Axios Login

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August 27, 2019

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Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,051 words, ~ 4 minute read.

1 big thing: Startups aim to optimize your friendships

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The hottest app category in Silicon Valley is based on "personal CRMs," which uses consumer relationship management software to track targets, aka friends.

What's new: 3 companies are pursuing it in accelerator program Y Combinator's most recent class, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Why it matters: Techies are drawn to optimizing and managing all aspects of their lives, from finances to health, so it's no surprise they're looking to do the same with their relationships with other people.

Between the lines: People mostly seem to use these tools to keep track of work-related acquaintances and other so-called "loose ties," like friends-of-friends.

  • Many are using apps like Airtable or Notion they're already using at work to create spreadsheets for this purpose.
  • There's also a number of web and mobile apps for this, including Dex, one of the companies that just finished Y Combinator's program, which bills itself as a tool to "turn acquaintances into allies." It lets users keeps records of acquaintances and get reminders to contact them.
  • "People are having broader and broader networks that are more professional connections," Dex founder Kevin Sun told Axios. "Loose ties are increasingly important as well," he added, noting he's not intending Dex to be used for someone's family and friends.
  • In networking-heavy industries like tech and venture capital, social encounters often overlap with professional relationships — that friend of your friend could be your next investor or employee.

The other side: The founders of Irish startup Monaru, a recent graduate of Y Combinator whose service is for managing users' relationships with loved ones, say using such apps is a sign of deep care for these relationships.

  • Monaru focuses on the user's closest 10 to 15 relationships, like family and best friends, and provides suggestions like gifts and restaurant selections based on those loved ones' tastes.
  • Making the effort to keep track of friends and family's preferences and important dates via an app shows that someone cares enough to not want to miss anything and get reminders to plan ahead so gifts and activities are thoughtful, Monaru's founders (and Twitter users) told me.

The big picture: Each of these apps is doing, in part, some of the things that Facebook was originally intended for.

  • Now that so many people use Facebook for everything from reading and sharing the news to arguing about politics — and others have lost trust in it thanks to its privacy problems — entrepreneurs see an opportunity to rethink its core mission of connecting people.

Our thought bubble: There's something deeply unsettling about the idea that a friend is reaching out only because an app reminded them to — it's hard to believe they truly care about you.

  • But perhaps it's not so bad if you feel secure in that relationship — and at least this way your friends will always be armed with appropriate restaurant recommendations.

2. Yelp adds new personalization options

Yelp's new personalization options
Photo: Yelp

Yelp is making its biggest-ever push into personalization, allowing people to specify dietary preferences, accessibility needs as well as list other attributes, such as whether they are a parent.

Why it matters: For the first time, users will see a different Yelp home screen based on the information they provide.

Yelp will offer personalization across a variety of categories, the company announced.

  • Lifestyle:​ Yelp will tailor suggestions based own whether consumers own their own home, or have a pet or kid.
  • Accessibility:​ People seeking locations that have gender neutral bathrooms or are wheelchair accessible will be able to have results tailored based on those characteristics.
  • Food and drink: ​Users can signal if they are, say, vegetarian, gluten-free or pescatarian, and have restaurants that have such options clearly highlighted.
  • Interests:​ Users can indicate their interests to have options recommended for bookstores, date nights, hair salons, hiking and kids activities.

3. No, that's not where to take a video call

Reproduced from Lifesize: 2019 Impact of Video Conferencing Report; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from Lifesize: 2019 Impact of Video Conferencing Report; Chart: Axios Visuals

People are taking work video conference calls everywhere. And I do mean everywhere.

What's new: A study from video conferencing firm Lifesize shows that the majority of people take such calls in places you'd expect, including home offices, co-working spaces and coffee shops.

However, a concerning 11% say that they have taken a video call while driving.

  • An even more disturbing 3% have done so from a restroom.

The bottom line: If you are going to be adventurous in taking video calls, be sure you know how to turn off the video and sound as necessary.

4. Carbon brings 3D printing to bike seats

Specialized worked with 3D printing firm Carbon to create this customized bike seat
Courtesy of Carbon

Bike company Specialized is working with 3D-printing firm Carbon to create the first-ever custom bike seat tailored to the individual rider.

"From its shape to its padding level, the bike saddle can be the difference between a bad ride or a great ride."
— Statement from the companies

The S-Works Power Saddle with Mirror Technology, as the new seat is known, is scheduled to be available some time next year.

The big picture: Carbon has been steadily growing the industries using its products, working with everyone from carmakers to the medical and dental device industry. It's also being used commercially by Adidas to make running shoes and by Riddell for custom football helmets.

5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Glassdoor promoted President and COO Christian Sutherland-Wong to CEO, replacing co-founder Robert Hohman, who will remain chairman.
  • Online learning company Udacity named former LendingTree executive Gabriel Dalporto as CEO, with co-founder Sebastian Thrun remaining as executive chairman.
  • Kurt Zumwalt, Amazon's global treasurer, left the company last week after 15 years at the retailer, CNBC reported.


  • In yesterday's Login we incorrectly described the conflict between Apple and the FBI over access to the San Bernardino shooter's phone. (The feds wanted Apple's help to access the phone, but they couldn't ask Apple for the phone's passcode, as we wrote, because Apple doesn't have users' passcodes.)
  • In yesterday's Login I wrote that VMware had acquired Black Carbon; the name of the firm is actually Carbon Black. Wrong, I was, as Yoda would say. (Sorry I am.)


6. After you Login

For a new view on old cameras, check out this installation from artist Fabian Oefner. He used a buzz saw to slice apart the cameras to provide a unique view of their inner workings.