LinkedIn, the social network for professionals with nearly 350 million users, has been making a push into the area of anticipatory computing, where it predicts what kind of information you need to know, when you need it. Today comes the latest development in that strategy: The company has acquired and will be closing down Refresh.io, a startup and iOS app of the same name that surfaces insights about people in your networks right before you meet them.
Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but it is a talent and technology acquisition. Refresh.io had raised about $10 million from CRV, Redpoint, Foundation Capital and Haystack. The deal was confirmed to us by LinkedIn directly, as well as in a blog post penned by co-founder Bhavin Shah.
The main app will be closing down on April 15 and the company will not be taking any new sign-ups. Twelve of the current team of 15 (14 full time and one contractor) are joining LinkedIn in Mountain View to work on incorporating the tech they have developed into various LinkedIn products.
That main app let you log in using Facebook or LinkedIn, and then provided you with relevant pieces of information about a contact such as your most recent interactions, recent and relevant news mentions and so on so that you could develop a more updated profile of someone you may not regularly follow all that closely.
“We are going to be exploring the different ways we can use the ideas they have into a number of different LinkedIn products,” a spokesperson for LinkedIn said in an interview. “We’re looking to take their smarts and add them to a number of products and come up with a number of insights to make LinkedIn even more valuable.”
One of these is likely to be LinkedIn’s Connected app, which has already been incorporating some elements of predictive computing to provide some insights and flag when you’re near people in your network, aimed at those using the app on the go and in work environments.
What will be interesting to see is if LinkedIn chooses to keep some of the integrations that Refresh had developed pre-acquisition. One of the more recent that its team was touting was a link with Salesforce. As part of Salesforce’s App Exchange, those who used both Refresh.io and Salesforce would get profiles of users every time they entered a new email address into their Salesforce database. The idea here would be that if you have a sales lead, you could use Refresh.io to get more detailed information about the prospect on the spot, and that can help you sell to that person better.
As LinkedIn continues to develop its own suite of services on top of its social graph, many have wondered about how it could take on Salesforce as a competitor, something that even LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner has touched on.
At the same time, this move helps LinkedIn compete against other upstarts in the same area of anticipatory information, as it applies to networking and intel about people you are meeting. Others include Humin and Charlie. The latter is used by sales teams at Salesforce, Box.com, Twitter, Yelp and others. “We are known as the biggest competitor to Refresh,” Aaron Frazin, the CEO of Charlie, wrote me in an email after LinkedIn announced the deal.
More generally, LinkedIn is following through on functionality that it has been developing for some time now.
Some have talked about the creepy aspect of LinkedIn, where it seems to suggest potential connections that are eerily accurate, but moves like adding Refresh potentially give it a more targeted way of doing this, offering up not potential connections but useful data about the connections you already have only when people actually want or need them.
It’s also an interesting progression from an earlier acquisition of LinkedIn’s, Rapportive, which helps Gmail users surface other connection information about their email contacts.
Memo from Shah below.
Featured Image: Refresh.io
Refresh Joins the LinkedIn Family
By Bhavin Shah
I started Refresh three years ago with Paul Tyma to create a digital briefing book that every professional could use to discover common ground and build stronger relationships with people they were meeting. Since then Refresh has surfaced insights associated with hundreds of millions of meetings, and has been central to countless connections and closed deals.
The inspiration for Refresh came in 2004 when I was in Afghanistan with Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson launching a program to teach illiterate women about pre-natal health. I admired his briefing book, which outlined every detail of the trip and prepared him for every conversation, and realized that everyone could use their own briefing book to help them be more successful.
But that was 2004, when social networks were still young and flip phones reigned. But with the advent of smart phones, a pre-meeting digital briefing became possible. To fulfill our mission, we built our technology to provide the most relevant and timely details at just the right moment. Over the past three years, customer engagement, reviews, articles, and customer feedback have provided validation that Refresh has excelled at doing this.
Our joint passion for delivering insights that help professionals be more productive is what makes joining LinkedIn so exciting. Plus, LinkedIn gives us an opportunity to share insights with more than 347 million professionals across the globe.
We’ve decided that as of today we’ll no longer accept new users, and the Refresh app will be shut down on April 15. Our team will focus its efforts on providing LinkedIn members with more insights to help them better do their jobs. We’ll contact customers soon regarding the shutdown process and explain how they can download notes they’ve stored within the app.
I’m extremely proud of the team we’ve built at Refresh. This group of engineers, designers, product, and marketing professionals is the best that Paul and I have ever built and worked with. We’re a family in and out of the office. That blurring of work and play is the epitome of Refresh’s mission: Good things happen when you treat your colleagues, vendors, partners, and customers like your family. All of us want to thank our customers for supporting us and providing invaluable feedback.
But our work has just begun! There are lots of great things to come from our team at LinkedIn.