Experts have never been more in demand. In today’s knowledge-based, competitive economy, experts are in high order. Individuals and companies constantly seek the latest information to stay ahead. An expert’s time and effort are valuable. Therefore, any engagement they engage in must provide sufficient reward. There are many opportunities for experts to reach the masses via low-effort media like Clubhouse and podcasting. These trends inspired Travis Fischer, Christine Hong to create Senpai. Senpai, an audio-based platform, allows individuals to ask experts voice questions asynchronously. The startup is based out of New York City.
Frederick DasoWhat are the limitations of the current systems that domain experts can be reached for expert advice?
Travis Fischer, Christine Hong: Expert advice can be sought in a variety of ways these days.
Most people use the internet to seek the wisdom of others via sites like Reddit, Quora, and other online communities. While this can sometimes work well, it is not always the best. The fact that most of these “experts” are not paid for their answers doesn’t help. These platforms provide much more utility than simply expert advice.
To get the best advice from a well-known expert, you need to have a good network. Or, like most people, you can use DM or cold emails to reach them. Because of the volume of noise, it is difficult for most people with cold outreach to get in touch with high-end domain specialists.
Expert networks serve the high-end market. They cater to PE firms and hedge funds but are too costly for ordinary consumers and SMBs.
Daso: When did you realize that domain experts are looking to create content to share their knowledge with the world?
Fischer and Hong: This is something we have both experienced. Although you can be a fantastic employee within a large organization, as your work becomes more autonomous, your public image matters more.
The future is uncertain for work. Good job performance is not enough. Traditional knowledge workers are being left behind. Building a personal brand is the best way to make it in this competitive world.
DasoWhy is the creator and passion economy growing at an accelerated rate?
Fischer and Hong: To borrow Li Jin’s fantastic article, the creator economy, which celebrates your uniqueness and the future of work is the passion economy & future of work, is the focus. This is very appealing because it opens doors to new types of work. In theory, everyone can make their own decisions based on their abilities and personality.
The creator economy has mainly focused on people who don’t fit the mold of established professionals. But many knowledge workers can exist in either of these spaces. They could conform to a company’s culture or use their personality and creativity to reach a wider audience with all the knowledge they have acquired over the years. These are the people Senpai wants to empower as creators.
Daso: What will you do to drive the growth of the emerging network economy of expert network experts? What are the most significant barriers to change?
Fischer and Hong: Two main things are required to build the economy around expert networks.
First, we must incentivize experts who want to share their knowledge. Quora, StackOverflow, and other platforms have done a fantastic job of gamifying sharing knowledge. However, they haven’t done a great job incentivizing specialists. We take cues from the creator economy and direct payment platforms such as Cameo to create incentives that allow experts to get paid directly for answers.
The second is to make this type of paid expertise more easily accessible. GLG and other expert networks are heavily focused on the enterprise. They routinely charge $1k for an hour of conversation with top-ranking executives. By making the platform more consumer-friendly so that experts can reply async on the experts’ own time, the initial interactions will be cheaper.
Daso: What was your method of determining that asynchronous voice-over was the best medium for an interested audience in expert opinion?
Fischer and HongAsync audio solutions offer many advantages over other formats.
Audio is straightforward to produce. We aim to decrease the friction involved in sharing knowledge. Experts are comfortable sharing their knowledge, even though not everyone is well-suited for creating YouTube videos or writing blogs. This is excellent news for experts who are not comfortable speaking in front of the camera. It focuses on the content and not the presentation.
The apparent advantage of short, async answers to audio questions is that they offer a flexible primitive that allows for creating hybrid formats using speech/to-text or generative video.
We must account for two prominent persons on the consumption side. First, the task-oriented customer who is quick to scan a question and move on. This is where transcription comes in and our focus on prompt answers. The second persona wants to hear the expert’s words in their own words. This is where audio shines.
Daso? : Which of the following is your team’s most significant advantage when building this platform, attracting your target audience and experts?
Fischer and Hong, Our team is quite rare as we were both solo founders with strong technical backgrounds who worked for one year on our startups before realizing that we had the same mission.
Olly Meakings, our friend and advisor, has provided a lot of inspiration to Senpai. Olly, a marketing specialist, runs RoastMyLandingPage.com. He gives feedback on landing page design. He is thrilled with his business model. He abstains full-time from it and uses it to generate leads for higher-paying consulting positions. We are now focusing on extending the lessons from this case study to a broader audience.