What’s intriguing about Google’s new Helpouts is that it could encroach on a TON of startups, everything from Verbling (peer-to-peer language learning through video chat) to Skillshare (platform for hosting real life classes on anything) to 7 Cups of Tea (YC startup for getting emotional help online). Google had been using my college campus to beta test by getting student tutors onboard with the platform; that’s a whole ‘nother market. Each of the services out there has a solid niche but Google seems to purposely frame Helpouts incredibly broadly. And that’s the selling point. Only Google (or one of the other tech giant as opposed to a startup) can have enough power to consolidate the entire market.
For startups that this encroaches on, not great news. For consumers, though, I think it’s seriously great. No one has cracked this market EVER (remind me if I’m wrong). When you have a problem, and I often do, there’s no top-of-mind place to get help. If you have a technical problem, you need to have a familiar tech forum, or perhaps the Stack Exchange network. If it’s a random life question, Metafilter was probably one of the few standout destinations; or maybe Reddit nowadays. Or people would tweet a question with #lazyweb and hope for an answer because that has become the easiest way to ask. In many circumstances, willingness to pay correlates positively with urgency, and damnit most times when we have a problem it’s urgent.
Now that I think about it, this is a pretty big push for Google, and not just an experiment. People don’t think about it because it’s not dealing with any new technology, but I’m sure Google wants this product to change our lives, or at least become a big part of it. Helpouts to me is Amazon Kindle Fire’s Mayday on-demand 24/7 live video customer service help mixed with Google Now’s mantra of what you need when you need it. Imagine how much that could change our lives (okay, our early adopter first-world lives).