self insures. I have a lot of difficulty imagining going back to a W-2 job.)

Right on. If we as a society want to help those whose skills don't command a high monetary value in the market, we should pay for that help as a society (through taxes)!

Any such service would immediately be outcompeted by one which doesn't provide all that - it's trivial to clone an on-demand service, and if you have lower costs you can be cheaper.

If you want all that, you should move to a country where all that is required by law, or lobby towards these laws being implemented in your country. However, you must realise that all that has very real costs; and businesses that are only marginally profitable with current setups will not exist, causing the people working there to lose their (low, but positive) income.

If you just want to help, it might be better to use whatever service exists, and spend a bigger amount on charity.

> Any such service would immediately be outcompeted by one which doesn't provide all that - it's trivial to clone an on-demand service, and if you have lower costs you can be cheaper.

In other words, it's the classic 'race to the bottom' problem, which is exactly what the OP is talking about. It's not helpful at a societal level to out-compete each other into the ground.

I don't agree that companies should become safety nets, but there absolutely should be a liveable minimum wage, that companies are expected to adhere to.

It is good to compete until prices drops super low.... technology drives efficiency and offers better stuff at greater quality tities for lower prices. It's not actually helpful to overpay for things just to ensure a living wage. This living wage is at a lower standard of living. You don't build a building with a thousand men with shovels because someone else will build one nearby using bulldozers. Consumers would rather preserve their own hard earned money than overpay in order to grant someone else a higher than necessary wage.

That's all well and good from the consumers point of view. It doesn't help people who are spending their working hours at a place that cannot support them. It's not about doing things less efficiently, so your 'building with shovels' example is facile. The point is that companies alone cannot be entrusted with the welfare of their employees - this is why minimum wage and works rights / entitlements exist in the first place. The concern is that these companies are using loopholes to skirt the laws, to the detriment of citizens.

I'm sure you'd agree that citizens rights should trump those of consumers who want cheap stuff.

Sure. But asking for a company that doesn't race to the bottom doesn't actually help here; you need to prevent the race from occuring in the first place, rather than ask for companies to stop trying to race.

What you want is a universal basic income from the government (X thousands per year just for being a human wanting to live with dignity) coupled with the platform I'm building, JoatU.org where the people create 'currency' out of the value they bring to society. We're building the welfare state from the neighborhood level upwards.

idk man I just want to be able to order sushi

It seems you feel very strongly about this.

Are you also against open source? It allows companies to rely on unpaid labor (with no benefits) and directly competes with software that does pay benefits and could potentially put them out of business.

Wow, everyone! This is truly amazing. We released Magic under 48 hours ago as an experiment and a side project, and now the traffic and requests are streaming in faster than we can handle.

Don't worry - we have a plan to handle it. For now we are closing down free registrations so that we can focus on delivering the product to the awesome people who have signed up so far and who are using the service.

I've replaced the phone number on the page you see here with an email opt-in waiting list where you can sign up to be notified when Magic is available to you.

In the meantime, I have added a Stripe button for $20 after the email opt-in where you can gain access now if you want to get in right now.

Thanks everyone!

Well, but you forgot that you posted a link to your old page version, which still shows the phone number :], or did it change?

How could you create a solution like this in less than 2 days? Training operators (who where how many, paying a call center?), how are you managing customer data together with those operators etc. Sounds like a logistic nightmare to me, unless you and 10 friends are sitting day and night in your apartment..

If you haven't already, I'd use a fake number as the "blurred number", as it's pretty easy to read the number if you open the image directly, shrink it down, and squint :)

How are you planning to handle returns and customer support issues?

Is your markup a percentage/amount or do you make it up each time?

This is exactly what Siri should be.

Apple has 800m credit cards on file (1)

In one fell swoop Apple could own the local delivery market, shocking how perfect of a concept / execution this is.

(1) http://www.businessinsider.com/credit-cards-on-file-apple-vs...

The very fact that Apple has 800M credit cards on file is the reason why they know better than offering a service like this.

Even if 10% of their users started using their service to require "magic", there is no way in hell even a company like Apple could scale an operation like this that's bottlenecked by humans.

Why not? 80m users is probably in-line with what some of the larger banks and insurance companies deal with. They're big call centers, but we're not talking entire cities here.

A concierge service is a lot more intensive than responding to the clients of a bank.

If Apple did this at their scale, they would probably end up very quickly having an (hopefully public) API for every business around, rather than having their agents call the same restaurant 10 times a day. That would really be a revolutionary way to consume.

Sort of like Just-Eat? http://www.just-eat.co.uk

>bottlenecked by humans

I saw a profile (probably on HN) about how the Siri technology was developed. This service sounds nearly ideal for Siri. In the short term I'd bet 50% of requests could be handled with total automation. Seeing how they add functionality to the system I'd bet they can get that up into the 70+% range over time. Many things still require a human touch, but you can throttle demand with pricing.

I'd expect it to come from Amazon first though. Seems more up their alley.

> 50% of requests could be handled with total automation

Do you actually use Siri yourself? Siri might have seen some improvements lately, but there's no way it could handle stuff like this.

This is a good point. I should clarify, Siri technology could do this. I have tried Siri many times and most of the problems seem to revolve around it understanding what I'm saying. Plus it's almost always easier to just do things myself. The scenario Magic is trying to handle seems actually better tuned to the Siri technology than Siri the product.

Funny way to generate a lot of jobs for the future, no? I mean in future times when everything is so automated that you don't longer work in a supermarket or restaurant, because people don't leave the house any more (sad future, I know).

+1 for the zak game

Loving the simplicity of it all. I just need to text a number. No app to install and grant access to my phone, no website to go and sign up to with my facebook account. Nothing.

Just text a number and get what I want. It solves my problems by giving a path of least resistance to getting what I want. A company doing a similar thing was handing out fliers over the summer and they had an app to install. I thought the idea was cool but never got around to installing it.

I just added this phone number to my contact list for when I'm reading to use it.

Yes, thanks for not requiring people to install software to use your service -- something that's already caused me to skip trying several services. I look forward to trying this one when it opens up to the public again!

I feel like THIS is why Magic is interesting. Everyone (assuming) has SMS capabilities on their phone. I've seen this be used for banking, but nothing had the personal element? The ease of use is such a plus for this kind of thing.

Thanks. Please let me know how you like using it. That's exactly what we were going for, and I hope that the experience persists throughout.

Just want to chime in that I also think having a number to text is more convenient than using an app that I'd surely forget about within days.

You do need to give them your credit card details though, which is like signing up.

You interact briefly before you are asked to handover the CC details. That's a great draw.

Idea to scale:

As a non-coder, I love reading the responses of programers here. "Automate this!" "There is no way to scale." "This needs AI."

As an outsider looking in, my idea to scale is similar to Uber. Have workers that can sign on to work whenever they have the time. The workers handle the orders and receive a cut of the fee you charge. It would be great if you could have some kind of rating system where the consumer could choose who they work with, but I'm not sure how to make that happen with SMS.

I'm not saying this is better or more cost efficient than automation. I just see it as a solution to their current problem.

Uber is looking to automate, but check out their current valuation. They can afford to do so all by scaling with humans.

I'll now wait to get hammered by HN. :)

You're basically describing ODesk, Elance, Mechanical Turk, etc... Not saying this execution will/won't work, but there are lots of firms that seemed to have make it work to solve a similar / the same problem set.

So you'd SMS ODesk or Elance looking for a pizza?

That's just it, I wouldn't. This seems only useful for people who are maybe just too busy to do it them selves and have enough disposable income that paying a couple extra bucks to the guy handling your business isn't a big deal.

HN seems a little out of touch.

That's a pretty broad definition of "the same problem set," stuff that humans do.

Things like Mechanical Turk are just creating minimum wage jobs and we were better of without them, I think.

Magic will create many call-center like jobs...

In what universe creating additional demand for jobs is a bad thing? (Rhetolical, don't bother answering)

Creating additional demand for low-level jobs is a bad thing, because no one really wants to do them. People just do them for the money. The goal should be to eliminate the need for people to do this, not to create even more of those jobs.

Call-center jobs in US are not minimum wage?

