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Photo: Likewise

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is still set on saving the world, but he's also got some side gigs, like helping launch a new social recommendation engine, called Likewise. The iOS and Android app is designed to be a place to get trusted recommendations on everything from restaurants to books to TV shows.

How it all started: The free app, which launches today, began as the brainchild of Larry Cohen, a longtime Gates aide who serves as CEO of Gates Ventures.

  • Gates is funding the Bellevue, Wash.-based company, which has been working for nearly a year and has about 20 employees.
  • Cohen is chairman of Likewise with his onetime Microsoft colleague Ian Morris serving as CEO.
“It’s not the next Office, but there’s a real need here."
— Cohen tells Axios

The app will not include ratings. While there are plenty of sites that offer crowdsourced reviews with numeric ratings, Cohen and Morris say most people are looking for positive recommendations.

"You don’t call your friend and say 'I’m going to Boston — what are some places I should avoid?'"
— Morris

The details:

  • As on Twitter, people's postings are public by default, though there's an option to keep things private.
  • The app will be available in the U.S. and Canadian app stores, with some data on 115 cities. The company, though, is focusing its marketing push on making the service robust in Seattle, hoping efforts there can serve as a blueprint for expansion.
  • There are some external data sources so that people don't have to start with a blank slate, including restaurant recommendations from Vox Media's Eater.

The key hurdle: Even with Gates' backing, Likewise faces an uphill battle to get critical mass.

"That is the biggest challenge any app faces, certainly one with a social component."
— Morris

What's next: The app hopes to generate some initial interest with recommendations from Gates, as well as other celebrities including Tom Friedman, Bono and Howard Schultz.

  • Over time, though, the main goal is to be a place where you can get suggestions from your own trusted circle of friends.
  • Likewise also hopes to expand to new categories, including perhaps podcasts, electronics and recipes.
  • While there's no current effort to monetize, Cohen says there are lots of options down the road given that the very nature of the app means its users are close to making purchasing decisions.

Go deeper

Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas — Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. Economy: Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemicAmerica's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  7. Variant tracker

Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19

Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

State of play: Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said in a statement that Milley — who is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot — is experiencing "very minor symptoms" and is "working remotely and isolating himself."

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.