Kip began as a chatbot to coordinate staff members’ office-supply orders, and it has evolved into something that can weave its way into employees' everyday lives.
It now manages meal-delivery orders via messaging services like Slack, with the startup’s services rolling out nationally this month through a partnership with Delivery.com.
Part of Kip’s appeal comes from its use of artificial intelligence to help groups reach democratic decisions quickly, balancing different suggestions when 15 people are trying to decide on a restaurant, for example. New York-based Kip reaches 500 businesses and 60,000 users since launching last year.
“Chatbot architecture enables multiple conversations at the same time, so Kip dynamically updates the group’s decision quickly and efficiently as people vote for what they want to buy, or do,” said Rachel Law, co-founder and CEO of Kip, which launched in the fall of 2015 with partner and CTO Alyx Baldwin.
Finding a way to make payments secure and convenient for each member of a large group — with each person using a different payment method — has been a force for innovation for the startup.
The founders decided to launch Kip via messaging platforms because it seemed hopeless to try to build scale through a standalone app, given the clutter and rapid abandonment consumers demonstrate with apps, Law said. Targeting workers in office groups with fast-growing group messaging services like Slack looked like a more promising growth path.
Kip offered referral credit in exchange for inviting new users, and a key challenge was finding a method paying those reimbursements, which demanded a two-way payment mechanism. The company turned to Stripe, and using its APIs, designed what Law says is one of the first chatbots with a payments feature built into it from the ground up.
“Technically there is no payment system available now for chatbot developers working with Slack, so we had to come up with our own system, which we designed to work across different messaging platforms,” Law said. "Essentially, we had to build the referral system on top of third party platforms like Slack."
The result is Kip Café, a service the startup rolled out this month in conjunction with Delivery.com, enabling users to coordinate lunch orders on Slack or email anywhere in the U.S. To drive interest, Kip is offering groups 10% off the cost of each of the first five orders and an additional 10% off for each new referred team.
Administrators can add multiple cards for different teams in various locations and tap the same card to pay for repeat orders within Kip.
Kip is working on other configurations that could enable groups to plan and purchase travel or parties, where multiple decisions and payments are required from different vendors, Law said.
“We see a lot of potential for Kip to streamline any process where you have a whole lot of different variables,” said Law, noting that it’s still early in Kip’s evolution and its use cases are expanding.