Not in Canada. I work in telecommunications and technical support starts at $17/h. Sales starts at $12/h I think plus commission. Lots of sales reps in our call centres are easily clearing $50k a year. Everyone gets full extended health benefits. Minimum wage is around $10.25 I think?

Good to know, thanks!

My idea is nothing like a call center. Each worker is their own boss. They decide when to work, and how hard they will work. The revenue they earn would be directly related to their effort, and not an hourly wage.

"Have workers that can sign on to work whenever they have the time. The workers handle the orders and receive a cut of the fee you charge."

The problem is how do you pay such workers? If that's per order cut, they will want to make as many orders as possible inevitably degrading the service quality. And it usually takes a single bad experience to put people off of such service.. Actually, I don't see how this can scale well, imho, they should market more like "personal assistant on demand" and include monthly fees or pay per assistant's time, what also could solve a questions-that-do-not-result-in-order problem.

Does no one else consider the idea of this horribly decadent? They give as an example, ordering a delivery pizza for you, which is already a decadent activity and something you can accomplish with a single phone call anyway. Maybe for the rich high-flying silicon valley types, your time and brain space is so valuable that this service makes sense. But if that is the case maybe you should re-examine your lives.

This isn't interesting because of pizzas. This is interesting because of the potential to centralize and offload all decisions of a certain type. It's like a pay-per-use secretary.

What I do find.. "decadent"... is people like you, judging masses of other people on the basis of what they find interesting or useful. Especially when you can't see past the low hanging fruit and aren't able to grasp any potential a service might have.

Piece of advice: If a majority of people are interested and finding use in a service, re-examine your own evaluation skills before telling everyone else to re-examine their lives.

I don't think OP wasn't judging anyone, you took his comment a little too personally.

The majority people on this site may find this service to be useful, but I gurantee, outside of the SV bubble, this service would get laughed at by the actual majority of Americans.

The market here is exclusively the faux rich. If your time was actually this valueable you would have a real assistant. The service as useful as a upper middle class doggy spa. It's viable, but it fails to solve any _real_ problems.

I partially agree with the spirit of your comment, but I disagree that this doesn't solve real problems. If you think critically about all the little innovations out there that add convenience, it adds up to a lot more leisure time. I'm sure people thought car washes were decadent at one point.

For better or for worse, modern Western life is built on a thousand now-invisible time-saving innovations. I think we're at a transitional time in our culture. All this leisure time has historically mostly served to allow us to fill up our lives with increased complexity, but I think we've hit the point where that no longer scales, because it's simply too much to track. What Magic gets right, in my mind, is that it's part of a trend of abstracting away that new complexity. It gives you a single entry point through which to leverage a bunch of innovations that you don't even have to know about.

Where I think services like this can really win is if they can use economy of scale to improve upon the individual's own ability to optimize value for cost. This is possible, if say, they maintain a knowledge base of the best deals.

A service like this simply isn't economical for the overwhelming majority of people.

If you perceive your time to be so valuable that you can't bear the five minutes it takes to order a pizza online or by phone, you probably should re-examine that valuation.

Especially when five minutes ordering exactly what you want directly from your preferred supplier is replaced by a fifteen minute exchange with a stranger who has to interprets vague inputs, has misaligned incentives, doesn't know any of your preferences beyond those you expressly state, etc. all of which you then pay a premium for...

My first thought was that if your time and effort really is so valuable that it economically makes sense to use a service like this one, then you probably can afford and should have a real concierge/personal assistant. It seems to me this hinges on an emotional (i.e. economically irrational) need of (upper?) middle class people to feel rich and too “important”. Which is actually not a bad business model at all, tapping into people's feelings. It's actually one of the best things to base a business on.

But I could be wrong. Maybe there's a sweet spot in the price-utility ratio where this makes sense for people who are not technically rich and busy maintaining the wealth. It's interesting.

Well done, you missed the point as much as OP. You're still stuck on pizzas.

I wonder why you're replying to me; you're specifically bringing up points which my post explains are unimportant.

It's also not an interesting idea because it will never get off the ground. It's like one of those businesses that go on that TV show with the billionaires who bid on their ideas (forget the title). You pretty much never really hear about them again. Like some kind of American Idol of the start-up world. I'm sure these guys will make a little bit of money, but how hard would it be to get current AIs to do this crap for you for practically nothing?

"order me pepperoni pizza"

>ok all I need now is ur credit card # pls

4024 0071 5223 8456

>expiration date?


>security code?


>Name on the card


Jorg H. Jorgensen

>ok thanks jorg ur sausage pizza is on the way!


but I wanted pepperoni.

I'll elaborate a bit. I'm not concerned with criticizing this service or its users. It triggered my previous comment as it serves as another example of the life of well off westerners becoming one more step abstracted and insulated from reality, which is something that ought to be resisted. The more removed you are from your source of food, water, clothing etc. the more wasteful the process of obtaining it is in terms of resources and damage to the environment. Also, if you read Jared Diamonds book 'Collapse' (wherein he deduces from various examples of collapsed societies a framework of factors that lead to collapse) one common factor in societal collapse is: the elites and decision makers being insulated from the negative consequences of their decisions. A modern example would be, an oil magnate decides to maximise profit by using a dirty refining process, this pollutes the ground water in that area, but of course he can afford to live far away in a gated community and drink bottled water. Thus he is insulated from the negative consequence of his actions. This can lead to the elites and decision makers making a series of decision that eventually lead to the destruction of the entire society (for example cutting down all the trees on Easter island)

I'm aware that this may all seem a bit dramatic when we're talking about pizzas, but the mindset of the elites is important in this case. Services like this encourage not knowing where your food, water, clothing etc. is coming from.

All this is well and good, and I agree with it, but it doesn't really have anything to do with this service.

> Services like this encourage not knowing where your food, water, clothing etc. is coming from

You don't know where those products are coming from. The ingredients in the food you're ordering have been gathered industrially, processed industrially, probably moved between four different countries, ended up at your city's warehouse, were ordered in bulk by a grocery store in your city, were once again ordered in bulk by your local restaurant, were prepared by a chef you'll never meet, packed by some cashier you probably haven't seen and only then does it reach the delivery boy.

And you're telling me adding one more layer on top of that is decadent because you don't know where your food is coming from? Please. The general point is excellent and worth talking about, but it simply doesn't apply here.

Yes, I completely agree. Ordering a take away pizza yourself, buying a frozen one, ordering one at a restaurant, making your own using bought ingredients, they are all steps along that path. My point doesnt really belong here. In my last post I used the word "triggered" because that is what reading about this service did. I was witness to yet another small step being added to that path. At times like this maybe we can all step back for a moment and think about the ridiculousness of the system we have built.

Both my grandmothers grew up in a time and place where you had to grow your own food, and one of them still grows her own veggies and raises chickens. Frankly, a system where you're forced to do so, sucks, and they certainly don't miss the long hours, the hunger that comes from the inefficiency of the production, etc.

You say this system is wasteful, but I disagree - probably much less human effort was wasted achieving the basic need of feeding that person than what was needed before - which is well shown by the fact that it cost much less (even with the Magic fee) than it did back then.

I don't agree that merely having more layers makes it necessarily more wasteful - if they're the result of specialization, it isn't.

You have a point about the disconnection and unmindfulness that comes from having these layers, but it reverting to the previous processes is akin to burning your eyes so that you can better understand and empathize with the blind. That would be waste, and I think better ways of maintaining that connection are possible.

contd. Though maybe this is as good as forum as any? In order to have a less wasteful and whimsically arranged society perhaps we need to constantly analyse and critique it, to not ever be passive and thoughtless of the consequences of things?

I don't see it as horribly decadent. At least not in any obvious sense.

Anything that is more convenient than things were previously can be seen as decadent. I suspect so much that everyone takes for granted today would have seemed decadent to people 50 or 100 years ago.

Maybe there's a number of people that such a service would really help out? I don't know, but single parents are one group that comes to mind. For helping them get items that they can't easily go out and get themselves because of having to stay at home with the kids. It's hard to predict how new services may end up being used and being useful.

Maybe the current cost is too prohibitive for many people at the moment (i don't know what they charge and don't live in the US so wouldn't know how to judge the figures anyway), but if such a service proves useful and popular maybe the prices will come down. Anyway, I don't see anything inherently wrong with a service that not everyone can afford.

