You may never have a mansion like Oprah, but you can now chat with her favorite interior designer, Nate Berkus—for a fee, of course.
A newish app, Intro, allows anyone to book one-on-one video calls with industry experts for advice in fields from fashion and beauty to interior design, event planning, and business development. While some users may book one session for a quick, specific question, the platform was developed to also allow users to replicate a full consulting experience. Calls are offered in increments of 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes; with some experts, like 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 built on a desire to “democratize access” to industry experts—a goal inspired by a serendipitous encounter Mobrem had with copy-chain Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea when he was just 18. Mobrem, who previously worked as an advisor to Delta Airlines and led the product team at Intuit, credits that brief conversation for much of his success. “In the 15 minutes we had, I asked him about entrepreneurship, and he shared some key lessons that inspired me and gave me the confidence to want to start my own entrepreneurial journey,” Mobrem says. (Orfalea, by the way, is also available to chat via Intro; 15 minutes will run you $275.)
Intro isn’t exactly a first-of-its-kind product; at this point, there’s practically a whole cottage industry of fan-to-celebrity communications. On Masterclass, Annie Leibovitz teaches photography while Serena Williams coaches tennis. And on Cameo, fans can commission personalized videos from Mark McGrath and David Koechner. The difference with Intro is applicability: Intro is focused on tangible, actionable, feedback, not a meet-and-greet with your idols and inspiration. (No offense to Serena et al., but those Masterclass lessons aren’t really designed to turn you into a professional athlete; they’re more about general life advice. And most Cameo sessions get lost to the internet ether in a matter of days.) Most experts on Intro don’t accept small-scale projects from new clients and aren’t bookable elsewhere online, so unless you’re Oprah or a Kardashian, this app may be the only chance you have to access such top-tier talent.
The platform is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six (Ohanian, known for cofounding Reddit, 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 apply to become an expert, which notes that experts have the opportunity to earn up to $500,000 annually using the platform. Intro takes a 30% commission from experts.
I was given the opportunity to test out the service and opted to chat with Shawn Henderson, an interior designer, featured on Architectural Digest’s prestigious AD100 list, with over 20 years of experience. On Intro, Henderson’s 15-minute sessions start at $199 (an hour runs you $765). Henderson told me he tries to do about six sessions a month, fitting them in between larger-scale projects and summer travel. He’s worked with clients across five or more sessions, checking in as they renovate and purchase furniture per his suggestions. After scheduling for a weekday afternoon, we hopped on the video conference within the Intro app and got started chatting design immediately. With a countdown at the top of your video call, it’s hard to not want to make the most of every second.
I gave Henderson a tour of my house so he could get a sense of my design style before showing him the laundry area that I wanted to focus on. I explained my problem: My washer and dryer were taking 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 immediately got to work, sketching ideas for swapping my side-by-side washer and dryer for a stackable unit, moving them against the back wall via a (possibly expensive) plumbing solution, and creating space for cabinetry. He also laid out options for a sink and drying rack or a countertop for folding. He then explained another option, where I could create an enclosed laundry room, rather than open space, using a pocket door. He wasn’t able to provide pricing quotes, but he cited specific websites and brands to check out for wallpaper for the back wall and durable floor paint to cover my unsightly tile flooring in the area.
None of Intro’s experts communicate with clients off the app, including sending links or providing scans of sketches. When I asked Henderson how that worked, he quickly explained that his Intro clients take detailed notes. I found myself with a few notes from our call and screenshots of his sketches; but more than anything, a sense of confidence in the ideas I already vaguely had. When I move forward on this renovation, I could show the screenshot to a contractor, but will need to make more formal drawings based on Henderson’s advice. Intro’s app does not allow for chatting or exchanging 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’d long had in mind: to place a freestanding bathtub 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 noted the style of bathroom faucet and my overall home decor, urged me not to go for a traditional English telephone faucet. “You don’t want a themed room,” he explained. Something more transitional would fit better in my space. I would have loved to scroll through options with him and select them together, but this tactile piece of advice was enough to lead me back to the drawing board as I planned this addition.
If you have done your own research, made your Pinterest boards, and DIY-ed as far as you can go, Intro may be the final step you need to gut check a few ideas before getting started on a renovation project, new fitness routine, or dramatic new hairstyle. Would I have paid $199 to Henderson to confirm my suspicion about the bathtub? Likely not, but I appreciated his openness to veer off the initial topic.
For business development, Intro more directly replicates a consultancy, giving business owners the opportunity to practice a pitch on Ohanian and other industry stalwarts. Who knows, in a few years, Intro may be using a success story from a young entrepreneur who used the app to promote its services. That, or they’ll need some compelling “before and after” photos of kitchen remodels.