Instead Of Flowers For Mother’s Day, Fin Offers Its Virtual Assistant As The Right Gift

Fin, the subscription-based digital assitant, is opening up its voice-activated recommendation and purchasing services to non-subscribers as co-founder Sam Lessin aims to prove it can understand "actual language" better than Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

As smart speaker penetration continues its rise into the mainstream, and Google Assistant makes its own advancements in its battle with Amazon’s voice-activated assistant, Alexa, there are other assistants vying for consumers attention.

Last July, one device-agnostic intelligent assistant sought to prove that there was space for these services beyond Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby: Fin.

Fin was started by Sam Lessin, formerly of Facebook file-sharing acquisition, and Venmo co-founder Andrew Kortina, has been touting its assistant that runs on a combination of human intelligence and artificial intelligence, noting that it “remembers all of your personal context and interacts over app, email, web, sms, and phone 24×7.”

Aside from the mix of human and machine learning, the other big difference Fin sported was that access to Fin required a paid subscription.

However, a Mother’s Day promotion has the company is offering a break from subscriptions, which range from $20 a month ($1 per minute of use, effectively, the company says), $270 a month for professionals (includes 5 effective hours of use), and an executive tier (which runs $2500 a month for 48 hours of use).

Checking All The Boxes On Intelligent Assistants

Under the terms of Fin’s Mother’s Day deal, anyone can use Fin without a subscription or even signing up. Users can make their request that Fin purchase a Mother’s Day gift or plan an experience. Non-subscribers will be charged a $15 fee for each use, while all Fin subscribers get 50 percent off on all Mother’s Day related uses.

The goal, Lessin tells GeoMarketing, is to show how well its assistant can complete a task and understand the way people actually speak, as opposed to meeting the exact phrases required by Alexa “skills” or Google Assistant “routines,” even as those services work to become more personalized and natural.

“With Mother’s Day is that you should be spending time with your mom, or with the mothers that matter to you in your life, whether that’s aunts or grandmas or in-laws,” Lessin says. “You shouldn’t be spending your time figuring out how to give them a gift [through Google Assistant or Alexa].

“Whether that’s flowers, or chocolates, or whatever else is popular for the holiday,” Lessin says. “Fin can do that for you. You shouldn’t have to spend time clicking around the internet picking bouquets, figuring out shipping preferences and options. That stuff is all noise. It’s actually far more annoying and time consuming than you probably even think.”

The Mother’s Day promotion therefore is meant to show a fraction of what Fin can do and how simply it works. You don’t have to train it beyond checking off a few boxes.

“You don’t even need to sign up for our service, we won’t even ask you to become a long-term user, or go through all the onboarding,” Lessin says. “It’s literally just a magic box on the internet where you can type whatever you want for your mother. Get this brunch reservation. Buy these chocolates. Buy these flowers. Make a spa appointment. And do it in natural human language. Express it as, ‘I want flowers in a specific price range, with no yellows and pinks, because I don’t like those.’ You can be fully specific. The way you would articulate it if you had a human assistant.”

Toward A More Natural Language Process

While voice activated assistants’ users are often amazed by the individual responses they get to queries — as opposed to traditional search results of infinite pages of blue links — there is often a frustration when it comes to specific requests that get lost in the Natural Language Processing, which is the ability of a computer program to understand human language in the way that it is spoken.

“The big difference in our approach versus other AI-powered assistants is they start from the idea of ‘What can we do with true technology?’ and then try to refine the technology around that,” Lessin says. “We start from ‘What experience do I want as a person?’ We’re willing to add human intelligence where the machines just aren’t good enough. That means that I as a user don’t have to think about ‘can and can’t this do.’ I’m able to trust it to just get the things I want done.”

Since Fin doesn’t sell ads, like Google, or products, like Amazon, Lessin says that allows its assistant can provide a more pure experience for consumers.

“We’re completely aligned with the user,” Lessin says. “We work for them. We make no money other than the money they’re willing to pay us to help make their life more efficient and focus on the things that matter. That is the goal and that is the mission.”

The Role For Brands

As brands see the rise of voice assistants, the idea of vying to be one of many on the first page of search results will have less value as consumers receive a single answer to “find me the best restaurant for Mother’s Day” or “where can I buy flowers near me.”

The usual SEO strategies don’t apply to voice-activated assistants as they do with search engines, which rely on the popularity of a link, as well as the number of positive reviews, and other factors like content quality. Brands will need to become that “preferred answer.”

So, with a standalone assistant like Fin, how can brands ensure that they become the best response?

“When someone asks, ‘What are the brand guidelines?’ for a service like Fin, I think it’s really simple: ‘Be truly excellent at what you do,'” Lessin says. “It’s all about providing a truly excellent service experience to the core group of people you serve.

“If you look at online ratings on Yelp or other online guides, they tend to be broad and generic,” Lessin adds. “The reality is, as a company, we’re not that interested in the average-star rating. We’re interested in you serving your niche and your customers specifically with great, quality service consistently, because we’re always trying to find the correct answer for that particular person. If you ask Fin, ‘What’s the best restaurant in San Francisco?,’ Fin is not necessarily going to pick most highly rated restaurant in San Francisco on average. Fin will pick the best restaurant for someone who has expressed a preference for, say, vegetarian restaurants, or Thai, or whatever is right for that individual. That’s a very different question than the internet is used to answering.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.