Even married couples with kids who make $100,000 a year and live in the midwest couldn't intelligently afford to use this service regularly. This is just my experience with a family that is able to cover expenses and put $500 in savings each month.

Well put. I had a long chaotic reply discussing why maybe living as we did 100 years ago (or more) might be a good idea, but, this is not really the place for that. Maybe I'll write a book the subject!

I do. I feel as if this solves nothing important, but makes it easier for people to be lazy - if they have money.

While businesses have to be focused on the markets that have money, I feel like this has gone to far; how can this be used to solve the problems of people who are busy but do not have money?

It's automation. That extra cost you mention will soon become / is amortized by what one can do with the time and energy win, properly reallocated.

Actually, it's not automation, it's delegation. Take away the SMS and this system has existed since feudal times going back to antiquity.

From someone who's tried and failed: performing a large amount of high-quality labor for cheap is not a sustainable business model in the West, and riding hype can make you oblivious to that fact.

That said, I do hope this team has some amazing trick under their sleeves that has eluded everyone else, because I do want this service to exist.

Agreed, this has obviously got some nice buzz, but never would I want to be the person having to run this business.

Lots of manual work for little fees. They could hire/ outsource, but the quality will drop and prices will hike.

They might be able to find a niche of people willing to pay a lot for simple things they could probably do easily themselves (like ordering food, or booking a flight), and use that extra money to outsource, but something tells me that market is pretty small.

It's interesting, I'm curious to see if this can turn into a company.

I guess beause it's SMS they can you employ machine learning and simple classification, and internal tools to automate whatever is requested the most. Requests that require manual work will probably cost a little bit more. They also seem to pass requests down to backend providers, which you can probably do very cheaply.

I couldn't disagree with this characterization more. They will need human intelligence overseeing the majority of the cases, and those that they try to automate will be fraught with difficulty and take a long time to iron out. Even the examples I've seen posted of people using it so far would not have been able to be automated and required extended conversations.

(And just in general stuff that is actually easy to automate will mean a ton of middle men already exist to make it easy, or more likely, the person could just do it themselves quickly)

The founders can either outsource to someone for as cheap as they can manage and target clients who don't care about likely significant middleman fees (and who are most likely on the lazy side), or they can spend all of their attention each day doing these little tasks for people.

Since it was a whimsical side project, as they described it, I imagine this will go on for a little while longer, but then they will wind it down and/or maybe try to sell it like the glitter envelope guy who didn't want to do all the work, and then have something quite nice for their resumes, plus some PR to go towards their next project.

I was searching for a comment here about how they think they're going to be profitable, because i think exactly like you. There's a reason why concierge services are usually offered to wealthy people only, that's because you need gigantic margins to remain profitable.

I'm sure they've thought about it since it isn't their first business, so i'm really curious.

Arthur C. Clarke famously said any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. This maxim has proven robust over decades. But now are we now so used to interacting with layers of technology and automation that sufficiently trained humans could seem in any way magical?

I don't agree, but a scary indictment if it were true.

Clever business name though.

I love this quote. Thanks for reminding me of it! :) For me, the "magic" refers to the magic moment that I experienced when we prototyped this internally. Despite the power of today's on-demand services, I've always felt them to still be rather frustrating. Sometimes the drivers cancel, they get lost, you still have to manage them. We tested this by delivering the product to each other internally, handling all the annoyance of dealing with these services behind the scenes. The result feels like magic. Just text in what you want...and it appears.

This is what used to be called "concierge service". You can still get it with, for example, high-end American Express cards, or from firms which specialize in providing it.

Judging by the examples on your site, you've succeeded in bringing concierge service to (sorry) the masses, by pricing it much lower than competing offerings.

Congratulations! You have a highly viable MVP. Good luck scaling it out!

My Credit/Debit card offers concierge service but I've never used it. I'd have to find the number (or put it in my phone..), then speak to an operator, and then trust that they could deliver on what I expect.

This service is based on SMS though, and I'd presume they hold all the pertinent info (address, credit card etc) so that I wouldn't have to keep repeating it. I'd still have to trust that I get what I want, but the crucial speaking to an operator component is reduced to a fire and forget SMS. I'd use this if I was in the States.

I don't follow you

> My Credit/Debit card offers concierge service but I've never used it. I'd have to find the number (or put it in my phone..), then <text> an operator, and then trust that they could deliver on what I expect.

> This service is based on <calls> though, and I'd presume they hold all the pertinent info (address, credit card etc) so that I wouldn't have to keep repeating it. I'd still have to trust that I get what I want, but the crucial <texting> an operator component is reduced to a fire and forget <call>. I'd use this if I was in the States.

My Credit Card company doesn't do text based concierge service. I would have to call them. The making a phone call is the bit I don't like. I haven't used the service so I have no idea what to expect with regards to storing details etc.

The landing page for Magic shows me exactly what I could expect, and it's based on SMS.

What's not to follow?

You mentioned

- having to find the number (or put in in your phone), and

- trust that they could deliver on what I expect

- I'd presume they hold all the pertinent info

Yet those three things are identical whether you use magic or your CC concierge service!

So you might as well have just written

> My Credit/Debit card offers concierge service but I've never used it. I don't like talking on the phone, but I don't mind SMS.

Meta "Irregular Operations" / PaxEx / entropy remediation service

Is this really new in the states? In sweden we've had these numbers called 118 100, or 118 118 where it costs relatively much to call in but they can take care of a lot of things for you.

For example since my company pays for my phone I tend to use them for things like getting a taxi wherever I am. "I want a taxi in X city". And they can do this via SMS or phone call, they can send the reply via phone or via sms if you want, included in the service charge.

Essentially they can do what magic claims, with operators standing by 24/7, for a service fee that comes from your phone operator.

We've had this in Sweden for many, many years now. I don't even remember how long but I know that some time 6-7 years ago they started advertising that you could call them (or text them) about any stupid question you might have and they would try to answer it.

If this magic really is new to the states then I predict it will explode just like our swedish alternatives have here.

Do they handle payment? When I lived in Belgium there were a few services like what you describe (2000-2001 ish), but they were all basically glorified Yellow Pages - they'd find and call a service provider for you, but from there on out you were on your own. Also don't bother sending them a list like '6 eggs, a gallon of milk and a pair of black socks', which it seems this service does cater for.

No you can't make purchases through them, and you can't store information with them.

The only type of payment involved is the service fee when you call the number. Other than that they look up information for you, or answer questions for you. Like a google phone operator.

Sounds like General Services from the story We Also Walk Dogs. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E2%80%94We_Also_Walk_Dogs for the story.

I'll bet they don't invent antigravity devices though! :-)

I created a service very similar to this about 2 years ago and no one cared. Given my experience, I'm stunned (but happy) to see so much praise for this. Anyway, congratulations....looks like you have that right time/right product/right place thing going on. How do you intend to monetize? If I buy a pizza, do you charge me directly (a premium) and then pay Domino's et al? How many people do you have to handle the deluge of texts? Do you intend to seek affiliate relationships with local merchants where you can't charge a known fee up front (for example, where someone says "Dude, I need a plumber ASAP!")?

This is the most amazing startup I've ever seen on HN. There's no app, there's nothing to install.

I need Magic in my life. I hate ordering, filling out forms, etc. Pease scale this thing hard and fast. This is Uber-level fantastic. Better than that, even.

Have you thought about chargeback risks? I.e. when you hit mass-market there will be a non-trivial number of attempts in which customer cancels the payment to you after receiving the ordered product on the basis that it was not what he ordered. It seems that it can be quite a mess to figure those situations out due to suppliers being so varied.

it's probably way too early to worry about that, they just need to grow and deal with actual issues that are coming up today.

My first thought to this is: How is it going to scale? This requires human labor to be behind every service requests!

And then I was reminded of Uber. Isn't Uber in the same sort of service model that requires a human driver for every request, but is doing super successful? (let's not talk about regulation.)

The more I think about it, the more it appears a good business model. It definitely helps users save time and worry, and as demand is growing, it can simply hire more trained service men, and creates huge job opportunities.

This is a platform that enables/accelerates service to people by people. I'm optimistic of its future.

