Chances are you don’t like wasting time on useless meetings. People often say, “this meeting should have been an email.” But what about one-on-one conversations? Could they be a series of voice messages and quick text replies?
Meet Async, a new New York-based productivity startup that aims to replace quick conversations with asynchronous audio messages. While voice messaging is becoming increasingly popular in consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, this method of communication hasn’t really 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 does not want to replace Slack or other internal communication tools. Instead, Async is designed for individuals with busy schedules and consecutive 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 for 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 example, you can paste it into 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 when you’re the recipient. That’s why Async automatically creates transcripts so you can browse the contents of a voice memo and find the relevant audio message later. In addition, Async does not allow voice messages longer than five minutes.
You can also add recipients to your voice message directly in Async. This way, other Async users can add time-stamped emoji responses, 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 especially interesting with its profile link system. When you first sign up for the service, you also get your own personalized URL that you can share in your email signature or on your LinkedIn profile.
Other people can click this link and send you a voice message. These audio messages will end up in your Async inbox for you to review from time to time.
In many ways, Async copies Calendly, the popular scheduling product. But instead of booking meetings on your calendar, people just send you audio messages. It’s an asynchronous way to connect with someone with a pitch, collaboration proposal, and more.
At the moment, Async has only one paid feature. By default, new users cannot 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 for $19 per year.
“We’re launching a premium monthly plan with several pro features very soon – it’s pretty simple,” 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 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. Responses are all timestamped, meaning you can easily jump to the right audio message. And of course, Async added a transcript to each audio message.
Of course, I couldn’t jump in and ask follow-up questions like I would on a live call. But it only took me a few minutes to record my questions, which is much faster than the usual 30 minute phone call.
The alternative would have been a list of questions in an email conversation. But Abehassera’s replies were more authentic and less polished than what they would have been in an email conversation. Instant answers are always better than canned answers.
The startup has 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 I was a bit skeptical about Async’s usefulness when I signed up. But it’s a well-designed app that can certainly appeal to busy executives, investors, or journalists who like to hear other people’s voices.
Now the success of Async will depend on the effectiveness of the viral loop. When people click an Async profile link and record an audio message, they must create an account to send the message. Likewise, intensive Async users can sync their calendar with Async and choose to turn events into Async conversations. This can also lead to new registrations. But it also raises a barrier to entry. It will be interesting to see other people’s reactions to async links.