There’s a new smart app out there called Refresh, which seeks to eliminate small talk by providing users with detailed information about people they’re meeting with and suggesting topics of conversation. With that in mind, the company has raised $10M from Redpoint Ventures, Charles River Ventures and Foundation Capital.
Refresh looks at your calendar of events and creates instant dossiers of people you’re planning to meet. The idea is to provide users with information that might be interesting or relevant to them as a way to build stronger connections between people.
What Refresh is doing isn’t exactly new — world leaders and diplomats for centuries have relied on briefing books and dossiers for gathering information about the people they’re meeting. The same concept is applied by business leaders and C-level execs at major companies before they meet and so forth. The Refresh app hopes to make the same type of detailed information about people you’re meeting with available to all of us.
At the heart of the app is a real-time “insight engine,” which was designed to pull information from hundreds of sources and surface relevant data. As a result, each dossier is completely personalized for the user who’s viewing it based on information in common.
To get Refresh to work, users connect their iPhone calendars, along with any number of different social and email accounts to the app. That includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail and Google apps, Google+, AngelList, Evernote, Foursquare, Yahoo, and iCloud. Once that’s done, Refresh will begin collecting information about people you’re scheduled to meet with in real-time.
Then, when you look at a profile of someone in Refresh, the app instantly builds a dossier of information about the person. It does that by making about 200 different server calls and highlighting information that might be useful in your meeting.
The app serves to remind you of who you’re meeting with and why, and is designed to highlight information that you might not have thought about. For instance, it provides you with detailed jobs and education information about the person, and it highlights your past conversation history, telling you the first email and most recent email conversations that you’ve had.
Refresh points you to mutual friends that you might have on various social networks, as well as common interests you might have. For instance, maybe a contact went to the same college or high school as your significant other, or maybe the two of you root for the same sports teams — Refresh will point that out for you.
It also provides users with prompts for things to chat about, based on things that they’ve posted to social networks. The app might tell people who I’m meeting with, for instance, that I just got back from vacation a week or so ago, and prompt them to ask me about my favorite part of the trip. (Cambodia was awesome, btw.) And it’ll show off photos that have been shared, which could spark conversation between people.
While the idea behind Refresh might seem creepy to some — that is, providing a download of available information for someone you’re about to meet — the app maintains strict privacy controls in the data that it collects. It uses individual user tokens for logging in to various social networks, so it can only collect information that you would be able to view on your own. That said, the amount of data it’s able to piece together — even for people you’re not directly connected to — is incredibly detailed.
Refresh was founded in 2011 by Bhavin Shah, former co-founder and COO of Gazillion Entertainment, along with CTO Paul Tyma, who co-founded disposable email service Mailinator. There are a total of seven employees working on Refresh right now, with experience at Google, LinkedIn and Microsoft. The funding should help Refresh expand its team — especially in engineering — as it seeks to improve its insight engine.