“Are you in bed?” It was a stranger on the phone, someone called Gaurav in Dubai. At 7:31 this morning, Gaurav was calling me at home to get me up.
I was experimenting with an app called Wakie, launched by two Armenian brothers who wanted to give the world a more effective and personalized alternative to an alarm clock. Their solution? Invite a stranger from the other side of the world to make a wake-up call.
This could sound like a recipe for awkwardness and disaster — what if Gaurav was a flirt? Or worse.
I reminded Gaurav that I had been asleep, so yes, I was in bed. I thanked him, and began my day.
Awkward or not, with no marketing, Wakie, launched in 2011, with offices in Moscow and San Francisco, is already being used by half a million English speakers across the globe. People in the United States, Canada, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, and India can sign up for alarms, but they can get calls from anyone from around the world. A Russian-language version started in 2011 has gathered 1.5 million users and $3.5 million in funding from Russian investors.
Hrachik Ajamyan, who started the company with his brother Tatul, realized that a call from an unknown number tended to jumpstart his brain faster than any alarm. So he thought big, and patented the tech that powers Wakie.
Wakie lets you log in with your Facebook account or an e-mail address and keeps your information private. People interact anonymously, and calls are terminated after a minute. It’s not a dating app, but typically, the person calling is of the opposite sex. “We noticed the quality of calls and the connection was rated higher,” Tatul said.
Puzzlingly, among Wakie’s users, there are more wakers than so-called wakies. The reason, says Tatul Ajamyan: “When you start to wake other people up it’s not easy to stop.”
Even so, one day while testing the app, it wasn’t a human voice on the other end of the line but a cheerful, pre-recorded robot one, which clicks in when there aren’t enough volunteer callers.
Sure enough, 66 others were waiting to be roused, the app told me. And there were only three other Wakies manning the lines. Did I want to join in?
The Takeaway: Wake-up calls from strangers can sometimes get creepy, but at least the conversation starters are no snooze.