Political and business leaders have assistants to brief them on the people around them. Why shouldn’t the rest of us?
This is the basic idea behind Refresh. The startup launched an app for Google Glass today that gives you “instant dossiers” on people that you meet.
“Dossiers are this power tool that world and business leaders get and our goal is to democratize this,” cofounder and CEO Bhavin Shah said in an exclusive interview with VentureBeat. “As an entrepreneur, you have a vision and hope that things come together so you can pursue it. We wanted Refresh to feel like a diplomatic attaché whispering in your ear. Glass can help us realize our vision because the tech gets out of the way.”
Refresh launched an iPhone app last year. When you want to learn more about a person, such as a new business client or friend you haven’t seen for years, Refresh’s engine will pull data from multiple sources, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Github, AngelList, Yahoo, and even the real estate site Zillow. You can use this information to find common ground and talking points.
Refresh also connects to your calendar, so if it sees you have a meeting with “Bob Jenkins,” it will automatically create a primer on him.
“This changes the fabric of conversations people are having,” Shah said. “Instead of starting off with ‘How are you,’ you can be reminded that they bought a car last year or are training for a marathon. This gets you into a conversation you may otherwise have missed. It shows people that you care. These types of connections and relationships are a key to business success.”
Glass users sign up for Refresh by connecting their calendar and social networks to the app. When it finds information about someone you are meeting, it will send you “cards” with relevant information to swipe through, one by one.
Shah’s inspiration for Refresh goes back to 2004 when he was working with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson on an international mission to Kabul, Afghanistan. He saw the power and utility of the briefing books Thompson got, which enabled him to make eloquent speeches and form real connections with people.
Nowadays, with smartphones and devices like Google Glass, as well as the sheer volume of personal information people post on the Internet, it is actually possible to offer these types of personal tidbits when people need them.
Google Glass has created controversy because just wearing the device can make people wary. The technology is still only available to a small pool of people, but Shah is optimistic of its long-term opportunities.
Google recently unveiled several new eyeglass frames for Glass that can fit prescription lenses, which is another step toward pushing Glass into the mainstream.
“I like the analogy of Glass being like [the Sony] Walkman back in the early ’80s,” he said. “It was a weird awkward thing to be wearing out a Walkman in public, and then it became completely normal.”
Refresh is not the only company who thought Glass created great networking opportunities. People+ is a Glassware app that presents information on people and companies you are doing business with and shows you how people are connected.
Refresh has $10 million in backing from Redpoint Ventures, Charles River Ventures, and Foundation Capital. It is based in Palo Alto, Calif.
Check out this photo gallery of Refresh for Glass: