The Story Behind My Investment In Refresh

About a year ago, right around the time when it seemed like every new day brought a new mobile calendar app, I wrote my weekly column on the intersection of calendars and how that data could jumpstart a third-party approach to anticipatory computing on mobile. It’s worth revisiting that piece, now that time has passed, Calendar Frenzy, Google Now, and Apple’s Anticipatory Computing Problem.

One of my conclusions was that Apple would have to bake such a solution into they OS to offer something that’s either comparable to or orthogonal to Google Now. Since this piece, Apple purchased Cue (formerly Greplin), and it’s become evident trying to build a Google Now-like experience without the access to what Google has will produce suboptimal results.

Enter Refresh, which is kind of like a “Google Now, for People.” Luckily when I wrote this column, a friend of mine  told me about a stealth company he’d invested in, and that I should meet the founder. They were housed downtown, very close to me, so I met the CEO, Bhavin, for a coffee and he told me about the motivation for the product. I still didn’t realize what it was, but I liked Bhavin a lot, so we met again quickly and I saw the product in alpha. Right there and then, I blurted out, “I would love to invest.”

That was in March 2013. It took a long time for that deal to coalesce and I just started helping out where I could. As a courtesy, Bhavin made me an advisor first. That was a classy move. Bhavin had a very clear vision for the product and how he wanted to get it from alpha to beta to prime time. While there’s always room for perfection, I noticed early that Refresh had one of the best push notifications of any app, one that I nearly always opened given that Refresh gets you up to speed on anyone that you’re meeting. That’s still the case today. Even for someone like me that takes notes and remembers follow-ups as second nature, Refresh was a huge boost to my knowledge and EQ in meetings. I couldn’t imagine not having it on my phone.

Now, about a year later, the product is finding its groove. There’s still work to do, but some of the new power features on the Refresh profiles are amazing. My favorite is the “intro” email. With Refresh, an intro email is now just a few taps. It works perfectly. I’ve seen 4-5 other startups just try to productize that flow, but it was Refresh that did it. It’s that kind of precision and execution that get me excited. Refresh is a product that reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Marcus Aurelius: “The secret to all victory lies in the organization of the obvious.” That, in a nutshell, is the opportunity that lies ahead of Refresh, and that is pretty darn exciting.