There are a few differences but basically yes, physical ops execution to scale the business profitably (or with the promise of profitability some day) is key to a business like this. Physical ops (e.g. running a call center, which is a comparable model) is a LOT harder than it sounds.

Unlike Uber, this service doesn't require any physical presence in a city, just knowledge of services available in that city. So in theory they could launch in Mongolia next week. But, so could a competitor. Unlike Uber's (contracted) fleet of physical cars which provide a material barrier to competition, all you need here is knowledge and a Twilio account and you're in business.

There is a risk here that whatever they (and other startups) do in this space, the gorillas just come along and clone them - e.g. Amex, Visa/MC, etc - but offer the service for free. They can run their concierge services at a loss since they are attached to a profitable card services business. This is similar to robo advisory financial services where Wealthfront etc now face margin squeezing, maybe even life threatening competition from Vanguard and Fidelity.

I've used services like this for years and this exact business model (sms concierge) pops up every few months. I've worked out the per unit economics and it's a tough business. At some point due to automation of background services it will become possible. Maybe these guys will raise a huge round and take that gamble. Maybe the timing is right and they will succeed (along with many competitors rushing into a new industry), or maybe it's still too early by a decade and they will fail. But some day with AI and automation I think this model will work.

Eventually Uber will fire all drivers and replace them with self-driving cars. In many ways Uber is currently doing things that don't scale with regard to relying on humans to drive customers. Eventually the cost-intensive humans won't be needed and Uber will grow massively.

I could see this happening in many business models. Obviously Magic may fail entirely (it appears to be pretty much just an idea currently) but I could see AI replacing the human components.

I'm not sure how I feel about all of this.

Or maybe Magic could pivot to serve a few niches that AI serves well, e.g. food ordering, tickets/flight/hotels booking, etc.

Looks like an even more minimal version of WunWun (https://www.wunwun.com/), which is a "write some unstructured text and we'll dispatch it" app, in NYC and SF. They hire and manage their own couriers tho.

We also handle things that WunWun doesn't, like booking plane tickets, making reservations, paying bills, etc.

This is a shadow, a hint of what AI and machine learning will bring us.

I imagine if this thing sticks around, they'll eventually be able to automate simple things like the pizza ordering and whatnot. I imagine it could call back to a human in case of issues, such as:

Requester: "I want two pepperoni pizzas, one with extra cheese."

AI Response: "I can have 3 pizzas, two pepperoni, and one cheese (with extra cheese), delivered from Dominos for $24.15"

Requester: "No, I wanted two pepperoni pizzas, with extra cheese on one of them"

Human steps in after the "no" is detected: "Sorry, I misunderstood your request, I can get two pepperoni pizzas with extra cheese on one of them for $16.50 from Dominos"

Requester: "Yes, thanks."


It'll just be a matter of time as the automation spreads to less and less mundane topics.

The first step is just to have backend software make a first pass at the texts and make suggestions to the rep. As it get better, it increases the throughput for the human rep. Like most automation, it becomes about making a human more productive, and that's a lot easier to accomplish.

There seems to be a pattern lately of services that are initially human based but then use that as validation for a human-supported AI model further down the road. https://x.ai/ is one of the recent ones I remember seeing.

Humans are still the most flexible source of labor you can use for a task, so it's possible to learn exactly what the requirements are using a human and then try to automate various repetitive parts of the task until the human hardly does anything but verify that the robots are working properly. Note that this does not mean that humans are the least expensive form of labor, although they are currently the only form of labor that can be created by two completely unskilled humans in about 9 months.

This could totally be automated, text recognition handles the easy cases where ordering can be done via the internet, the rest is handled by humans.

The user confirmation makes sure the automation didn't screw something up, and if the user doesn't responds positively to a certain threshold then humans take over. The threshold can be dynamic depending on accuracy of text recognition.

They say that they guarantee credit card security by using an HTTPS link. How is that even security? We don't even know for sure if this is a legitimate service. What does it matter if they are getting the CC number via SSL or not?

The credit card paragraphs... did not inspire confidence.

Great idea.

Can we find out how much it costs, or do we just have to trust that the quoted price for the task isn't too much above actual cost? Or does it not have any service fees? The site is really vague about pricing.

This is a great question. We are still trying to figure this out right now. Our vision is to be a service that handles everything - and that means everything from ordering food, to ordering clothes, to booking a one week's vacation in St. Thomas. The fees obvioulsy vary. Any ideas you have about doing this in a more straightforward way would be welcome. For now what we are doing is thinking about what would be reasonable on the fly. Sometimes it's more than people think, i.e. if someone wants milk delivered to their house in Wisconsin, we have to call a local courier, etc. However we've found people are willing to pay more than you would think, too.

My bold suggestion would be to not do what other posters are suggesting about making pricing clear and itemized. As I've said in another comment, I think this service mainly fulfills an emotional need, not a rational one (and that's not bad for a business at all), so make your customers feel luxurious. Bean counting isn't luxurious. Do exactly what you do now, just handle the request and state the price. Getting people to think about pricing by having pricing listed and itemized will just ruin the experience. Besides, people prone to bean counting will quickly figure out this isn't worth it. Don't be Amazon, don't race to the bottom. Just find a way to scale your fee estimation process to stay reasonable enough without bothering your customers with it.

Completely Agree with this. Your service is extremely easy to use and your customers will choose if the price is too much or not.

Excellent advice and goes back to the basic rule of know exactly who your customers are.

First thought that comes to mind: Look into how Virtual Assistant services do pricing... Whatever it is, I'm sure it could be improved, but it might be a good starting point. I imagine they either charge a % of the cost (eg, milk+courier+0.15(milk+courier), or a subscription (plus cost of each transaction of course), or time-based (how long it took to complete the request). Maybe urgency-based?

Or a combination of any of above.

Why do the fees vary? Why couldn't you have flat min fee + % of total cost? Am I missing something? I feel like pricing transparency is key to scaling quickly here.

Presumably what their fee covers is their work arranging it. I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense to charge much more for ordering a plane ticket than a pizza; it's not so much more effort that a percentage makes much sense. On the other hand, "get me a Philly cheesesteak delivered" (which someone mentioned) may entail both "find me a cheesesteak" and "find me a courier" - so you charge more because it's more effort.

I think the most important aspect of pricing is that your stated prices are itemized. That way you'll build trust with users.

As for pricing, perhaps a flat rate per request ($1?) that comes with up to 5 minutes of operator time for free. Then any time past 5 minutes could be billed in 5-minute blocks, perhaps $2 each (base price) and tiered up by order price (I dunno, maybe $3 for $500+, $5 for $2500+, $8 for $15000+). Also, you could charge predefined flat rates for any aspects of the order that can be automated.

Again, the important thing is that you're clear about what you're charging and why.

Great idea!

EDIT: changed suggested prices (redid math)

Right from the site:

> It's completely free to chat with Magic. When you order something, we'll let you know the total price so you can confim it before you are billed. There are no hidden fees, and tip is included.

You have to confirm the price. It sounds like you can decline if you think it's unfair.

I saw, but it doesn't say how their fee structure works. I would rather not have to compare their quote with the original price every time just to be sure I'm not being dealt a 50% "convenience fee."

When you buy pizza for delivery, do you need to ask about their margins?

"I want X." "That'll be 22.50 with delivery." "Ok."

If the price is fair to you, buy it. View this as another store which happens to have everything. Under the hood they run out and subcontract.

If you're concerned about minimizing the price, you probably shouldn't be using a service designed to charge you for a few minutes' work. The target market for this thing is people who are looking to trade money for time.

It seems to me that their target market is people who read the quote and go "I don't care enough about this to look elsewhere" - i.e. people who care if they're acquiring sufficient value for money+time spent, rather than people who care that they're acquiring the most efficient use of their money.

Wasn't it actually convenient?

I like the one cost quote. Perfect. Things are worth what people will pay for them.

They quote, you either find it's worth it, or not, no worries.

Seems to me, there will be people who value their time low, who will not want to pay so much, and others who will value their time highly and will pay.

Scaling off the latter crowd might be easier to do and capitalize on.

My thoughts exactly. I have no idea what the "tip" is and if it perhaps varies depending on what service I'm requesting, time of day, whether my phone number is even or odd, etc. It would be nice if this was more transparent.

