Written by Garrett Goldberg & Shantanu Mittal
When we consider enterprise investment opportunities at Bee Partners, we often consider how the particular software or technology “stack” lays out in the given vertical, and then ask ourselves if we are adding, removing, or consolidating levels in this stack. Jamming another application (see: cost) into this workflow is generally not a winning formula, unless it is glaringly missing from the current smart enterprise processes. We call this our “Stack Discipline” and consider it one of our true north guiding principles of enterprise investing at Bee.
The Stackless interface
Recently, however, we have started exploring the concept of a ‘stackless interface’, or a single interface that connects the user and their end requirement. While perhaps akin to The Singularity, framing the roadmap as a stack of steps, technologies, or moments of human-computer interaction (HCI) helps us understand where value can be created and extracted. To illustrate, consider how many steps it took to make a restaurant reservation online a few years back. The user would open his or her phone, enter a password, open an app like OpenTable, enter another password, and input payment information to secure the reservation. The kicker is that if the user forgot any of this information, he or she would be back at square one. Today via the stackless interface, a user commands Siri or Alexa to ‘reserve a table for 4 at Boulevard 6:30 Friday’ and only interacts with one interface, one time, experiencing far less friction.
Why does it matter?
This concept of a stackless interface has been made closer to a reality with the rise of conversational commerce alongside the dominance of messaging apps. In 2015, for the first time, the number of users on the top 4 messaging apps surpassed the number of users on the top 4 social networks*. The implication is obvious: users are spending most of their time in messaging and so businesses need to be there too. Furthermore, significant technology advancements in the field of NLP and AI have made bots smarter to the point where they are able to offer legitimate value beyond the simple, initial conversational interface. The business landscape is shifting, and we have seen substantial funding and resources flow toward making conversational commerce omnipresent.
Does it work as it should?
Conversational commerce initially diverges into speech or text platforms that a consumer or enterprise uses to access information or services. Once the computer understands the command (thumbed or spoken), the workflow converges to access the relevant information from the designated application. At Bee Partners, we believe that neither the consumer nor the enterprise will cede complete control to the various platforms (e.g. neither Siri or Alexa will control the entire end to end transaction). Moreover, consumers will come to expect a more robust experience that demands multiple application hooks and depth of search functionality. For example, the information set is simply too broad for Siri to provide value in all verticals, even if Apple establishes partnerships with Uber, OpenTable, Kayak.com, etc. The point is that Siri can’t be everything to everyone and requires applications to develop their own functionality, leveraging the voice or text HCI.
Our Latest Investment – Announcing SnapTravel
These insights influenced several of our recent investments, including SnapTravel, a travel booking service that taps into the stackless interface blue sky. SnapTravel works entirely on messaging platforms like SMS, Facebook Messenger, and Slack.Users simply message their travel preferences, and SnapTravel searches hundreds of sources, returning the best options – with the ability to make a booking in-line. Users never have to leave the messaging interface. Currently, SnapTravel harnesses a combination of bots and humans to provide this service, and is moving from a bot-augmented system, toward a bot-automated system in the near future.
We are honored to back Hussein and Henry as they remove steps toward the “Stackless Interface.”