Get sushi on a boat, a tiger at your door, or make your parking ticket vanish into thin air. An ambitious new startup says it will let you text for anything you want (and they do mean anything) as long as it’s legal, and it will magically come to you.
Just text 408-596-5017 and Magic, a texting service that seems to have blown up over the weekend, promises to deliver.
Magic is only 48 hours old, but we’re told it has already had over 17,000 text messages as of this morning. Someone added Magic to Product Hunt over the weekend and it was No. 1 on Hacker News within 20 minutes.
Requests have ranged from help getting out of court to a tiger delivered to a customer’s door, according to co-founder Mike Chen.
Magic seems to have blown up because of what I call “Product Hunt Effect” (similar to the “TechCrunch Effect“). A small startup with a simple idea gets posted on Product Hunt and it’s flooded with more traffic than it knows what to do with.
Chen seemed overwhelmed when I spoke to him. “I had zero idea it would get like this. You know people say things happen overnight and I didn’t believe them before and now it’s happening to me,” he told me over the phone.
The original idea was to create a service using text messaging instead of going through several steps on an app to order food, a driver or other things people might want. “Something like DoorDash or Postmates you have to manage it a bit,” Chen said.
So this last Saturday his team put together a simple site with a number to text that would try to give you anything you want, as long as it’s legal and you are willing to pay the price.
That idea seemed to be popular. He’s had to close down the registration process, put new requestors on a wait list and pull in friends and family since to help him handle the volume.
Chen and his co-founders at Magic were a part of the last batch of Y Combinator with a blood pressure monitoring app called Bettir. Magic was a side project the team slapped together over the weekend.
It’s unclear what will happen with Chen’s other startups — Bettir and Made in Space, a startup focused on 3D printing in space. For now, Chen says his entire focus is on Magic.
A lot of companies are focused on on-demand delivery. There are at least 12 food delivery services in the Bay Area. Even Uber has played with the idea of food and other delivery services, while TaskRabbit goes beyond food delivery to promise to get anything done that you want done by outsourcing to its “rabbits.”
As long as its legal and possible we can do that. it may be expensive, you may want a helicopter to Vegas, but if its possible we will do it. Mike Chen, Magic co-founder
Currently, Magic’s pricing is a lot more loose. Chen admits a lot of it is just a guesstimation of what he and his team thinks the delivery should cost. “We just started so nothing is really defined right now,” he said.
Chen likens the payment process to the way one would use an Uber. How much you are charged depends on how far you go. Same idea with Magic. If your request costs a lot or is a major hassle, it will cost you more.
The service will send you a link to make your purchase after the price is determined. Transactions run on Stripe and will take both credit card and bitcoin right now.
Chen is not sure how many requests have been fulfilled yet or how many people actually go through with the purchase process for their requested order. “That’s on my to-do list but I just haven’t had time to look into any analytics at the moment,” he told me.
Unlike Uber, Postmates, TaskRabbit and other on-demand services, Magic doesn’t actually have a workforce handling the delivery itself. It simply handles the request and figures out what the cost is to fulfill them. The requestor doesn’t know where the delivery comes from or how; they just know Magic promises to deliver what they’ve asked for, as long as they are willing to pay whatever Magic marks the price for delivery to be.
One guy asked for sushi and flowers to be delivered to his boat yesterday. The first food delivery service ended up not being able to fulfill the order so the Magic team had to scramble to find another sushi service. Chen says all the guy on the receiving end knew was that his order was fulfilled.
There are other texting services out there, but none that matches this sort of promise for literally anything. Cloe is a texting service that runs on AI and will deliver food for you, but won’t make reservations or bring you, say, a tiger (I asked). Ethan is a texting AI that doesn’t fulfill requests. He just texts you back. Magic is run entirely by humans. The person on the other end seemed insulted when I asked if they were a robot.
I’ve been told Magic is just 10 people and the co-founders are handling everything at this point. Chen says he wants to keep the quality up but also let as many people in as quickly as possible for the service. He’s had to drop everything, including work on Bettir, for this.
It seems a little ridiculous that we are so lazy we’d rather have someone else deal with an on-demand food, grocery, car, whatever delivery app than deal with the service directly. But Magic seems to show us that a lot of people like ordering whatever they want and are willing to pay to get other people to take care of the hassles.
Chen says Magic operators filter the requests that seem to be jokes and emphasizes that only legal orders will be fulfilled. He’s also not sure how many people have actually gone on to purchase their requests once the team sends over a price.
Should tiger delivery be deemed legal and the requestor pays the not-yet-determined price, the Magic team intends to fulfill that order.
“As long as it’s legal and possible we can do that. it may be expensive, you may want a helicopter to Vegas, but if it’s possible, we will do it.” Chen said.