I read that as meaning that the operators and delivery persons won't hassle you for a gratuity, which is a plus.

Can you somehow handle requests that are primarily research questions, that don't necessarily culminate in an immediate (or an intermediated) financial translation?

I'm just thinking about requests that ask for a recommendation for a product or a service that won't be purchased right away (like finding a certain kind of restaurant with certain parameters, but not getting food delivered from it, or finding a certain kind of professional service without immediately contracting for it).

Or for that matter factual questions like "Who won the 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature?".

Would this somehow look like "I found 3, and I'll tell you about them for $5, OK?"? Will people be more resistant to paying the fee if the fee is the only item they're paying, rather than bundled with the price of some other transaction?

I asked several questions and got decent answers for all of then, sometimes after they prompted me for some more information. I eventually asked about the pay structure and they said they would probably start charging me for asking questions if the volume were high.

There was a service that used to do this called ChaCha. It raised a bunch of money but never became profitable and went out of business I believe.

This is an example of "execution is everything." People might try this as novelty. If it gets any traction, there will be millions of imitators. This won't succeed or fail because of the idea, but because of execution.

This needs to be really awesome to be good, really awesome. So awesome people get dependant.

I've seen something similar before, very cool idea! My question is from an operational standpoint, who are the "operators"? Given the side-project nature of the site, are you up all night answering/ordering these things?

It's safe to say that this is no longer a side project.

=)congrats. care to share what volume looks like?

This seems a lot like fancy hands, via text messaging. The big difference I see is that there is no monthly commitment. Since my personal assistant quit, I've been using Fancy Hands I have been quite delighted by the service. I'd love to know the model that this business uses. I dug into fancy hands a little bit and it seems like the operations are not quite so straightforward(crowdsourcing what the headache of managing employees). When I first looked through this I assumed this was coded onto fancy hands API. But given the scaling issues and the pricing structure of this app it probably isn't.

I can already order pizza and flowers and plane tickets myself. However, if you could handle requests like:

   Call Comcast for me and have them configure my Cisco 
   DPC3939B for bridge mode

   Go stand in line at the post office and retrieve 
   my package with tracking #xxxxxxxx

   My iPhone's screen is cracked.  Take it to the mall 
   and get somebody to fix or replace it, whichever's 

   Bring me some Mongolian BBQ with the following 
... I can see this whole "magic" concept going places. :)

Yeah, if you can wrap shleps like this in a painless interface, it would be incredible.

I would pay _a lot of money_ for that.

Especially for stuff like "Dispatch someone credible-sounding to stand in line and negotiate as my agent with large shitty ossified organization X," where X might be a post office, utility company, embassy, real estate, etc, where their user experience disrepects my time.

The dev who sits next to me has been trying to buy a house for a month, and he spends ~50% of his time on the phone with home inspectors, contractors, the title office and similar, basically telling them trivial facts or participating in silly naggy negotiations where they're basically gambling that he won't push back on the twentieth little crappy line item this week.

This is a super-real pain point.

So you're saying that your coworker needs a real estate agent.

Is there a reason, besides money, that he isn't using one? I say "besides money", because you said you would pay "a lot of money" for it, so you can clearly afford an agent.

No clue why he's doing it the way he is, and I know nothing about how to buy a house, but it sure sounds like a pain.

It is an unbelievable pain (having just gone through the process myself) and unfortunately I don't think there's much you can do to delegate the pain, short of giving someone unlimited power of attorney. Even then, the worst part -- the day-to-day uncertainty -- won't go away.

A good buyer's agent can help to some extent, but the mortgage process is the real time sink. If you're a 1099 kind of person and you're not paying cash, your life will pretty much suck for a couple of months.

His reason is almost certainly money. An agent's commission isn't insignificant. It's the opportunity cost of, well... what he's doing.

If he's talking with contractors, he's probably also trying to figure out how to fix it up or modify it. I didn't need to talk with any contractors at all, so I don't know whether or not an agent would have helped.

When we bought our house, the seller paid for our agent as well as theirs.

If the seller is paying for "your" agent, is she really yours in the incentivized sense?

eg. Zuckerberg's college buddy who fronted the money for early FB servers was sure that "his" attorneys had his back, right up until they stabbed him, because they were paid by Zuckerberg.

Being little people, the laws apply to us.

As I understand it, this is what TaskRabbit and several other services offer right now. If this is something that you do on a regular basis, you might have enough disposable income to hire a full time personal assistant. Or pool money with other well off friends and split an assistant's time.

Obviously the concept of concierge service isn't new. But getmagicnow.com is based on a brilliant insight: "people don't want to sign up for TaskRabbit or any other website, they just want to text a number". All the details of scaling the service and how it will work out can left for later. Right now they should be patting themselves on the back until their arms get tired.

Does it mean the singularity is happening when people consider googling to be too much work?

We can do some of these things, and a lot of stuff like this. give it a shot. :)

Are you using something like Twilio TaskRouter behind the scenes?

Favor and Postmates will do these things for you. You might not like the price though since most will take significant time.

Am I supposed to tip the delivery guy?

Normally I tip for pizza delivery, Instacart, etc. Do you make sure that's included for me?

Normally we will charge you one overall charge and handle everything including tipping, but if you prefer to do the tipping yourself then just let us know!

Great service for a consumer. But as a business - how do you earn revenue?

They're likely using one of the world's oldest business models: "Buy things for $1, sell them for $2."

The simplicity of your reply blew mine out of the water. :0

I think I stole the quote from the Wire.

Take quote from the Wire, use on HN. Still quite the arbitrage! :)

Yup, love that show.

"Shit is just business, String. Buy for a dollar, sell for two. That’s all it need be."

Proposition Joe

I know a guy who buys cheap cars, fixes them, and resells them. All through craigslist. But whenever he buys a car, even one he plans to keep for himself, he immediately lists it with a huge markup. Just today he got an offer for $3200 on a motorcycle he bought last week for $2000.

I often think that would be a great gig.

I like fixing things.

But I don't know how to work on cars. So there's that...

You'd be surprised how much you can learn from a classic Haynes manual. Start small (changing oil, tires) and you might surprise yourself!

Yeah, it's partially that I've (so far) had exceptional luck with my vehicles! In my 15 years of driving I've only had maybe 10 parts changed. I did the easiest myself--an alternator, a couple of serpentine belts, etc. I sometimes change my own oil.

Sometimes I don't know enough to diagnose a problem, though, and I take it to my buddy. He usually does the fix and I watch and help a little, but I don't know enough about the whole engine and how it all works together, at this point.

I want to buy a car to take apart and reassemble, but I don't currently have a space I can do that in. Though it just occurred to me I could get a storage unit, probably.

Presumably by taking a percentage for acting as a convenient middleman. (At least eventually, even if they aren't now)

  Cust: I want 100 bananas
  Magic, to Instacart: how much does 100 bananas cost?
  Instacart: $100
  Magic, to customer: Sure! Does $109.19 sound okay to you?
  Cust: sure

have we seriously gone so far down the rabbit hole that you're wondering how a service that takes your credit card and charges you for deliveries... makes money?

This business started out of a need that I had. I've hired numerous assistants for myself in the past to handle these types of tasks for me. I've always been OK with paying a premium to have thing handled for me like magic. I've had my assistants do work for other people too to simplify their lives, and often times it was for things just like this. Here, we realized that instead of having to pay a salary, or even a monthly fee, we could do it on a per-item basis. I didn't know how popular it would be, but it seems that other people in addition to me are interested in the idea of paying a premium on top of per-item prices in order to have them handled like magic. Maybe it's not for everyone, but there is definitely a market.

I love the idea. I currently pay minimum wage to a student friend of mine when they have time, but when they're busy paying the equivalent to a service would suit me fine.

I have no idea how viable this is, but if you could find an effective way to extend this to "we will deal with your suppliers who only work by phone, and charge you for the privilege of not having to make the stupid call yourself" I would be very interested ... but probably useless as a customer, since I'm in the UK. It's just I already pay for fulfillment work and wish I could easily pay for utility company wrangling, and if somebody can validate the model hopefully somebody will do it over here eventually :)

We've put up a similar service for the UK market. You can check us out at askjarvis.co.uk or just text START to 0115 824 4141 :)

I love the absurdly simple way this works. That said, maybe there should be some form of (appropriately simple) authentication on each request, because what if my phone gets stolen/lost?

