You may never own a mansion like Oprah, but you can now chat with her favorite interior designer, Nate Berkus, for a fee, of course.
a new app, intro, enables anyone to book one-on-one video calls with industry experts for advice from fashion and beauty to interior design, event planning and business development. While some users may book a single session for a quick, specific question, the platform is designed to also allow users to recreate a full consulting experience. Calls are offered in 15, 30, 45 and 60 minute increments; with some experts, such as Forma Pilates founder Liana Levi, starting at $100 per 15 minutes, while Berkus and other household names charge up to $500. (New users get $10 off their first session.)
Founded in late 2021 by Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Raad Mobrem, Intro was founded on a desire to democratize access to industry experts — a goal inspired by a chance meeting Mobrem had with the copy-chain founder. Kinko, Paul Orfalea, when he was just 18. Mobrem, who previously served as a consultant at Delta Airlines and led Intuit’s product team, attributes that brief conversation to much of his success. “In the 15 minutes we had, I asked him about entrepreneurship, and he shared some important lessons that inspired me and gave me the confidence to want to start my own entrepreneurial journey,” says Mobrem. (Orfalea is also available to chat via Intro, by the way; 15 minutes costs $275.)
Intro is not exactly a unique product; right now there is practically a whole cottage industry of fan-celebrity communication. on master class, Annie Leibovitz teaches photography while Serena Williams coaches tennis. And further cameo, fans can order personalized videos from Mark McGrath and David Koechner. The difference with Intro is applicability: Intro focuses on tangible, action-oriented feedback, not a meet-and-greet with your idols and inspiration. (Not offensive to Serena et al., but those Masterclass classes aren’t really about turning you into a professional athlete; they’re more about general life advice. And most Cameo sessions get lost in the internet air within days.) Most of Intro’s experts don’t accept small-scale projects from new clients and are not bookable elsewhere online, so unless you’re Oprah or a Kardashian, this app may be the only chance you have to access such top-notch talent.
The platform is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six (Ohanian, of Reddit co-founder fame, is an expert on the platform), CAA founder Michael Ovitz, and an undisclosed network of celebrities, athletes, and CEOs. On the homepage there is a form to sign up to become an expert, stating that experts have the opportunity to earn up to $500,000 annually using the platform. Intro receives 30% commission from experts.
I had the chance to try out the service and chose to chat with Shawn Henderson, an interior designer featured at Architectural Digest’s prestigious AD100 list, with over 20 years of experience. On Intro, Henderson’s 15-minute sessions start at $199 (an hour costs $765). Henderson told me he tries to do about six sessions a month, in between bigger projects and summer trips. He has worked with clients for five or more sessions, checking in as they renovate and purchase furniture according to his suggestions. After planning a weekday afternoon, we jumped on the video conference in the Intro app and immediately started chatting about the design. With a countdown at the top of your video call, it’s hard not to make the most of every second.
I gave Henderson a tour of my house so he could get a feel for my design style before showing him the washroom I wanted to focus on. I explained my problem: my washer and dryer took up too much space at the bottom of my stairwell; since it was already an eyesore, I felt encouraged to leave piles of laundry around them. Henderson went straight to work and sketched out ideas for swapping my side-by-side washing machine and dryer for a stackable unit, placing it against the back wall via a (possibly expensive) sanitary solution and creating space for cupboards. He also explained options for a sink and drying rack or a countertop to fold. He then explained another option, where I could create an enclosed washroom instead of an open one, using a pocket door. He was unable to provide any quotes, but he mentioned specific websites and brands to look for wallpaper for the back wall and durable floor paint to cover my unsightly tile floor in the area.
None of Intro’s experts interact with customers outside of the app, including sending links or providing scans of sketches. When I asked Henderson how that worked, he was quick to explain that his Intro clients take detailed notes. I found myself with a few notes from our conversation and screenshots of his sketches; but above all a sense of confidence in the ideas I already had vaguely. If I go ahead with this renovation I could show the screenshot to a contractor, but I’ll have to do more formal drawings based on Henderson’s advice. Intro’s app does not allow chatting or sharing images.
After exhausting all the details I could get from the video call about my laundry room, I asked him about a funky idea I’ve had in mind for a long time: putting a freestanding tub in my bedroom. Here, in the last three minutes of our video conference, I was looking for a professional opinion and gut reaction, not a sketch or mockup. Henderson, who had already noticed the style of the bathroom faucet and my overall interior design, urged me not to go for a traditional English telephone faucet. “You don’t want a themed room,” he explained. Something more temporary would fit better in my space. I would have loved to scroll through the options with him and select them together, but this tactile advice was enough to lead me back to the drawing board when planning this addition.
If you’ve done your own research, created your Pinterest boards, and made as much of it yourself as you can, Intro might be the last step you need to check a few ideas before embarking on a renovation project, a new fitness routine, or dramatic new haircut. Would I have paid $199 to Henderson to confirm my suspicion about the bathtub? Probably not, but I appreciated his openness to deviate from the original topic.
For business development, Intro more directly replicates a consulting firm, giving business owners an opportunity to practice a pitch on Ohanian and other industry stall holders. Who knows, in a few years Intro will use a success story of a young entrepreneur who used the app to promote its services. That, otherwise they need some convincing “before and after” photos of kitchen renovations.