Virtual Assistant service Julie Desk has raised €600,000 from the recently launched SIDE Capital, a new super angel syndicate which includes the founders of Blablacar (valued at $2 Billion), Showroom Privé (IPO in 2015), PriceMinister (acquired by Rakuten) & A Little Market (sold to Etsy). Julie Desk was the result of a pivot away from collaborative planning app WePopp, and founders Julien Hobeika (CEO), Nicolas Marlier (CTO) & Guillaume Michiels (CPO) say they designed the app to help top executives (founders & investors in the tech space, notably) schedule meetings automatically.
Though I’ve played briefly with the service (the founders applied to demo at ParisFounders last year), most of my experiences have been on the receiving end of Julie – that is, people I’m speaking to who are using the service. In the wild, Julie Desk is pretty easy to spot – paying users (pricing starts a 49€/month) plug Julie into their calendar tool and then cc her in on any email where a meeting time must be set. Users can set in advance their preferred times and meeting spots, and Julie takes care of the rest.
My experience so far with Julie has been mixed. That is, the service does exactly what it says it will – it gets you to an agreed meeting time and sends out invites to all parties; however, with people who don’t use Virtual Assistants – AI or otherwise – I find that I’m sending on average 1-3 less emails to get to a calendar invite (namely because I often respond “let’s meet here at this time: confirm with a calendar invite or propose an alternative.”). It’s the type of ‘rude’ thing that Virtual Assistants can’t do.
Julie Desk has a certain level of Artificial Intelligence – combined with manual curation & oversight, especially in complex situations where Julie Desk can’t easily decipher next steps – however, Julie Desk does come through on annoying instances like one member cancelling the meeting. Julie Desk automatically sends a “woops, let’s reschedule” email which I found, as a user, quite helpful.
Julie Desk has been on my (and a lot of investors’) radar for the past 6 months or so since its launch. Willingness to try the service out seems strong – and theoretically, the viral nature of being the Assistant, and thus, having contact points with potential users, is strong – however, I’ve heard from a number of investors that the numbers Julie Desk showed in their deck was just not strong enough to suggest that they will take on the likes of X.AI, Facebook’s M, and the handful of other people working on AI virtual assistance at the moment.
Nonetheless, Julie Desk clearly has seen convincing enough growth for SIDE Capital to invest. Only their 2nd investment, I’m keen to see how this new syndicate, managed by Renaud Guillerm, will spread itself in 2016. Seed funds are popular in France – the support received by LPs & the Investors by BPIFrance is strong – however, investing in Seed is great if you’re looking to optimize fiscally, but not necessarily if you’re looking to bet on the next Licorne.