In the Room with Meghan Joyce

The Room Podcast
5 min readMay 6, 2024


S10E6: Democratizing Life Management for Busy Adults with Meghan Joyce, CEO and Founder of Duckbill

We are back with another installment of The Room Podcast! This week, we are joined by Meghan Joyce, the visionary CEO behind Duckbill, a revolutionary, AI-powered life management service. Listen in as Meghan shares her journey from pivotal roles at Uber and Oscar Health to founding Duckbill, where she’s pioneering accessible solutions for the modern adult.

We delve into Meghan’s mission of democratizing access to assistance, exploring how Duckbill combines cutting-edge technology and human expertise to tackle life’s endless time-consuming, and energy-draining tasks. Hear how Meghan’s passion for addressing societal needs led her to redefine the concept of life management, making it more affordable and accessible for all.

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Theme 1: The balance of B2C versus B2B go-to-market

The idea for Duckbill began with years of Joyce and her founding team’s personal experience and observation — that working families had too many tasks and not enough access to sufficient help. With the idea of bootstrapping real human assistants onto an AI-powered, personalized platform emerged around 2020, Joyce was empowered to pursue the idea full-time after two lifelong friends and investors sent her a term sheet and told her she had their support.

While considering Duckbill’s go-to-market strategy, Joyce had a lot of relevant experience to pull from while at OscarHealth as COO and Uber as Regional General Manager. Companies at similar developmental stages often experience the same problems, she remarks, and in all three companies, most of the early team had come for the company’s mission.

Joyce took a page from Uber in launching truly “pre-beta” testing. Uber founder Travis Kalanick hired a private driver and made him available to a pool of fifteen friends as an early test of interest in the service and how on-demand rideshare might function.

In Duckbill’s earliest days, Joyce hired an experienced executive assistant and made her available for fifteen families, at the appropriate cost of $25/hour. She didn’t want the pilot’s lack of cost to influence how often families would actually use the assistant’s help, but Joyce quickly started to understand the kinds of tasks families were willing to pay an assistant for.

Joyce’s team was able to learn undercover during this process, separate from the usual scrutiny of rapidly-growing startups. Duckbill’s early team raised a Series A still in stealth mode, as Joyce calls it, which was important for not rushing too much exposure to the public. One of her main early concerns was not adding any features that weren’t truly scalable. With her motivation to democratize access to domestic help for families, she wanted to build a durable project that could serve the scale of consumer clients she imagined. Despite floods of inbound interest for a B2B product, Joyce has stayed focused on the fundamentals of what an individual consumer wants out of the product. The complicated needs of companies and their HR departments can be distracting for the early iterations of a product like Duckbill, Joyce says. For now, companies wanting to pay for Duckbill on behalf of their employees is the extent of their focus on the informally B2B channel.

Theme 2: Building cutting-edge AI platforms alongside human-driven services

Understanding the possibilities and limitations of AI as it is now, in 2024, is vital to Duckbill, Joyce says. With her eye on the prize of meeting their goal unit economics and the creating a truly scalable model, there are limitations to what Duckbill can do with AI in-house. Building one’s own LLM model is still a process reserved for companies with tremendous institutional energy to optimize the efficiency of those models and refine them around-the-clock. As Joyce currently sees the AI landscape, “very few real life people have been directly impacted by AI, yet.” She wants to change that and personal assistant services like Duckbill are a vital step towards that widespread access.

At the same time that AI is still rapidly developing, Joyce learned from Uber that 1) any problem can be solved and 2) disruptive technologies don’t need to be ubiquitous for a founding team to incorporate them into their product. If Uber had waited until personal vehicles were absolutely everywhere, they would never have secured the market share they have today as more competitors flood into the market. Realizing that the problem your founding team is addressing will endure and having confidence in your solution is the crucial place to start with life and habit-changing solutions. Upstarts like Duckbill are actually best positioned to disrupt industries, as they are perceived as having nothing to lose.

Theme 3: The societal shift towards inclusive support systems for working families

During her time working at Uber right out of Harvard Business School, Joyce’s family life — and obligations — grew substantially. She got married, bought a house, and had two children during her time at the company. Joyce and her husband, both working full-time, routinely discussed how other parents could possibly balance all the demands of raising their children and running a home.

Historically, stay-at-home wives and mothers or low-paid domestic help took care of tasks for the home and children. Joyce’s own mother decided to stay home full time to care for her children, sidelining her career as a music therapist. Joyce respects her mother’s decision and wanted some aspect of her career to work on democratizing help for families a little more so women feel there are more options for getting help with domestic tasks. In 2024, 50% of the workforce is female and over 50% of undergraduates in the US are women: the increasing demands on time for employed wives and mothers are compounding this persistent domestic problem.

Joyce knows how difficult addressing this unpaid domestic labor gap is. Only after realizing the revolutionizing power AI could bring to this problem in 2020 and 2021 did she consider how she could launch the idea that would become Duckbill. Duckbill would become the latest step in her journey to maximizing real-world impact, which has always fueled her.