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Tap Merlin by Foyer, call ChatGPT wherever you are

At Foyer, Pratyush Rai, Siddhartha Saxena and Sirsendu Sarkar are bringing the power of AI to wherever you browse or work on the net

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Jun 23, 2023 03:56:38 PM IST
Updated: Jun 23, 2023 04:14:04 PM IST

Tap Merlin by Foyer, call ChatGPT wherever you are(From right ti left) Pratyush Rai, Siddhartha Saxena and Sirsendu Sarkar, Cofounders, Foyer  
Pratyush Rai’s epiphany, with respect to his purpose, happened when he was an associate with BCG, the well-known global consultancy. He was on a team that was consulting with a large consumer products company at the time, when Covid struck, and he saw firsthand what happens when there’s an unexpected cash crunch even at a large company.
The client was “employee-first” and didn’t want to fire anyone, while a competitor had laid off many people, he recalls. Eventually, this story had a happy ending with the cash flow crunch sorted out in a few weeks. But it left an impression on the young IIT-Kanpur civil engineering graduate.

He teamed up with two of his friends from college, Siddhartha Saxena and Sirsendu Sarkar, to do something meaningful on their own. And, after various ideas and iterations, they decided to build something that would “nudge” developers to make them aware of things they were missing.
From there, it was a rapid journey to Merlin, their current product, which is a chrome extension that allows users to call ChatGPT literally with click of a button—Ctrl+M on a Windows computer and Cmd+M on a Mac. And their startup, incorporated in the US, and based in Bengaluru, is called Foyer, founded in 2021.
“Merlin is a fairly simple product. It just embeds inside your browser,” Rai explains. “It goes on some of your high DAU (daily active user) websites, such as YouTube, Gmail, LinkedIn and Twitter, and it solves some critical functions.”
The functions can broadly be categorised into two parts. Either a user is consuming content on the website or creating it. For instance, if someone is watching a video on YouTube or listening to a podcast, especially in work and productivity-related scenarios, if the video is too long, the user will want to find a way to quickly get through it without losing out on the important segments.“Using Merlin, they can just summarise it, or they can get a good summary at a specific timestamp.”
In the YouTube example, users can also take advantage of Foyer’s Merlin YouTube Summarizer and get a good gist of an entire episode. This is one of a suite of features that Merlin offers, Rai says, “improving the signal-to-noise ratio” in content consumption, for users.

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On the content creation side, be it a line for a tweet or a couple of hundred words for an email, Merlin brings you the power of ChatGPT. “It's a very simple Chrome extension, which embeds in your workflow and tries to help you to enhance the experience on top of these high-daily-use websites.”
It’s been only about six months since launching Merlin, Rai says, and Foyer has raked in some 750,000 installs. And the young entrepreneurs have spent very little money on customer acquisition.“We have practically got 95 percent of these users organically, and almost 85-90 percent of our users have enabled us on their browser, which is an important metric for us,” he says. What it means is, whenever Foyer launches a new update, it will reflect in those users’ browsers.
And users are coming in from around the world – the US, East Asia, Europe, these are very large markets for Foyer from the point of view of paying users. Rai won’t provide a breakdown or specifics on revenue.
Another insight the entrepreneurs have unearthed early in their game is that there are features that are good to have, and there are features that serious professional users of content are looking for, to solve specific problems.
Marketers, for example, or recruiters. In both cases, saving time on content like email and messages without compromising on clarity and effectiveness is critical. And if Merlin helps on that front, Foyer will win paying customers.
“Originally, our focus was very deeply on developers, but we realised people are using our product in very interesting ways—marketers were using Merlin from when it was just a command bar interface,” Rai recalls.
And this attention to what customers are doing with their product has helped Foyer build features that cater to users in both vertical ways and across horizontals, he says (meaning both for a specific segment of users, like marketers, and also across a use case like spinning up a good email).
“That the majority of the growth from day zero was driven through organic channels means that users came in and tried to use Merlin because they wanted to, and not because they clicked on some random link and installed something,” says Vaibhav Domkundwar, CEO at Better Capital, who is Foyer’s first institutional investor.
Rai and his co-founders found Domkundwar through their alumni network and seniors who had built startups in which he was a “high-founder-NPS” investor, Rai says. Meaning, he came highly recommended as an empathetic investor.
Following the $1 million or so that Better invested in Foyer, as seed money in 2022, the startup has gone on to raise another round “in the high single digit” millions of dollars, Rai says.And “they have a 20-year runway”, jokes Domkundwar because “they are the leanest team in my entire portfolio,” he says.  
Rai attributes his circumspect approach to spending lessons he learnt while at BCG. “It was also where I embraced the good sides of capitalism … it changed my world view,” he says.He is referring to how entrepreneurs can build businesses that can create wealth for a large number of people and eventually benefit society at large—he and his co-founders have that lofty aspiration for Foyer as well.
Merlin already makes money to the extent that the venture is “cash flow positive”, he says. And the founders have brought in no more than a handful of recruits.

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A big part of the effort over the next 12-18 months will be focusing on mobile, personalisation, and “bundling” across different sub-features of Merlin.
Foyer is already experimenting with certain interfaces on the mobile phone, and basic functions like saving prompts for personalisation. “For example, you need to write a lot of rejection emails, what if we give you the ability to write some personalised prompts?”
Foyer is adding these kinds of micro nuggets of personalisations, some of which are already in play. “And now we have the critical mass of data and users, on top of which we can build even deeper personalization experiences.”
A next, richer level functionality could be like an internal network on top of that. For example, Merlin could start capturing your writing style to help you write better responses and prompts on WhatsApp, and pre-draft responses.
The smartphone and a desktop app are both “massive” priorities, Rai says. “So, in a way, our roadmap is going to look very similar to how companies like Grammarly sort of ended up evolving, right? Starting with a Chrome extension, then a desktop app, then a mobile app. And right now, Merlin does things almost across all interfaces.”

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