Pando

Uber co-founder's Operator wants to be your personal shopping assistant

By Nathaniel Mott , written on April 23, 2015

From The News Desk

It's hard for me to decide what to purchase. I'm one of those people who reads an untold number of online reviews, asks people for their recommendations, and still struggles to choose among the insane variety of available products.

Based on what has been revealed of Operator, a new service that connects people with "experts" who find the right product for them, it seems like I might have found a way to avoid the crippling dilemma I face whenever I decide that it's time to buy a pair of headphones or a new book.

Operator was founded by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, and the services have some similarities. Both are focused on reducing the number of choices someone must deal with, both allow users to rate their experience, and both are designed to make it easy to spend large amounts of money because they're so convenient.

The service is supposed to emulate the experience of walking into a brick-and-mortar store. After you text a request for an item, someone affiliated with a certain company or an "expert" in a particular category finds something they think you'll like. Finally, you decide if you want to purchase it with the credit card Operator already has on file, or you can simpmly browse through various items.

Operator sounds compelling in theory, but it could face some major problems. Bloomberg Business notes that stores might not be as receptive to Operator as expected, and the company still hasn't worked out how it will ship goods to consumers. The app is useless if few businesses partner up and deliveries aren't timely.

Operator is expected to debut in New York and San Francisco "later this spring" and is currently asking interested consumers to sign up for a waiting list. It has raised a $10 million funding round led by Greylock Partners* and Expa, the "startup studio" in which Camp is an investor.

*Disclosure: Greylock Partners is an investor in Pando

[illustration by Hallie Bateman]