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December 16, 2023
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Sam Altman’s fund infuses $3M in AI-human taskmaster startup.

  • Portland-based startup Shelpful has raised $3 million from venture fund Apollo Projects, run by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
  • The startup, founded in 2021, uses a combination of humans and AI to help people stay on task and achieve their goals.
  • Shelpful’s service operates over WhatsApp, and uses AI or human helper or both to proactively reach out to its users with reminders and nudges.

Shelpful, a startup that employs a blend of human empathy and artificial intelligence to aid people in staying focused and completing tasks, has raised $3 million in funding from Apollo Projects. The venture fund is managed by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and his brothers. The startup, founded in 2021 by CEO Sharon Pope, Lydia Swift and Chris Morse, provides nudges via text message for a variety of tasks, from medication reminders to exercise prompts, generated by human accountability coaches (Shelpers) or an AI productivity assistant dubbed HabitGPT.

The startup launched when Pope, a veteran marketer who has worked at Y Combinator and other firms, felt overwhelmed with life and work demands in the midst of the pandemic. Pope reached out to Altman, her previous colleague at Y Combinator, who expressed interest in her startup. Altman particularly highlighted the importance of having human involvement in the service. The subsequent $3 million fund from Apollo Projects is Shelpful’s only funding so far.

Shelpful currently offers three tiers of its chat help service: solely HabitGPT at $35 per month, HabitGPT plus a human assistant at $65 per month, and HabitGPT plus Zoom coaching at $165 per month. The AI assistant, developed on OpenAI’s GPT-4, allows users to request suggestions and recommendations for things such as recipes or podcasts right in their chat.

Moving forward, Shelpful aims to enhance its AI features to offer faster, smarter, and more intuitive services. Plans are in place for advanced habit and task completion reporting, calendar integration, and exploration of AI-hosted Accountability Groups. According to Pope, while the AI component of the service is powerful, Shelpful will continue to incorporate a human element in its operations.

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