If your phone gets lost or stolen and thieves have enough access to use text messages this service should be the least of your worries.

Degrade the service for everyone to possibly defend against a theoretical problem?

The problem isn't theoretical, just sufficiently unlikely for them to take no action at this point. Consider the scenario where my phone is stolen and the thief transfers money out of my bank account with Venmo (which has no passcode or similar auth). It's unlikely, but not theoretical.

I think it's quite conceivable that both examples would never happen. And then if it did, is it that big a problem?

I would think twice before using a service that makes no effort to protect me in case of thieves or wannabe hackers. Of course, degrading the service because of security is an old and very common problem, but maybe the sweet spot would be to degrade it minimally, so that everyone gets a lot more security for just a bit less of Magic®?

Well, with Magic there is almost always a geographic aspect to fulfillment which would ward off most/all theft attempts. The time to perform risk mitigation is when a strange, large request comes in.

You could do this: if you enable passcode confirmation, type your pass anywhere in the text message along with your text confirmation. If you forget, you get a request to do so.

Except that text history is usually saved on the phone. If someone has access to sending texts, they will have access to that as well. It is probably better to go with phone locking, instead.

That said, I like the passcode idea. I know that caller ID is easily spoofed, and so I would imagine that the source ID for text messages can be spoofed as well. Requiring the passcode would prevent this sort of attack.

The source of text messages is indeed easily spoofed. Most paid services enabling you to send SMS over the web allow you to set arbitrary sender IDs, so the cost of entry for spoofing is about $5.

It's not hard to imagine this leading to trouble as soon as you get into the crosshairs of some internet troll who managed to get your mobile number.

Prediction, they will switch to a simple app soon.

that may not be ideal. most people keep their sms history, so the person trying to use the service in my behalf could just scroll the screen. or do you mean some sort of one timer passcode? that could complicate things a bit, not sure how it could work

You could call them and enter a few numbers I guess. This isn't stored, at least on my phone since you are in a call, and can be automated. ( Or just don't store that message. )

ye, that seems reasonable... it kinda complicates the process though

This is neat. I like the simple execution, and I'm working on something metaphorically similar in that I'm using Stripe and other separate Bitcoin APIs in a similar "amalgamated" way to create a well-rounded application that does a simple service really well. This gives me the confidence that a "mashup"-like concept isn't necessarily the downfall of a service, so long as it provides real value to the end-user.

I wish the Magic team the best!

Maybe one approach is to start by doing everything by hand but then gradually try to automate things. This would not work for answering questions, but when it comes to ordering things I would assume majority of orders would fall into not-so-many categories.

It could be valuable to just record all the transactions and how the agents filled them. What the customer asked, what kind of questions the agent asked, did agent Google for the service, what steps did they take on web sites to perform the order etc. If you have this kind of data for thousands of transactions that might have some value for Google, Apple or other companies working to build digital assistants.

For more complex/expensive purchases one added value thing for customer could be that the agent knows how to find a good deal. There's for example a service (or maybe just a forum) where people can post their travel plans and airline ticketing experts compete to provide the best ticket options.

One obvious income source that comes to my mind is affiliate fees and companies paying for you to introduce them for new customers. This is of course also difficult one since customers would like you to recommended the best provider and not the one that pays best affiliate fees.

This looks identical to Jarvis: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8094351

Jarvis charges a large upfront fee. This charges per use.

    > We will send you a 128-bit encrypted HTTPS link via SMS that you can click to enter your credit card number. We do not store your credit card number. All payment processing is handled by Stripe.
What if one of your operators sends me a link to pay them instead and I never get what I asked for?

Also, for something people are wary is a scam, saying "be careful what you wish for" in your first reply is a little bit ominous!

I see almost no barrier to entry for this idea and as some commentors pointed out- this has been done before- although today does feel like the right time to succeed because these other services are maturing.

Why not turn this into an excess capacity market where you enable anyone to easily offer this service themselves...especially if they have local insights.

This seems like a good way for anyone to Make a few bucks in their free time.

If you've never read it, this is the time to read the Heinlein classic, "We Also Walk Dogs."[1] This is exactly the business he describes.

[1] http://www.lightforcenetwork.com/sites/default/files/%5BHein...

From the short story:

"Miss Cormet reflected to herself that the prosperity of General Services and her own very substantial income was based largely on the stupidity, lack of resourcefulness, and laziness of persons like this silly parasite"

uhhm... in italy we have this kind of service for years (I remember back in the '80s when there was still one national telephonic company there was this number "12" you could call to have infos).

There is now a profusion of heritage (like http://www.1240.it, http://www.892424.it, etc).

But they got complacent and didn't scale, I guess they missed the boat.

I love it! Sounds like Heinlein's "General Services" -- no job too big, no job too small.

"Want somebody murdered? Then DON'T call General Services. But for anything else, call.... It Pays!"


Best app? No app.


You're not texting credit card data; in fact, they're not handling it at all. From the FAQ:

Q: How do you guarantee that my credit card number is safe and secure?

We will send you a 128-bit encrypted HTTPS link via SMS that you can click to enter your credit card number. We do not store your credit card number. All payment processing is handled by Stripe.

You don't text your CC data, they text you an HTTPS link and its Stripe that keeps your info.

This bit of the FAQ accounted for ~20% of all characters on the page.

From the FAQ:

> Q: How do you guarantee that my credit card number is safe and secure?

> We will send you a 128-bit encrypted HTTPS link via SMS that you can click to enter your credit card number. We do not store your credit card number. All payment processing is handled by Stripe.

EDIT: I guess this seems redundant now, others have posted the same thing in the time it took me to respond, hah.

PCI compliance for a start up is a solved problem.

They don't handle credit cards at all --- Stripe does. They just get a token.

uhm they are not. The text is just a link to a site that uses stripe to collect your CC data.

I wonder how they are able to pay for 3rd party transactions with Stripe? Charging the customer's credit card with Stripe then paying with your own payment method incurs a transaction fee and potentially chargebacks

(Disclaimer: co-founder of Perssist, a tech-enhanced virtual assistant service)

Yes I wonder too. They're storing the card in Stripe. But then they're paying the Pizza joint for the Pizza (who probably doesn't have a Stripe account) So they're charging your card against their Stripe account and then I assume using their own cards to charge for the Pizza manually. It seems like that'll have some scale challenges.

(Disclaimer: I work at Spreedly where we see a lot of these cross merchant/PCI compliant services launching.

I'm guessing they just charge enough mark-up to the customer to cover transaction fees and chargeback risk.

This is crazy, I was just brainstorming about this last week. You're basically layering concierges on top of remote hands. Awesome!

I'm curious to see what you'll do to handle exceptional cases. I live in the boonies and am asking for a philly cheesesteak right now.

1. Maybe it's just quoted at a ridiculous price

2. They may just be able to say it's not available and still maintain a positive experience for 99.9% of customers.

3. It doesn't seem like they're charging such a large fee that I expect them to do something crazy for me... I expect value in some proportion to my payment. Amex concierge might get the cheesesteak for a customer who spends 6-figures with them but not 4-figures, for example.

So did they deliver?

They offered! They found a "good cheesesteak place" about 30 miles from here (I believe it) and offered to have someone drive it out to me, but cautioned it would be very expensive & asked if I wanted them to get a quote. I declined, not THAT hungry for a cheesesteak tonight, but I'm super happy with the knowledge & result.

About a week ago, my team and I also launched a similar service in India - Genie (www.getagenie.in). I am happy to answer any questions or concerns from Indian market standpoint. We have built a concierge technology platform that our crowdsourced Genies (of course we handpick only the best) uses to serve the customers. We take a bit different route in pricing/offering where we provide an actual assistant (ofcourse shared and available via text, call or email) who takes the customer to know personally and provide both reactive (customer asking for a plumber for example) and proactive (Genie coming up with ideas on customer anniversary for example) services.

The front-end looks awesome.

But will it scale?

