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Magic, a Virtual Assistant Service That Went Viral, Is Either the Laziest Thing Ever or the Most Brilliant (Or Both)

Call it instant gratification for instant gratification.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Call it instant gratification for instant gratification.

The “it” is a new concierge service called Magic that appeared out of nowhere this weekend, with mentions on the tech news aggregators Hacker News and Product Hunt, which then set off a bit of a Twitter firestorm in startup circles.

For those of you who can’t stand hearing about another service designed to deliver you chapstick or avocados within an hour of ordering, now’s the time to turn away. The rest of you lazy SOBs, keep reading.


Magic lets you text a specified number with something you want — avocados or pizza or a flight to the Bahamas — and the human or soulless robot on the other end makes it happen, passing on the order to a local store or e-commerce site or delivery service like Instacart. It’s basically a middle man for the middle man. Or a version of Siri that actually gets stuff done. Or a genie in your iPhone.

Yes, you have to trust this service with your credit card. No, I don’t have a goddamn clue how it can scale effectively. Yes, it charges some kind of premium for the service, but there’s no indication what that is or how it is determined. And that’s only where the questions begin.

I’m also not sure who is behind it, though I have an educated guess. Magic’s website says the maker is an outfit called Plus Labs, which is also the creator of a blood pressure measurement app called Bettir. Bettir’s co-founder is Mike Chen, who is followed on Twitter by the Magic account. His Twitter account also mentions that Bettir is part of the 2015 class at Y Combinator, the popular startup lab and mentorship program. And if you know anything about Y Combinator co-creator Paul Graham, you know he loves things that don’t scale.

There’s more, so stay with me. The person on Hacker News who claims to be one of the creators of Magic uses the handle “cmikec,” which also could make sense for Chen.

“Hey everyone — this is insane,” the person wrote on the Hacker News thread. “My friends and I created Magic a few days ago as a side project and it’s completely blown up by accident since then. We’re getting stormed with messages and orders.”

Want more on Chen? He’s also one of the founders behind Made in Space, a 3-D printing startup that allowed an astronaut to print a wrench in space in December. Insane.

If you haven’t guessed by now, Chen hasn’t yet responded to notes I’ve sent him. I will update when he does.

Interested in trying out Magic despite all the question marks? You can join the waitlist by texting “MAGIC” to (408) 217-1721. If you’re an absolute sloth and can’t wait, you can pay $50 to cut the line. America!

Update: I tried it out and there were some, um, hiccups.

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