Most likely, you do not like to waste time on useless meetings. People often say that this meeting should have been an email. But what about one-on-one calls? Could it be a series of voice messages and quick text responses?
Meet asynchronous, a New York-based productivity startup that wants to replace speedy calls with asynchronous audio messages. While voice messaging is becoming increasingly popular on consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, this method of communication hasn’t really taken off in a commercial 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 people with busy calendars and back-to-back meetings – think CEOs, investors, consultants, journalists, recruiters, etc.
There are several ways to start a conversation in Async. First, you can use Async to reply to 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 may think that voice messages are incredibly easy to record, but they’re not great if you’re the recipient. That’s why Async automatically creates transcripts so you can skim through the content of a voice memo and find the relevant audio message later. On top of that, Async doesn’t allow voice messages that are longer than five minutes.
Alternatively, you can add recipients to your voicemail directly in Async. This way, other Async users can add timestamped emoji reactions, type quick responses, or record audio messages as responses. 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 for the service, you also get your own custom URL that you can start sharing in your email signature or 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 you can check them from time to time.
In many ways, Async is copying Calendar, the popular programming product. But instead of scheduling meetings on your calendar, people just send 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 cannot choose their username for their personal URL. Usually it’s your first name followed by a bunch 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.
“Very soon we will launch a monthly premium plan with several professional features; it’s pretty straightforward,” co-founder and CEO Ilan Abehassera told me. “But we are working on a prosumer tool. We don’t target companies, we target people 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. All reactions are timestamped, which means you can easily jump to the correct audio message. And of course, Async attached a transcript to each audio message.
Of course, you couldn’t jump in and ask follow-up questions like you would during a live chat. 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 responses were more authentic and less polished than they would have been in an email thread. Straight answers are always better than canned answers.
The startup raised $4 million from BaseCase, Box Group, Shrug, A*, Apollo Projects (the Altman brothers’ fund), Aglaé Ventures, Vivek Sodera, Alex Bouaziz and others.
I have to say, I was a bit skeptical about the usefulness of Async 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, 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. Similarly, heavy Async users can sync their calendar with Async and choose to convert events to Async conversations. That could also lead to new records. But it also creates a barrier to entry. It will be interesting to see other people’s reaction to Async bindings.