To me, the obvious value of your business is in being able to train Operators up to the Magic corporate standard. If you can do this while growing the service, you've got a real winner - especially if you put up a web front end to make it possible to become a Magic operator anywhere in the world. I'd be quite happy to do this kind of service work from home - as long as I had the tools to support me, and I think ultimately thats where your real value is going to be - certainly growing the customer base is valuable, too. But being able to train/service Operators who can do the job properly is going to be the key to it all ..

Example screenshots show iMessage, but the number provided supports SMS-text only.

I can't tell you the number of times I knew the recipient had an iPhone and it still showed up green on Messages.

I'm curious to know how they can cover the entire US.

Obviously, I realize they can't, I just wonder how often their answer to the query is "Sorry, we can't do this".

Overall, I think it's a great idea but the fact that it's bottlenecked by humans will make it very, very hard to scale (and you can already see this as the web site has a big banner saying the service is currently restricted due to high demand).

Still, it's clear from the testimonials so far that these guys have their heart in the right place and they really want to achieve maximum user satisfaction. Kudos!

> I'm curious to know how they can cover the entire US.

Because they're just using other services to get you what you want.. i.e. flowers, groceries, pizza, etc. - they just call a florist/supermarket/pizza joint/etc. local to the requester.

What examples of requests can you think of that can't be served anywhere in the US?

"I've just arrived in this small town and I'm hungry. Send me a large pepperoni pizza" -> "There are no pizza places in this town".

s/pizza place/supermarkets that deliver/florists that are either currently open for calls or have a website/etc

> "There are no pizza places in this town".

"...but there is one in the town 80 miles away, so your pizza will be $95".

"Would you like to go ahead with that order?"

Meh, if you're going with that argument, then their service covers the globe.

Not to mention that while the service might be Magic, pizza bags aren't, and a pizza that takes over an hour to get to you isn't going to be hot. I don't think "here's a ridiculously expensive, late, cold pizza" answers the spirit of "I'd like a pizza".

> I don't think "here's a ridiculously expensive, late, cold pizza" answers the spirit of "I'd like a pizza".

It does for someone in a town that doesn't have pizza.

No, it answers the letter of the request, not the spirit of it.

And if you think that's good enough (consumers won't), then just change the request to "I'd like a hot pizza in the next hour, because I'm hungry now and have an appointment".

You're really not getting it are you?

Magic will do the best they can for whatever price they can. If the consumer doesn't like it, they won't order the thing. No big deal. If it turns out that the vast majority of people are not satisfied with what Magic offers, then Magic won't be a success - just like the other ten million business out there trying to get a foot hold. In all honesty we know the very vast majority of people live in places where (for a fee) Magic will be able to do some neat stuff. Who cares about the people that live in towns with no pizza.

> And if you think that's good enough (consumers won't)

A consumer in a town that doesn't have pizza is going to be disappointed they asked a service to deliver pizza and that service said "We can do that" ?

> "I'd like a hot pizza in the next hour, because I'm hungry now and have an appointment".

And Magic will say, "Sorry, no can do".

Consumers can't get everything they want now for the price they want. Stores turn people away all the time for requests that are impossible. Magic won't be doing anything new with regard to that.

Welcome back to your own starting point: What examples of requests can you think of that can't be served anywhere in the US?

Don't talk down to me when you eventually end up answering your own question the same way I did.

I understand that but you still need a one to one mapping between customers and request, even if that request is not ultimately implemented by the person who picked up the phone.

They'll find a price point that matches the demand with their ability to supply. The premium involved in using this service is already substantial, so it's not going to be an everyday thing for everyone.

You're missing my point: their service is limited by humans. Every new customer needs exactly one human to address their needs.

Every new customer needs a few minutes of one human's time. They can hire as many people as they need as long as customers are willing to pay the cost of that time. As long as the cost of the humans is something some number of customers are willing to pay, everything is great.

This is an ancient business model for customer service, so I guess I'm confused where you're going with this...

So your question is how are they going to scale to meet the demands of the 300 million people in the US?

Isn't that the fundamental question all business must face? When the first McDonald's opens in a town do they worry and say "How on earth will we meet the demand of the WHOLE town?"

Problems like that are good to have.

Many people here are making the argument that this is more efficient than opening up an app or going to a UI. However after looking at one poster's times of actually using the service, it seems like the opposite. (http://brianbeck.com/images/magic-times.png)

For someone who gets really overwhelmed by too many texts, this seems like a lot of back and forth compared to just googling to find the number of the restaurant and ordering.

Nice idea and like others here I really appreciate the simple plain web page. Best of luck with it all.

Just a thought for when this begins to scale: vetting of the people ordering the stuff. They will have names, email, delivery address and an idea of the income level/lifestyle of the person ordering. I'm assuming credit card details are on a payment system and not available to the people handing the requests.

PS: any customers complained about what they got yet?

Just to sign up (before I asked for anything), the credit card form is for a $20 initial payment... with no explanation if this goes towards your first purchase, or not? http://i.imgur.com/J5TKJO5.png

Also, they're using a Stripe account managed by this company: https://bettir.com

Bettir seems to be a product of the same company (Plus Labs).

Like Jim Barksdale used to say - there are two ways of making money, you can bundle or unbundle. Magic is clearly a very clever bundling play.

This looks great! It would be really cool if, in the far future, this service could make deals to cut out some of the natural 'fee stacking' that occurs. If you order from magic and magic uses Postmates, you're going to pay a delivery fee to each service. This will add up to probably 20-30% of the price, but that's the price of convenience I guess.

Great site, and exciting service.

One little nitpick: the blue chat bubbles on the site gave me the impression you'd be using iMessage for supported phones instead of SMS. (This matters to me just a bit because I have a limited number of SMSes per month.) I totally get why you would just stick to SMS.

Still happy to use your service, but it did create just the tiniest bit of initial dissapointment.

I kind of like the idea of a broker service for deliverables. Does this look for best price or just best effort at fastest fulfillment?

Both. Whichever you like. Just specify.

Congrats to Mike and team for making something people [really] want! I am so excited for you guys. Can't wait to start using.

Who do I talk to about adding Lugg to the list of services? http://lu.gg

Good idea, you're blowing up so get off this damn forum and go fulfill some orders. The best to you gents/ladies.

They're doing alright it seems, I got a response within like 30 seconds! :)

I'm curious how they are scaling on the financials side. I'm assuming they are paying for the things ordered off of their personal CC's and with the sudden spike in requests and the long delay of getting money back into their account, I wonder how far they will go.

A blog post after all of it cools down would be a fun read. :)

The users put a card on file with Stripe. Is there a way to use that info through Stripe to make a payment to the vendor? (and a separate charge to Magic for the service fee, maybe?)

I assume bitcoin is going through Stripe as well, though if not, that money could come to Magic more quickly. The problem then is that the vendors likely don't accept bitcoin...


They aren't paying with the products they buy online with their customers CC though. That's what I was getting at. Since they don't have access to their customers CC on the websites they're purchasing these services/items from they are having to pay with it and then get reimbursed essentially with their "convenience fee" on top.

Realized what you meant and deleted and revised my comment. In any case, I can't imagine their personal credit cards handling any actual volume, not to mention the fraud protection issues with orders for deliveries all over the country.

The landing page mentions that they ask the credit card details the first time you request a service.

This data goes to Stripe, where Magic bills you. Magic doesn't use your card info to order the services for you. This is why this idea won't work - it's going to get overrun with chargeback fraud and totally ruin it.

Any sane bank would be running them a fat line of credit right now.

Maybe it's me but i don't feel confident giving my credit card after reading the home page. After reading the whole page i understand the business but my first impression was really somewhere between "is this a joke ? / they are stealing credit card numbers"

Maybe the very cheap design discredit the whole project.

Holy shit, they flinched! Magic, get your act together. Seriously, do not cut off potential exponential growth like this. You need to get talented operators in place and fake it until the AI is ready. Understand your role, you are a sales channel. Make it happen and make it big.

I do not understand the internet. This type of service has existed for ages.

Why does this one attract so much attention?

And yet another cool startup I'm going to have to wait to expand to the UK.

Good work guys, and I agree with everything that everyone else said about the simplicity of your landing page, and the controversial design decision to actually communicate information.

