Chances are you don’t like wasting time in useless meetings. People often say that this meeting should have been an email. But what about one-to-one calls? Could they be a series of voice messages and quick text replies?
Meet Async, a new productivity startup based in New York that wants to replace quick calls with asynchronous audio messages. While voice messages are increasingly popular in consumer messaging apps, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, this communication method hasn’t taken off in a business context — or at least, not yet.
Async is now available as a public beta on the web, macOS and iOS. The company doesn’t want to replace Slack or other internal communication tools. Instead, Async has been designed for individuals with busy calendars and back-to-back meetings — think CEOs, investors, consultants, journalists, recruiters, etc.
There are multiple ways to start a conversation in Async. First, you can use Async to answer a long email or pick someone’s brain on a new project idea. You open the app on your laptop or phone, start recording and get a link that you can share anywhere. For instance, you can paste it in Gmail or add it to a Notion document.
At this point, you might think that voice messages are incredibly easy to record but not great if you’re the recipient. That’s why Async automatically creates transcripts so that you can skim the content of a voice note and find the relevant audio message later. In addition to that, Async doesn’t allow voice messages that are longer than five minutes.
Alternatively, you can add recipients to your voice message directly in Async. This way, other Async users can add time-stamped emoji reactions, write quick replies or record audio messages as replies. Essentially, you can “move conversations to Async” if you want a voice-optimized messaging platform.
Async gets particularly interesting with its profile link system. When you first sign up to the service, you also get your own personalized URL that you can start sharing in your email signature or on your LinkedIn profile.
Other people can click on this link and send you a voice message. These audio messages end up in your Async inbox so that you can go through them every now and then.
In many ways, Async is copying Calendly, the popular scheduling product. But instead of booking meetings in your calendar, people are just sending you audio messages. It’s an asynchronous way to get in touch with someone with a pitch, a partnership proposal and more.
Right now, Async only has one paid feature. By default, new users can’t choose their username for their personal URL. It’s usually their first name followed by a handful of random numbers. Users can choose to pay $35 per year to customize their profile URL — this feature is currently on sale at $19 per year.
“We’ll launch a premium monthly plan very soon with several pro features — it’s fairly straightforward,” co-founder and CEO Ilan Abehassera told me. “But we are working on a prosumer tool. We don’t target companies, we target individuals who have a lot of meetings like Superhuman or Calendly.”
That interaction with Ilan Abehassera took place on Async. I asked several questions in an audio message. He took the time to send me several audio messages to answer all my questions one by one. Reactions are all time-stamped, meaning that you can easily jump to the right audio message. And of course, Async attached a transcription to each audio message.
Of course, I couldn’t jump and ask followup questions as I would have during a live conversation. But it only took me a few minutes to record my questions, which is much faster than the usual 30-minute phone conversation.
The alternative would have been a list of questions in an email conversation. But Abehassera’s answers were more authentic and less polished than what they would have been in an email thread. Direct answers are always better than canned replies.
The startup raised $4 million from BaseCase, Box Group, Shrug, A*, Apollo Projects (the fund of the Altman brothers), Aglaé Ventures, Vivek Sodera, Alex Bouaziz and others.
I have to say that I was a bit skeptical about Async’s usefulness when I first signed up. But it’s a well-designed app that could definitely appeal to busy executives, investors or journalists who like to hear other people’s voices.
Now, Async’s success will depend on the effectiveness of the viral loop. When people click on an Async profile link and record an audio message, they have to create an account to send the message. Similarly, intensive Async users can synchronize their calendar with Async and choose to turn events into Async conversations. That could also lead to new signups. But it also creates a barrier to entry. It’s going to be interesting to see other people’s reaction to Async links.