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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

CRM ("customer relationship management") software is how salespeople keep track of their targets. Now "personal CRM," which applies the same techniques to personal relationships, has become one of the hottest app categories in Silicon Valley, with three companies pursuing it in accelerator program Y Combinator’s most recent class.

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.

Mostly, people are looking 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.

My 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.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.