Don't bother waiting, we made a UK version you can find at askjarvis.co.uk or by texting "start" to 0115 824 4141

This seems a lot like fancyhands.com; or on its way to trying to become something like it...

That's the first thing I thought when I saw the user scenarios. Fancyhands charges a monthly fee for a certain number of transactions which can get pricey.

This seems like another one of this startup ideas that will blow up, sell for $X,000,000 in a few weeks/months, then die as the fad wears off.

Congrats on being so successful so far, but my advice would be to sell out before the investors loose interest!

This is literally day 3 for them... a bit early for the investor talk.

Just FYI, My company used to offer Les Concierge for something very similar, until recently. They stopped it because people were not really using the service. So, inspite of the coolness of the startup, I am skeptical if it makes money.


The other thing technology lets you do is specialize, which includes specialization in technologies of distribution, allocation, search, and fulfilment.

I love how the Hacker News crowd is consistent over the course of 200 days: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8094351

How would you deal with the following cases?

- people using the service just to figure out the price of something (and then declining)?

- people not being happy with what they got delivered (perhaps rightfully so), and wanting their money back?

Took a few more minutes than I expected, but it checks out.


A joke I always had was that startups always have the "we do it so you don't have to" headline. Applies so perfectly here!

Still, looks like a very nice idea, might try it if I ever need something :)

So I ordered a pizza last night(not through your service) and I had to call them after an hour because it didn't arrive and they misplaced the order. How would you handle such a situation?

We do exactly what you would do if you're being completely proactive...just behind the scenes so you don't have to worry about it. We call the pizza place, call the driver, deal with the annoyance. You just relax and wait for your pizza.

The customer knows if it arrived - do they need to notify you when it does? Or do all the services notify you? Otherwise, I don't see how you can tell if it's late and likely got misordered, and you need to contact the pizza place again.

Is everything done by human operators or have you already automated large parts of the work?

OK, I haven't read all the comments yet, and, sadly, when I texted the Magic number, I was wait listed, but I think this is a great idea and will definitely use it if prices are fair.

Those prices. Holy moly. Is everyone in the Bay Area rich these days?


Since this is just a middleman to other services, even like instacart, it's more expensive. I wonder why humans are so lazy nowadays just to get trivial things done.

What guarantee of customer satisfaction is offered? If your fees are "bundled" how do you intend to refund in the event of poor service by the final provider?

Hey just a heads-up - your logo looks very similar to the one Magic FM use - http://www.magic.co.uk/

PRODUCERS. This is huge for producers. Please keep this in mind. A producer on set who needs something special delivered ASAP will pay a PREMIUM for this kinda service.

Like a high speed freight train smashing through a wooden fence with horns blazing, and speeding on. This is a great idea and really simple execution. I love it.

Great service, guys, but beware of the first waves of fraud.

Simplicity at its best. Quite stark and simple landing page. Simple service. Seems like no gimmicks. I would say I am looking forward to give it a try!

If Magic is going to be the one selecting the services, this may cost Google and others a great deal in ad revenue.

How would they respond to this? Their own meta-service?

Google buys these guys out.

How do you handle support issues - returns, exchanges, credits? Same mechanism?

Where do you draw the line on "anything"?

Also, this whole thing is April Fool's joke, right?

Its a neat idea, I'd love to try it. Unfortunately I'm Canadian, so I guess I'll have to wait for it to grow a bit first.

What a great way to boil business down to the essentials. Help people in a way they value, give them an easy way to pay for it, profit.

It's a dream project for me this kind of adventure.

If you are lokking for some jack of all trade to help you , or looking for some one in france.

I'am in ...

Btw good luck.

Bussiere AT gmail.com

Just want to point out that such a service wouldn't work in India. The Reserve Bank of India has stipulated that all "card-not-present" transactions (such as online purchases) require a secondary authentication (Verified by VISA password or a grid printed on the back of card). This improves the security but also pushes the liability to the consumer, given that he is not supposed to share this secondary password with anyone else.

My impression is that they're buying stuff for you, then charging the user as a separate transaction that includes the original purchase price plus their fee.

Uber is doing fine with prepaid wallets. Also, cash on delivery or some variant of pay at hotel already solves the issues you point out.

And plastic cash isn't as prelevant in India as it is in the western world. You wouldn't really miss out on anything because of 2FA imposed by RBI.

Honestly, "get magic" on the internet sounds like a trap. What is this? I don't trust the URL :)

I know it is too early to say, but if I had to guess what the next Google would look like, it would be this.

This could be handy as a Slack chat bot

I mean this as a genuine compliment: this is an obvious idea...that was hiding in plain sight.

Good job on seeing it.

Perfect. Now please come to Canada.

Yet another technology lifted straight out of an anime: Eden of the East [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eden_of_the_East] where contestants compete to win a reality game with access to a concierge by phone backed by a staggering sum of money.

Cool service, but you should really make it more obvious that it's only for the USA.

Where are you based?

Has anyone used it? What was that like? How much did they charge to use the service?

The idea, the execution and the simplicity of the web site are all astonishing !

Very cool idea. I wonder if they are crowdsourcing the operator side of it?

I think this particularly clever and refreshingly simple. I wish you luck!

looks like you guys blew up and had to limit orders. bummer. would love to give this a shot as I get my invite! great idea, hopefully the execution is good.

How did you get office space at Moffett Federal Airfield?

How does this service compare to Jarvis or Fancy Hands?

Fewer peeople are using SMS today. In US, WhatsApp is preferred text message app; In Japan and Taiwan, everyone uses Line while rest of Asia uses WeChat. Any plan to support those Apps?

Is there someone available 24/7 to reply?

We are always available, though we might be a bit slower during the wee hours.

Very cool idea. I hope you guys make it big.

What differentiates this from Fetch?

cmikec, how many operators do you have by now? and how many customers?

Awesome. Simply brilliant.

They just ignored me.

I'm so sorry! We're getting ridiculously hammered. Please try us again, or you can wait while we catch up on everything.

Is this US only?

Yeah, the page says

"Q: Where is Magic available?

Anywhere in the US."

This will get abused by fraud really quickly.


Color me flabbergasted. Props to these guys for launching an MVP and all that, but seriously - what a value proposition: "Why order online when you can get someone else to do that for you adding an undisclosed middleman fee?". First world problems.

When is this coming to Canada eh?

Has our society really come to simply throwing money on paying two separate third parties to order FOOD? I use Magic, to use Postmates, to get Chipotle?! No offense but I feel like this is the most first world solution I've ever encountered. Congrats on the success and traffic though and best of luck on executing.

this adds a voice interface to all apps/services that do the fulfillment on the back end.

now you can safely order food to be delivered when driving home. or laundry pickup, or whatever.

"siri, text magic, i want a large pepperoni pizza delivered to my home in 1 hour."

Now we only need Siri to read out how much it will cost.

Siri will read notifications, including text messages if you say something like "read that text".

From some of the comments here it sounds like you're using a long code (phone number) rather than a short code for your sms messages.

The FCC has been cracking down on the use of long codes in marketing. Not sure about an app like your's though... But you probably should move to a short code anyway.

There are also very strong requirements for how opting in, opting out, etc works.


really? not magic. Who's moderating hackers news on the weekend. ?

408-217-1721 in https://archive.today/2ZmPj

This is nice to know but I really think it's a questionable thing to do considering they specifically want to omit the number from their current website :/

I love this idea, but I'm absolutely terrified of the possible implications from a liability standpoint.

When you guys get slammed with fraud, give me a shout.

This is an example of a completely useless title.

Perhaps the site's creators will be kind enough to consider the privacy issues regarding Google Fonts: http://fontfeed.com/archives/google-webfonts-the-spy-inside/

From your link: "We do log records of the CSS and the font file requests". I don't trust Google and that's final.


Boom! there goes every single bit of something resembling "privacy" you had. Magic.

> The first time you use Magic, we'll ask for your credit card info, your address, etc.

Etc? Really?

My baby daughter is five days overdue. My three-year-old son keeps asking when he'll be a big brother. And my wife and I are trying to figure out how we'll do the grocery shopping—or even focus on a computer screen long enough to shop online—once we're juggling two kids. When I told my wife about Magic, she visibly relaxed. This service has huge, huge potential.

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