Sometimes the smallest, most mundane tasks are the things you really dread — and put off for weeks. Like booking an oil change for your car, or finding a nice play for an anniversary date and buying tickets, or finding a good dentist in a new city and scheduling an appointment. It’s stuff that any patient person with Internet access and a cell phone can do, but takes up just enough time and mental energy that it can be a huge drag.
That’s why wealthy people have personal assistants. And lately, that’s why I’ve been using Fancy Hands.
As we’ve written before, Fancy Hands is a three-year-old NYC-based startup that lets you book a personal assistant to complete tasks for a flat fee, ranging from $25 for five tasks a month, to $65 for 25 requests per month. Unlike TaskRabbit and Exec, Fancy Hands isn’t for tasks that need to be completed in person, like picking up dry cleaning (it has integrated with TaskRabbit’s API to help arrange such errands, though). Its team of personal assistants are all based in the United States, but distributed throughout the country — armed with patience, web-searching skills, and phone lines, they get paid to do all the research and “desk errands” that can really drag you down.
Fancy Hands for iOS
And today, Fancy Hands is set to become even more, well, handy: It’s launching its first-ever native app for the iPhone. Up until now, Fancy Hands has been available only as an app in the web browser, as well as through email and phone (you could leave a voice message with a task assignment). An Android app is also in the works, with beta signups here.
One of the coolest features with Fancy Hands for iOS is that it lets you book a new request by either typing it or speaking it (there’s a cute “Talkie” animation that moves its lips when you do.) This is all a custom-built technology, not a Siri integration, Fancy Hands founder Ted Roden tells me. The key here is that bad computer transcription is not a worry, since a human will actually be listening to your request.
Another very cool baked-in new feature is that the Fancy Hands app suggests tasks for you, incorporating your location, calendar, weather, date, and most importantly your task history. This gets the service even closer to what I’d imagine it’d be like to have a real-life, full time personal assistant. “Looks like it’s your grandparents’ anniversary in three days; shall I send flowers?” Yes, please.
New kinds of tasks
Naturally, the mobile experience also ties in photos more seamlessly — so you can take a photo of a “for sale” sign on a car and ask Fancy Hands to make a call and get details about the vehicle, for instance.
Roden says that growth has been solid so far, with users across all continents except Antarctica and 60 hours’ worth of pure phone calls being completed by assistants every day (I hate being on the phone for even five minutes, so God love all those people.) The big move into mobile could certainly accelerate that, since it optimizes for people who don’t have the time to even type their tasks.
“We’re seeing a lot more tasks that are related to being out and about, like ‘I’m on vacation in NYC and we thought the Union Square green market was open today, doesn’t appear to be, find out when it is,'” Roden says.
The human element
There is a whole wave of apps promising to turn your phone into a personal assistant, and some of those are certainly exciting. But what I love about Fancy Hands is that there are actually people at the other end of this one, living in the United States and making money (and doing things that only humans can really do). Some of Fancy Hands’ more closely related competitors, such as GetFriday, are primarily staffed with assistants based in other countries.
Plus, when I show up to my dentist’s office and the receptionist tells me she’s “spoken to my assistant,” I feel pretty darn fancy.
Fancy Hands, which has a full-time staff of nine, has raised $1 million in funding from Betaworks, SV Angel, Lerer Ventures, and others.
Check out the new app here. And here are more screenshots: