Genee, an artificially intelligent scheduling app, is launching today into public beta so that anyone can have a personal assistant.
On the heels of Zirtual’s collapse, Genee hopes to take humans out of the equation entirely with its end-to-end scheduling helper that plugs into any existing calendar app and email provider.
Former colleagues at VMWare, co-founders Charles Lee and Ben Cheung decided to build Genee after struggling to coordinate meetings around their own schedules to chat about a different startup idea.
“The reason why executives have assistants is that once they tell them to schedule a meeting, the assistant takes over completely,” says Cheung. “The tools available now are pulling to automate that, but they don’t solve the problem end to end: they’re not taking away the responsibility.”
Anyone can use Genee after allowing access to existing calendar and email apps. You simply copy Genee on your emails, just as you would a personal assistant, and Genee takes over. If you need to move a meeting back by 15 minutes or reschedule, there’s a one-click option that prompts Genee to notify the other parties.
Recently, the team integrated Genee into Twitter so that users can get a meeting on the books without having to revert back to email at all. Of course, the whole process works more smoothly if both parties have allowed Genee to access their schedules, but it’s not necessary.
While many applications of natural language processing leave a lot to be desired, Cheung says the key with Genee is focusing on a very small segment of natural language to make sure the system actually feels like a human assistant.
“We focus the natural language on a single context, scheduling meetings, which makes it easier,” says Cheung. “We have a sophisticated algorithm for scheduling the preferred time, and we’ve trained the computer a lot about the common sense part too.”
If you tell Genee you want to schedule “drinks after work at some point this week,” for instance, she has to know that you probably mean after 5 p.m., and that if you’re completely booked this week, planning drinks for next week wouldn’t be the end of the world.
“We’re not setting out to build a human assistant replacement, it’s a product to address the 99 percent of the population that doesn’t have it,” says Lee. “Our target user is not going to be the C-level executive who already has an assistant.”
Over the past year, 10,000 private beta users have helped the team tweak the system and teach Genee common slang and nuances in scheduling language.
The company has raised $1.45 million in seed funding from Uj Ventures, Streamline Ventures, and Garnett Ventures, which it will use to expand the Genee’s understanding, integrate with additional messaging platforms (such as Facebook and Slack), and roll out additional features, such as booking reservations for users.