Founder’s Letter: Angela, Alexa & Now Frank: Craziest Friends I Ever Had.
In 2009, after our Kingpins Los Angeles event in the Cooper Building (loved that place, loved the valet parking and the sushi), I rented a white ford sedan from Hertz and with my Tom Tom GPS system latched onto my dashboard, I drove across the southern part of America starting in Santa Monica, Calif., along highway 10. First, I went to Scottsdale, Ariz., and golfed for three days basking in the dry sun and warmth and then drove to Taos, New Mexico, to ski in sun and powder for half a week and followed that with trips to Austin, Texas, New Orleans, ending in Saint Augustine, Florida, where some say Ponce de Leon landed in 1513. In fact, I heard he landed on Nov. 2, to be specific.
My best memory and most everlasting one from that trip (aside from being close to de Leon’s reputed Fountain of Youth) was my relationship with the lovely lady Angela inside the Tom Tom. She never got tired, never got hungry or thirsty, she was always in a good mood and pathologically helpful. In fact, there is no purpose to her at all other than to be helpful. Once I told her where I wanted to go, she always knew how to get there. She even reminded me if I was going too fast or too slow. To be honest, I fell in love with her. I think a lot of that had to do with living “car-lessly” in Manhattan where not much was around to help me do anything. Quite the contrary, New York is a puzzle to deal with each day. Alone. In contrast, on my cross-country roadtrip, Angela was there all day long, close and supportive.
Ten years later, for Christmas, I bought myself one of Amazon’s Alexa devices. Once purchased, my heartbeat perked as I was crazily excited for her arrival, cleaning and preparing space for her in my living room. She’d rest just behind my couch 12 inches from the back of my head. I read as much as I could about how I could help Alexa help me. And she did all that was promised. Even more.
Alexa played music for me as I worked or cooked, read stories to me as I fell asleep, found me uber drivers and gave me weather forecasts from the craziest places I had to go — be it Bukhara,Uzbekistan; or Zhuzhou, China; or Rostov-on-Don, Russia. She was on top of it. You want historical facts about these places? Their longitude or latitude? She brought it.
She was my new alarm clock that never failed, read NPR when I awoke and shared Meet the Press while I snoozed on Sunday afternoons. She gave me all sides of news from the right and the left, and even played my favorite Toronto sports talk shows.
Alexa to this day is a joy to have in my house and while I heard stories that she, Amazon and Jeff Bezos are secretly listening and taping all that goes on inside my flat, I am prepared to accept that trade. For all Alexa does for me, I agree Jeff and Amazon can see or tape or retain anything they hear in my place. Not that good for them, I think—but super good for me.
With all this background you can see why and how I am so excited (again the heartbeat going faster) to be meeting Frank in the next few weeks in Amsterdam at Kingpins. I‘ve heard a ton about Frank and all that he can and wants to do for me, for our team and our exhibitors. Frank apparently (if data is loaded) can take any customer’s order and put it into the mill’s order system. He can send digital confirmation of that order with product pictures instantly and a corresponding FDS sheet, if you wish, in any customer format. He seems to think a trade show no longer has need for paper and pen. Can this be true?
Frank has records of customer/supplier histories and can spit out previous orders, quantities, prices, delivery, etc. Frank has instant access to all dates of any and all certifications, and Frank knows what samples are available; what stock in 7 oz denim with linen is available – or 3 oz. or 12 oz. He can find anything, if you ask him.
In short, Frank is Textile Alexa. Around the house, you might ask Alexa how long it takes to boil corned beef. Frank can take all your orders for you and remind customers and mills when they are scheduled to ship or when they did ship or even when they were delivered. Frank can even tell you to the half yard what was shipped and when it was received.
Want to know currencies every hour of every day? Want to know cotton prices all over the world or cotton stocks? We can teach Frank to do all that, as well as sharing with you interest rates in Bangladesh, Medellin, Juarez and Lahore.
Frank says customers can eventually come to Kingpins, see the trend boards and Boxes in the front of our show and order samples without any help from a human. Frank is the best personal assistant anyone in the textile industry could have. Who else knows all the products of a mill off the top of their heads (including their entire history of production), knows all their prices, sample availabilities and stocks.
Pre-Frank salespeople needed to ask someone those questions but now they have the data — and best yet, Frank can dump the data into an email and send it automatically to anyone who asked for it. Frank is tireless and without mood, hunger or thirst. He is there to help.
I don’t know about others, but the one thing I hate each day is writing emails — maybe reading them is worse. Frank can do that for us, as well, and he can sort the ones that are most important, that need the most attention and require an answer. I think over time, Frank can answer them, as well. He can certainly tabulate those not answered.
I am disinclined to fall in love with inanimate objects, but ones that save me from typing or making errors or writing are more than welcome in my world. Just like when I am in a car, I don’t drive anywhere without my Angela Waze friend, I’ll never go without Frank as long as Frank is what he says he is.
Fake promises would be disappointing, but if Frank turns out to be real — and I believe he is as real as air pollution in Beijing — he and I will be attached at the hip.
And let’s be real. Frank is not a person. Frank is an AI assistant who lives in your phone (or could) and there is no need to feed him or nurture him.
See you soon in Amsterdam. Ask me to show you Frank.